(written by Nancy)
Okay, last night was officially very cold – coldest night in the tent in a long time. We both wore most of our warm clothes, including our down pullovers and hats. Dave even wore his one pair of pants to bed – he says he wasn’t cold but I was cold most of the night. The wind was blowing pretty good most of the night and was still blowing this morning when we finally got up. We were going to try to get on the road early but it is very hard to convince yourself to get out of the sleeping bag when it is so cold! It was nice and quiet last night, though we did have a few visits from the camp cats meowing around the tent – I think they probably just wanted a warm place to sleep.
After shivering while we ate our oatmeal we finally left the campground about 9:30 and rode straight into a nasty cold headwind that was with us all day. We had both expected an easy day into Florence and the wind was a bit of a shock. It was very cold wind and felt like we were riding through thick mud. Just one of those days. Shame too, as it was bright blue sky, probably a nice day if in a car.
We stopped for morning tea at a little café that Dave spotted in Empoli. There were just two yellow chairs sitting outside along a bank of buildings but Dave saw them and quickly pulled over to check it out. We nabbed the chairs and had a great cup of coffee and some very good croissants. The chairs were just out of the wind and sitting in the warm sun you could almost forget how hard the riding had been. It was a nice break but we were soon back on the bikes, both anxious to get to Florence. (junior editor’s note: the coffee was great and we had the best croissants since France, quite the find really).
We were following SS67, which wound its way along the Arno River. This looked like the best way to get into Florence without having to hit any major roads. It actually was a decent route and we only had traffic when we hit the little villages along the way. No wind breaks, unfortunately, but it was pretty scenic.
We didn’t make too many stops for pictures today as it was a bit hard to focus on much other than keeping the bikes facing forward. We did pass a little village that appeared to have several Tuscan ceramic production factories. Dave got a couple pictures of one that had some nice pieces on the outside walls of the building.
We got to the outskirts of Florence and came across a nice looking café. It was already past noon and we were both a bit hungry so rather than try to attempt Florence on hungry stomachs we stopped for a quick lunch. Lovely ham and cheese sandwiches hit the spot. There were some really nice cakes and pastries in the shop as well but we resisted, figuring we would have ample chances over the next couple of days to sample the pastries of Florence!
Dave did a great job of navigating us right into the city centre. We had a couple of hotels picked out to try so we headed to the first one, the Hotel Dali, located just down the street from the Piazza del Duomo. A bit of winding and we found the hotel easily enough. Dave went in and checked and they did have one room left, with shared bathroom, for only €50, which is a pretty good price for right in the heart of Florence. The hotel also has a private courtyard for parking, which meant we had a safe place to park the bikes – not an easy task in this town where parking is at a premium. We were sold and booked in for 2 nights. At least we will have a warm bed and some days you can’t beat that!
We unloaded the bikes, much to the amusement of the hotel staff (“are all those bags really off your bikes?”). After cleaning up we headed out to the local laundromat, just around the corner, to do a big load of laundry as you never know when you might find another washing machine and dryer! I hung out in the laundromat while Dave wandered about a bit to take some pictures.
We’ve just had dinner in a little restaurant around the corner that the owner of the hotel recommended. My spaghetti with vognoles and Dave’s gnocchi were both quite good, and the chocolate pie we shared for dessert was enough to fill us both up.
We don’t have a plan yet for tomorrow but there are so many historic buildings, places, statues, etc. here that I am sure we will have no problem filling the day. The pictures below are from just around the hotel – just a taste of things to come tomorrow.
Off to a hopefully comfortable night’s sleep…