Sunday, November 3, 2013

Conclusion: never again

Donna is standing in a really, really long line today, to buy tickets for Saturday for Trevor, Eleanor, her and me to go to the Uffizi. This is yet another example of the incredibly frustrating life of a tourist in Italy in 2013.  We started this morning trying to get tickets online.  A Google search on p1 and 2 does not list the ticket agency because - as Rick Steve's points out - there are lots of tour agencies that want to sell us 4 tickets for €120 when 4 are priced at €25. And - says Steves - they want to sell Florence tourists tickets to the identically-named museum in Venice (and vice-versa) - did France have 2 Louvres?  The €95, plus being very irritated at the Italians' complete disinterest whether or not tourists are here, set us out on a long walk. We found the website (says all tickets, all weeks are sold out - Steve's says this is normal and you can call for ticket reservations - as we did at Academia) so I tried calling. Only after I realized that I could not reach any phone number do I suspect my phone is out of time.  No notice, of course, so as Donna stands in a long line to buy tickets I walk halfway across town to stand in a long line to get more time on my phone. They don't open until 10a!  Vodaphone.

So I waited. When I came in, I had to get a ticket for a reservation to speak to an agent. Instructions for the 3 choices were only in Italian so I said "I have no idea which" and the Vodaphone rep said: "No problem, they are all the same". [Then why make us choose?]

When called, the lady spoke English!  No, we (Vodaphone Italy) can't add time to your Vodaphone phone because it was bought in England. [Never heard of the EU?]. "So what can I do to get a working phone now?" "You can buy an Italian Vodaphone chip for €20 valid for 30 days.". "OK" "Let me see your passport". "I have a color copy of my passport here on my US smartphone". "Can you email it to me?". "Of course, if you have WiFi.". "Sorry, it's locked". "OK, put my phone in your copy machine and make a larger photo." "The copy machine won't do that".  I turned and walked out, back across town. Donna had stood in that long line, "reservations" line, only to find out that was the line to pick up tickets if you had a reservation and that you could not make a future reservation there and get the ticket!

On to Pisa.  The express train is on track "1A".  The signs are for tracks 1-20. No "1A" so we stand in line to ask where is 1A?  We get on the train. No a/c.

But we meet a nice couple from Florida who show me the Eurorail app which has all of the train schedules on it and does not need WiFi.  Gonna get that!   But we are considering changing our reservation to return home on the 3rd rather than the 13th. Go to the airport with Trevor & Eleanor.  Maybe. But this will be my 3rd and last trip to Italy. No Germany. No Italy. I'm narrowing down the places I will go by eliminating places to which I won't return.

Pisa was delightful - but typically Italian.  When we left the train station, it was 2 miles to the Duomo and Leaning Tower.  For what else is Pisa famous?  Yet in the first mile of walking there were zero signs pointing toward either, and in the second mile there were only two, both the size of US rural green street intersection signs. When we exited, we wanted a taxi back.  There were 2 at the taxi stand but both were reserved so we walked 1/4 mile, found four police, asked in Italian "Excuse me, good afternoon. Where is a taxi?". They pointed me to a sign: "Taxi" with no taxi.  We quickly walked the 2 miles back to catch the 3:11p express.  We were 5 minutes late, but it was 10 minutes late, so we caught it and zipped off nonstop to Florence.

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