Thousands of years of evolution….. Are we really better off?

Hello again, it’s Wednesday. No, I don’t mean Prince Spaghetti Day in Boston’s Italian Northend. I mean it’s time to take SmartCar out of the garage. This time with no lasting memories from the palace (I’ll explain later) and head out. First stop was Pisa.

Back to SmartCar…. I was remiss in mentioning when we arrived at the Palace (Have I told you how beautiful it is…..). By chance, we called to let them know our approximate arrival, and I am glad we did. Turns out that the Palace doesn’t necessarily mean it’s on a big street. Ugh. The instructions were to pull over in front of the garage door to wait for staff to open it.

OK, the street is barely wide enough for two SmartCars to pass, so my parking on the side made lots of Italians very happy as you can imagine. Short story: SmartCar didn’t quite make the turn from roadside to garage opening without leaving a little sumthin from the garage openning on SmartCar. Remember, I’m driving a semi-automatic. Yes, I promise it’s different (more like a standard tranny (the car kind not the drag queen kind). Ask PJ if you don’t believe me. Hopefully, the car rental agency doesn’t notice either. The car has almost 100,000 kilometers anyway.

OK, back to the good stuff. After an hour or so drive (departing Florence was much easier than arriving), we exited the Autostrada (actually, it ends) at Pisa. It’s just a 20 minute ride from there. With all the toll money, you think someone could invest in a sign or two. Again, as much as we enjoy the towns, getting around by car can be a challenge.

Anyway, after following signs, we found some FREE public parking (at least I hope it was, we didn’t get a ticket). Then, it was off to the tower and grounds. Pictures tell it all. It’s beautiful. This time we were able to go up to the top. On my trip with Tim, we were not so fortunate. Afterward, we headed to the golden arches we passed after leaving the Autostrada. Even Italy is no longer sacred!

http://picasaweb.google.com/rpjwalter/Pisa

We each had Big Mac meals with Patatine or American French Fries (They also offer Patate Deluxe or Italian Potates). We were also intrigued by some value menu item called Penzoratti. They looked like tasty bacon and cheese empanadas. Turns out, they were dog food. I thought the Big Mac was OK. PJ still likes McD’s in the US better. It mostly tasted the same.

With all those calories, starch, fat and chemicals, we deviated from the Autostrada to go to Siena directly from Pisa. We used local roads, and it was a blast. There are some highways like interstates, but mostly two-lane country roads like Route 1 except lots of switchbacks cuz it’s in the montains. The single travel lane and lots of trucks means more like an hour and a half instead of 45 minutes.

That was the least of our problems……… Siena is also beautiful. Trust me, we saw most of it at least twice. Again with the signs. You get off the highway and expect to see the entrance to Walley World not a maze of unfamiliar streets with psychotic drivers ready to run you over which brings me to another interesting observation about this country. The people…. they are wonderful giving you the shirt off their back until you get them behind the wheel of a car. Then, there’s a whole Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde thing (chicks too). Turns out the shirt off their back gets bunched up under your head until the ambulence arrives. I don’t get it…………..

Don’t give up yet, the story gets much better…… So basically, ancient Siena is enfortressed in a wall with only a few entrances and exits. If it was good enough in medieval times, it’s good enough for today too. Turns out, it doesn’t always keep out the crazy American tourists armed with a SmartCar.

So basically, they GREATLY discourage vehicular traffic in the fort particularly in the evenings when there are so many pedestrians. Turns out the aerodynamics of SmartCar are also ergonomically correct for innocent pedestrians. NO, I didn’t hit anyone. It’s much funnier than that. We started up this hill, and I saw the sign that said permit access (If they really cared, they’d have someone checking, right?). I ignored the sign.

Turns out, the road (I use the term loosely) got smaller and smaller with more and more people. At first, I tried to turn around, but realized that was impossible. With no alternative, we moved on; got through the tight spot; and turned the corner. Even more people. My shorts were soiled (just kidding), but let’s just say we were EXTREMELY scared. As we moved along, we caught up to a DHL delivery truck. Nothing has ever looked better. PJ screamed, “Follow him!” Like it was necessary. Where the heck else was I going to go.

Anyway, we got a few yards only to have him stop to make a pick-up. As the truck moved over to stop, a policeman was revealed. OK, how do you say bail in Italian? Turns out the cop was great. He gave us directions out of the area to street parking. We got out and walked about for a ccouple of hours. Again, the pictures tell the story better than me.

http://picasaweb.google.com/rpjwalter/Siena

Surprisingly, it was easy to find our way back to the highway for the hour drive back to Florence. I am happy to report that the trip and parking were uneventful. Once back in the Palace, it was my turn to decide on food (Cibo – official Italian word of the day) for dinner. Chinese, I decided. What else do you have in Tuscany? No really, we wanted to compare/contrast Chinese/American and Chinese/Italian cuisine. If the Chianti and spaghetti aren’t enough to throw you off, everything does taste different leaving me to wonder, “What does Chinese food really taste like?”

I guess that’s material for another vacation. It’s bedtime at the Palace. Talk to you later.

3 Responses to “Thousands of years of evolution….. Are we really better off?”

  1. Scott says:

    this posting was hilarious…I could not stop laughing…I had visions of you driving around on the ramparts of sienna….then the street getting smaller and more people…it was almost like a scene from foul play…kojak, bang bang?…..

    ps…PJ thank you for the fantastic photos…I feel just like I am back in arch history tonight…italian gothic is representin’ !!

    Frank, is there a plan B to take the train back to roma?

  2. idahospud says:

    Oh my gosh!!! I haven’t laughed this hard in a while! You must know that I would have been sorely disappointed if you had not taken the pics of you guys holding up the Tower of Pisa. Kudos for those! You are officially the coolest people I know. ;)

    Your pictures are amazing PJ, as always. I swear my entire life currently revolves around this blog…

    Elaine

  3. jo says:

    You had all of us laughing so hard… I could just hear PJ”Just follow the truck”!!!!!

    Those pictures are beautiful…Can’t wait for the next story…I felt this way when I read the Cat in the Hat.(I couldn’t wait to turn the page
    Jo

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