30 March 2011

First Trip in 2011—to Florence!

It has been a long winter, and I have been anxious to get back on one of the bikes, and of course Milan was the first to thaw out, so I planned a trip to Italy for the end of March. Fly to Milan and then ride to Florence. I've heard that it can be very difficult to find rooms in Florence, so against my usual practice I reserved a room for two nights in Florence, in the Torre Guelfe, a small hotel in a very old building with a tower. I got a room with a terrace/balcony, so I was excited.


This time I had to go to Eligio's place to pick up the bike, rather than an airport drop-off. Picked up the bike OK, then set off for Florence. Weather was great, ride was OK but boring, since it was along the freeway. All went well until about 150 km out of Florence, where I started noticing signs which were in Italian, but seemed to say something like "ROAD CLOSED, BURNING VEHICLE". That didn't sound good, but I didn't know if the road that they were indicating was the road that I would be taking. It was. I pulled up to a monster traffic jam, people sitting out on the pavement playing backgammon, etc. It wasn't good, but being on a bike, I was able to scoot right up to the front, and by the time I got there, the road was open again. On the side of the road there was a giant 18-wheeler burnt out and still smoldering. The contents weren't clear, but from the side of the truck, the company seemed to deal in potting soil. Burning dirt? Just my luck.

I finally got to Florence in the late afternoon; hotel was fine, the balcony was ginormous, with a table, couch, chairs, etc., actually a terrace more than a balcony. After I parked the bike they called me from work while I was walking back to the hotel, and duty called! I had to work for a while, but first I popped into a deli and bought some cheese, parma ham, foccacia, and wine, which I had on the terrace while doing some work. Here is the view from my terrace:

After I finished working and it got dark, I went for a stroll with the camera, as usual. Here are some night shots:

As you can see, no shortage of things to photograph, Florence is a beautiful city. Anyway, that was enough for one night…


Felt ill all day, stayed in bed till noon, then walked around for a few hours, then back to bed, then a brief walkaround in the evening. The weather was quite good, just like yesterday. Here are a few shots:

The cathedral:

The hole-in-the-wall restaurant where I tried to eat dinner (too sick too eat!):

A few shots of the Ponte Vecchio (from my Iphone):


Woke up feeling better, and good thing, because I had to ride back towards Florence. I was planning to go to Pavia, which is about 40 kilometers from Milan, and stay there for the night, just to see another city. And I'm not exactly crazy about Milan. I didn't want to take the direct route though, the way I came, so I charted about a route along some smaller roads, etc. As usual, things didn't turn our exactly as I had planned…

First, the weather was much worse, pretty chilly, cloudy, and threatening rain. The road I had selected was good enough, but it kept climbing and climbing—by the time I reached the top I was in Abetone, apparently a local ski resort. Tons of snow everywhere, and people carrying skis, going to and from the slopes. On a motorcycle, seeing people with snow skis is generally not a good thing. That said, the road was pretty much clear, and I didn't have any problems, and finally started descending. Got to Pavia about 16:00 and as usual was having my GPS guide me to the center when I ran into a police roadblock. After some back and forth, an English-speaking gendarme approached and explained that "the center of the city is closed until 18:00". I told him I was looking for a hotel in the center, which usually gets one past such road blocks, but no dice here, he directed me to a nearby hotel outside of the center. I followed his directions to the hotel, which looked like a cross between low-income housing and a prison. I decided that a stay in Milan could be warranted after all.

So I set off for Milan, only 30-40 minutes away. I'd been there several times, so generally knew the lay of the land. Many of the good smaller hotels are booked weeks in advance (thanks, Lonely Planet!), but there is a big hotel with parking right on the square near the castle, I after shattering several traffic laws, I pulled up there, got a room, and parked the bike. No sooner had I done so than it started pouring down rain, and it didn't stop the whole evening. Rainy evenings in the city are great photo opps, so I grabbed the tripod and headed out.

But first I had to grab a bite, had dinner here at this cafe on Milan's main pedestrian street (Iphone pic):

After dinner I walked for quite a while in the rain and then started taking some pix:

That was pretty much it for the trip. Next morning I took the bike to Eligio's, packed up my stuff, and took a taxi to the airport….

Ooops, just realized no pix of my bike, that is probably a first on this blog. I guess Florence will do that to you. Oh, well, you know what it looks like by now.

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