Well, I made it. After a mercifully uneventful flight across the Atlantic, we landed in Milan 40 minutes early. Italian passport control is lovely. No forms to fill out – just walk up to the guard, smile, hand in your passport for him to stamp, and you’re on your way. No questions about what I’m doing in their country, arguments about where I’ve been in prior trips and why, nothing but a smile and a soft ‘buon giorno”. Now if I could only get my ears to pop, I’ll be one very happy traveler.

Collected the bags and off I went in search of an ATM in the Malpensa airport. There is only one machine on the arrivals floor, and it wasn’t working. What else do you expect in Italy? A herd of American passengers went looking for another machine. Having been here before, and in this same situation, I knew the only other one was up on the check-in floor – 2 floors up. I scampered up the escalator, and sidled up to the other machine cleverly hidden behind the hawkers cello-wrapping suitcases for 5 euros. I guess they don’t have a TSA here – that would be like waving a flag in front of a bull at home – they’d slit that stuff just for the fun of it.

Back to the arrivals floor, flush with euros, and a newly-purchased bus ticket to the train station in town, and I see the gaggle of tourists still looking for an ATM machine that works, and asking if the bus ticket offices take credit cards. They don’t. As a result, there were only 6 of us on the huge coach to the train station. Ah, a nice quiet ride to the Centrale Stazione with a few locals.

A woman alone is a target in these train stations, although at my age and state of jet lag, I didn’t think I’d be much of a draw. Either these guys are blind, or they see me as an easier target than I thought I was. Flattering, really, in a pathetic sort of way.

The train ride was lovely. A nice young man about my son’s age drew the seat opposite me, and when I offered to move so he could sit with his friend told me he’d rather sit opposite a pretty lady than he would his friend since he sees him all the time. It is nice to see the younger generation of Italians have not lost their charm or penchant for untruthfulness. I’m sure I reminded him of his mother, or aunt, or someone. Whatever it was, it made my day. This would never happen at home, more’s the pity. Alex – are you taking notes?

Santa Maria Novella church

Made it to the hotel Santa Maria Novella in Florence, unpacked and I was starting to nod off. Nope. Can’t do that. If I succumbed, I’d be messed up on timing for the next 3 days. Gotta stay awake. The hotel and room were lovely – I highly recommend this place to anyone visiting Florence.  I had two nice balconies out the french windows that overlooked a quiet courtyard, and I could hear multiple church bells on the hour and half-hour.   Hmmm –  I found myself wondering if the bed was as comfortable as it looks… No – must be strong.

Off I went to visit the Galleria Uffizi. A nice long walk by the Arno was what I needed to stay awake. It was a free Sunday, but I paid the extra 4 euros for an advance reservation.  Glad I did.  The line of people stretched down to the Ponte Vecchio. I marched up to the entrance with my ticket, and in I went for 2 hours of picture and statue gazing bliss.

River entrance to the Museo Uffizi

I felt so sorry for the docents in the museum rooms. Those poor people are trying to maintain order and a certain level of hush in the hallowed halls, and with all the tours of high school and college aged kids, were not having much success. A group of rowdy middle-aged Americans who imbibed too much wine at lunch were also reinforcing the stereotype and ruining it for the rest of us.  I hope the hangover on their way was a lulu.

On my way back to the hotel in the late afternoon, I found myself stopped twice by tourists asking me in bad Italian if I know the direction to various sites. When I responded in English that I really have no idea, and pull out my street map to see if I can help them, the resulting laughter made it a fun experience. I’ve been mistaken for French and Spanish while in other cities in Europe, but it was the first time anyone thought I was Italian.  Maybe it wasthe new haircut. Trés chic, or so I thought.

Forget dinner. It was time now to get cleaned up and discover if the bed really was as comfortable as it looked.  I found myself hoping my ears would pop soon.  This was most unusual, and not something the Travel Gods usually send my way.   It looked like they’ came up with something new, and I decided I must watch this.

Vlad was arriving the next day, I couldn’t wait to see him and start our holiday.

View of the Arno River in Florence