Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Tuscan raiders

On holiday we rarely got going before 4 o’clock. The heat was oppressive (the car registered 42 degrees one day) so we did little more than sit by the pool and siesta. I don’t really do sunbathing, to use a Danny Wallace-ism – “I know what I want and I know how to get it, it’s just that usually what I want is a cup of tea and a biscuit, and how I get it is by going to the kitchen.” So in between my five books we did frequent a few local towns.

The nearest was Pistoia, a town typical of the area, although you can become complacent of Tuscany’s beauty. As we sat in the square watching the Galetaria seller open her stall in preparation for the evening’s trade I turned to Emma and asked her a question I’ve wanted to ask for ever: -

“Is sweat dripping down your back and into your bumhole?”
“Yes what about you?”

Pistoia’s like that; it really needs something to lift it from being more than just another Tuscan town. Pisa is equally unremarkable but at least it’s got the tower. When you walk out of the meadow and into the town it is remarkable for its emptiness. It’s a town built on bad surveying techniques. Figuratively, not literally, if it was literally built on bad surveying techniques it wouldn’t be there.

Italian towns in August are dead; you can walk through them on a Saturday afternoon and not see a soul. Siesta is very unnerving for those of us cursed with a protestant work ethic. Would it be too much to ask the locals to siesta in the town square to assure hapless tourists that people live there? For all we know everyone could have been killed by a huge leak of noxious gases.

Florence on the other hand doesn’t fail to deliver or impress. When I went as a teenager it was in the middle of huge clean up so the Cathedral and surrounds were covered in scaffolding. That gone it is everything you hope for and more.

Emma, whose map reading skills are nigh on legendary told me before the holiday that we were so far from Florence that it wasn’t on our map although we were just 20km away from Firenze. It makes me wonder, how many people, and there have to have been a few, go to Tuscany intending to visit Florence but never make it because they are unaware of the Italian spelling.

We parked in a city centre car park, when we returned we were greeted by a swarthy unshaven Italian covered in sweat, in a dirty vest. He muttered something to his mate then turned to us and said “That will be 10 Euros please” in a voice which suggested he had learnt English from Mrs Slocombe from Are You Being Served? As we sorted through our funny money he broke back into his growling Italiano. we handed over the cash and he said “Thenk-ewe very maaaarch, your car is around the corrrrrner”. He even rolled his ‘Rs’. Apparently he went to boarding school in Dorset which has clearly paid dividends now he’s secured this late night shift in an undercover car park. Whilst we were tempted to ask about buggery and the intricate private school fagging system, we had to get home.

You’ve got to admit I’m a bit of a Bill Bryson, we visit the cultural behemoth of Florence and tell a story about the car park.


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