After a train journey that was a lot rougher than I remember sleepers being, we pulled in Milan Centrale at 5.38 am and changed for the train to Florence. Already I feel more relaxed. I spent months listening to those bloody French tapes, but somehow, the Italian just comes more naturally.
The trip to Florence is gorgeous, as dawn breaks, we get glimpses of the Italian countryside and I am just happy.
We arrive in Florence at 8 am, we are supposed to call Lorenzo when we arrive to arrange a time to meet and check in. Standard check in is at 3pm. Karl is sick and just wants a shower and is trying really hard not to get the sooks on, and his phone is flat. I have exhausted myself carrying significant amounts of really good French Champagne in my case to Florence, but all I want now is a decent coffee.
Here is where Florence begins to kick Paris's arse.
I find a phone box, as in France, I can't make it work, but it does take coins. Someone is able to tell me I am dialing the number wrong, (turns out there is no 0 prefix on European mobiles), and we reach Lorenzo. He is apologetic, he cannot meet us until 9.30, ( it is 8.30 by now). Yes, that is right, we can check in at 9.30 am, not 3pm and for no extra charge. He tells us later, that if we want to check out late on our last day, as there is no-one in the day after us, that is fine too.
We stop off for a really good coffee, that is half the price of the shocking coffee in Paris and meet Lorenzo at the apartment. We don't have to travel to the other side of the city to collect the keys.
He takes us into the apartment and carries my suitcase up the stairs.
He has set the table for us, with fruit and water and chianti and crostolli.
He has prepared a map for us, with the best trattoria and icecream shops and other places we might like to visit.
The apartment is beautiful. I mean stunning, all antique furniture and old Italian gorgeousness. Lorenzo shows us how everything works and refuses the security deposit, (that is just something the rental agency puts in the emails).
It's midday and we head out to the markets. Mercato Centrale is just minutes away. Past the Medici Chapel and before the Duomo.
It is everything it should be. Mountains of cheese and exotic mushrooms. Meat and wine and tomatoes.
It is raining and the air smells of leather.
(as a side note, Paris smelt intermittently of cigar smoke and urine).
We are walking through stalls and stores of the most gorgeous bags and belts and shoes and jackets you could envision, but we will look at them tomorrow.
We get home and can't get the door open.
It could have been all down hill from there again, but not in Florence, I won't allow it.
Our neighbours arrive and try to help, to no avail. They are from Perth and Brisbane respectively.
We call Lorenzo and he comes to the rescue. Trip advisor rated his apartments as the top in Florence and I can see why, he is my new favourite man. The lock is dicky and he is coming back this afternoon to fix it.
So I am sitting on my bed drinking Veuve Clicquot with my windows open to the rain. The fridge is full of Pecorino and basil and tomatoes and Champagne and I am in heaven.