Saturday 7 November 2015

Italy: bound for Firenze

On Saturday morning, after paying our eye-watering Waldorf Astoria bill (worth every penny), we set out for Florence on the train. This was surprisingly easy and the journey was comfortable, possibly more so because we'd sprung for first class train tickets. Tutt's idea. She knows how to travel.

The plan was to get to Florence, pick up the rental car and then hop on over to the Uffizi for a bit of Venus de Milo and other Renaissance treasures, before driving into deepest, darkest Tuscany to meet our friend Rachael and her friend Louise, and get settled in the villa. It was a grand plan which seemed to have only the flaw of where we would park for the Uffizi. We assumed we'd figure it out.

We had about 90 minutes between arriving and our booked slot at the gallery, so we stomped off in the direction of the rental car shop. We'd booked Europcar, through Car Hire 3000. Why am I telling you this? It's not going to end well, is it? Once we'd found the street, it was a bit of a mission to find the shop and we had to ask in a couple of other rental places (guess how impressed they were) but in the end, we saw the green sign looming and...

It was shut.

The sign in the window indicated that it shut at 12pm. It was 3pm.

I was incandescent, and worried. We'd pre-paid the car and indicated we would collect at 11.30. Although I'd realised our train got us in too later for this time, I had looked up the opening times online and the place was meant to shut at 4pm.

I rang Car Hire 3000, who confirmed that the shop's website did indeed say a 4pm closing time but, other than that, were unhelpful. The man even tried to suggest rental cars have to be picked up within a few minutes of the specified time, which was not in our contract and has never been true of any other rental place. While Tutt talked it through with him, I went back to the rental places we'd annoyed earlier and asked for quotes.

To cut a lot of semi-tearful tramping around short, we managed to rent a car with Maggiore. It cost us more than the car we'd already paid for, but it enabled us to continue our holiday without having to make a special trip back to Florence the next day. Thank goodness for credit cards. Needless to say, I will never be renting from Europcar again. I'd like to say we got our money back (I think we should have) but we never got round to complaining about it once we'd returned from the holiday. I know, very bad. Car Hire 3000 refunded the bit we'd paid to them, at least.

So, we missed our slot at the Uffizi, and I think it was also on the way out of Florence that we lost 30 euros trying to fuel the car, thanks to not understanding the fueling system. It was not a good day. In fact, it properly turned Tutt against Florence.

Thankfully, we found the little town where we were staying with relative ease and drove through its one street a couple of times until we spotted Rachael and Louise. I did get stuck on the incredibly steep hill, on a bend, and think the engine was not going to be powerful enough to get us up it, which put paid to my dream of owning a Fiat 500 forever. But we had a lovely dinner in town that night and the villa was dreamy, although I was bitten by about 7 million mosquitoes as soon as I exited the car.

So, yeah. Bad day. Lost money. Missed out on gallery. Mosquito bites. But, amazing villa, good dinner, good company. So not entirely bad.

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