As our train pulled into Santa Maria Novella railway station, we craned our necks to get our first glimpse of Firenze. There really wasn’t much to see, other than the graffiti covered walls of the station. We grabbed our bags and disembarked. We were approached by a few kind souls who offered to help us for a small fee, but by this point we felt like train experts, and breezed through the station in search of a taxi stand. Our priorities were, in this order, to check in to our hotel, find a place to eat lunch, and then find our rendezvous point for the Segway tour that we had planned.
It was a gorgeous day, with the bluest sky I’d seen in many days. Our taxi driver got us easily to our hotel, the “Antica Torre Di Via Tornabuoni”. It turns out that this hotel is rated highly on Trip Adviser for a lot of good reasons. It’s a beautiful hotel, in a fabulous location. We were stunned and thrilled with our beautiful room, with its sweeping views of the city. Throwing open our windows, we thanked our Select Italy travel agent, Maria, yet again, for doing such a great job planning our vacation.
We ate a quick lunch, then grabbed our handy maps and set out to learn the streets of Florence. Honestly, I don’t feel that we ever quite got the hang of navigating around Florence. I never could get my bearings while we were there. Maybe this was because I was always so busy looking up and around at my surroundings, that my inner compass was out of whack. At any rate, we managed to get wherever it was that we needed to be, and on time, so I’m not complaining.
The Segway tour company’s office was not hard to find. We signed the waiver forms as requested, put our helmets on, and waited for our tour guide to arrive. Our guide, Angela, arrived right on time, and proceeded to instruct us on how to use the Segways. I was a little apprehensive, but within about 15 minutes I got the hang of how to navigate on the thing, and was ready to roll.
This is where the story gets a little weird. The more I talked to Angela, the more I got the feeling that I knew her from somewhere. She just looked and sounded really familiar to me – her mannerisms, the way she pushed her hair behind her ear, and how she gestured when she spoke. It dawned on me within about 15 minutes that she was reminding me very strongly of my first cousin Natalie. It was almost a bit eerie how similar she “felt” to me. When we stopped for a break in the tour, and sat down for a soda, I asked her where she was originally from. She replied that her family was (and is) from Sicily. Well no wonder she looked familiar – I’m half Sicilian and I figured that I was just seeing the geographic collective “genetic ghosts” of my family reflected in Angela’s face. I was really excited about the connection though, and so the next logical question was, “What is your family name?” That’s when I almost fell out of my chair, because she told me that her last name was “Indelicato”, which was the name of my Sicilian grandmother’s cousin’s family – I think. When you say “family” with Sicilians it can take on a totally different connotation. Anyway, Angela seemed like family to me.
I really enjoyed the rest of the tour even more, because I felt a bond with Angela, but in and of itself, it was a great tour. Florence is a really beautiful town with most of its Renaissance flair still intact, and it was such a joy to walk – or I should say “segway” – its streets. I kept thinking of Disney movies – Florence just has that magical feel to it. And of course there were some amazing sights to see.
After our tour ended we found our way back to our hotel, and discovered the beautiful rooftop terrace there. The night was lovely – cool and clear, and so we decided to slow down for the night and enjoy some wine outside. We were there around sunset, and were able to get some great photos of Florence. Day one in Florence had been a blast!