This morning’s breakfast, although sumptuous, was a more sombre affair knowing that it was our last at Antica Torre. There were hugs and kisses with Latifa when we waddled off for our morning adventure ahead of checking out.
In observing myself, I’ve come to realise the truly insidious nature of advertising. Too many times have I seen something hideous and railed against it, seen it a few more times and been bemused by its appeal to others, a few more times and it just strikes me as kitsch, a few more times still and I’ve just got to have it! A case in point: The Segway! For the uninitiated, a segway is a two-wheeled, self-balancing, battery-operated, stand-on transportation thingy. If you’ve watched Arrested Development, it’s the thing Job rides around.
For years now I’ve watched them grow in popularity as a means of transport for tour groups. At first I was appalled by seeing flocks of these contraptions in front of beautiful ancient architecture and landmarks – it’s hard to imagine a bygone era when a gang of space-bikes rock up to spoil your photo opportunity. Eventually the absurd juxtaposition of old and new amused me and I’d try to get them in my photos and joke with friends that I was going to book them onto a tour and then came today…
At some point in the short planning of this trip, it occurred to me that it would be ridiculously fun to have a go on a segway with Mum. I did some research and without a doubt Italy by Segway Tours was the best option. We rolled up to their office this morning a bundle of giddy nerves – neither of us at all sure we could even ride one of the bloody things – Mum never having driven a car and me unable to ride a bike! Luckily, the staff were very kind and accommodating, allowing us to have a trial go before committing to the full 3 hour tour.
Mum went first and I hope she doesn’t mind me saying, but she was sh!tting herself! None the less, she didn’t shrink from the challenge. I was in absolute awe of her bravery… and also in fits of laughter! I couldn’t help myself – segways are very silly looking machines, especially on the cobbles of the narrow lane ways of Florence. Valentina, the tour guide, was so patient and caring with Mum in the way that I should have been. Mum was amazing! By the end of her trial, she definitely had the hang of it but still just about kissed the ground when she got off.
Then it was time to wipe the smile off my face and give it to Mum! Despite segways having a gyroscope to keep them upright, I managed to just about wobble off it the moment I stepped on! Luckily, Valentina was just as kind and patient with me as she talked me through the basics of getting on and off, moving forward, speed control and parking. I have to say, I got the hang of it pretty quickly and would happily have burned around Florence at 8kms/hr! I even started to believe I might yet be able to learn to ride a bike.
Despite the fun we’d had, I don’t think love nor money could have persuaded Mum to climb back onboard and so we thanked the staff at Italy by Segway Tours most profusely for their generosity but declined the tour. Be warned future travel companions – next time I threaten to book you on a segway tour, I might just mean it!!! You could say that I’ve segued with the segway from making fun to having fun!
We strolled back to Antica Torre on terra firm to check out and say our fond farewells. Martina on reception made it all the harder to leave with her warmth and well wishes. It was with very heavy hearts and bags that we left our room with a view and headed down the Arno to our next accommodation.
When I first announced my intention to do this trip without knowing how, the first call I got was from my angelic friend, Michele, who insisted on using her points to pay for Mum and I to spend a night in a swish hotel and boy is it swish! We walked into the lobby of the Westin Excelsior and nearly dropped our bags at the sight of all that splendour! Luckily there was a fancy man waiting to catch them and make them magically appear in our room… our palatial, opulent, luxurious room! It has a chandelier! And I’m pretty sure the beds are made from real clouds – I’ve never felt a bed so fluffy! And the bathroom – the giant bathroom with separate bath and shower and very rude scales that sailed straight past ‘too-much-pasta’ but fell just short of ‘too-much-gelato’.
Despite the extreme grandeur of the Westin Excelsior, both Mum and I agreed that we missed the less ostentatious style of Antica Torre and the personal touches that such a large complex can’t afford to offer. Even the roof top views weren’t quite as splendid being a block further back along the Arno. Of course we were just as quick to admit how utterly ridiculous we were being, neither of us having stayed in a place so extravagant before and overwhelmed with gratitude for Michele and her extreme generosity.
We set off for the remainder of the day with no set agenda. We wandered back to Piazza della Signoria where we took a peak inside Palazzo Vecchio without actually going to the museum therein. We meandered here and there before stumbling upon Pangie’s Bistrot for a late lunch. The restaurant is owned and run by a father/daughter duo without any pretension. Our lunch was served on paper plates yet far exceeded any pasta I’ve been served on fine china! It was bellissimo as was the wine accompanying it (no barrel recycling here)! We were so impressed, we decided to stay for a little traditional dessert and we were not disappointed.
We headed in the direction of the Duomo but unfortunately, Mum started to feel unwell again – nothing to do with Pangie’s but rather a cold that she’s being trying to keep at bay. We turned tail and made our way back to our lavish digs, resting a while in the shadow of the Basilica of Santa Maria Novellla and stopping for medicinal gelato.
Mum slept and I tended to forward planning. Night fell and Mum just didn’t have it in her to head out into the cold again. I downloaded Roman Holiday and went in search of an evening meal to bring back to the room. Luckily there was a perfect pizzeria just around the corner. I placed our order and threw back an espresso while I waited. I enjoyed just being out and about doing something that felt quite mundane – it ironically filled me with the thrill of living to be doing it somewhere different, to get some small sense of living elsewhere.
Back in the room, Mum and I ate pizza while we watched Gregory Peck show Audrey Hepburn the sites we’d so recently seen ourselves. We took our turns luxuriating in the bathroom before climbing into bed to dream on a cloud ahead of tomorrows big segue between Italy and whole new adventure!
Patches McMum: Eye drops finished after 4 weeks and my eye is doing well and the colours are amazing! Our last beaut breaky at our castle with our beautiful waitress Latifa who gave us kisses and cuddles when we left. We said farewell to the rest of the staff and were very sad to leave such a beautiful hotel.
Then we walked to the Segway place (upright electric vehicle) to give it a go! Valentina was very patient and tried to teach me how to steer this thing but realising it was a 3 hour trip and had to travel at 8 kms/hr and never having driven a car, I found it too daunting for me but I’m pleased I had a go.
We moved up the Arno river to the Westin Excelsior Hotel – thank you Michele. It was very grand but not the same atmosphere as our castle. We had lunch at a cute little restaurant run by a father and daughter and the food was yummy! We went back to the hotel because I was feeling bloody awful with the flu. I slept and later that night, Naomi went out and found some pizza to bring back to the room to eat while we watched Roman Holiday on her laptop. How Rome has changed in 50 years! Another good day.