Saturday. The mid-point of the trip, being the eighth of 16 days, and after a cunning bit of planning on our part, we found ourselves in one of a handful of locations in Italy that has a parkrun. The parkrun course was a mere kilometre or so from the hotel (also planned) and we walked down there after what was a very quick and rather disappointing breakfast at the hotel.
The parkrun itself was on the small side, with only about 35-40 competitors. The majority of those seemed to be British, as seems to be the case with these things in France and Italy, in our experience. The course was dead flat and involved a couple of loops on gravel or soil trails through wooded parkland. It was quite pretty but also fiercely hot. As the girls are both “of age” now, we let them run round together whilst Kas and me burned it at our best speed. The girls made friends with the daughter of one of the organisers who’d decided to run around for the first time, which just goes to show you.
After finishing the race Kas ran back round the course to find the kids and I started walking back around after having a breather. They took a while but they were enjoying it. Kas managed to find a tree root to trip over and hurt her ankle. Once we were all back at the finish line we grabbed some drinks and then retired to the nearby kiosk-cafe for some more drinks before walking back to the hotel wishing we’d put more suncream on.
We were all mucky and sweaty, so we decided to have a round of showers before going out again. It didn’t make much difference, because it was so hot we were sweating again almost immediately, but at least it meant we were un-smelly enough to be allowed onto the bus into town.
The bus into town was a bit slow but it got us eventually to the Porta al Prato bus and train station, from where we basically had to walk. We arrived there at about 12:30.
We didn’t really have much of a plan and the heat was definitely getting the better of us, but we kind of ambled towards the cathedral via the Basilica Santa Maria Novella, attempting a handful of geocaches on the way past. We weren’t able to obtain tickets for the cathedral or baptistery or bell tower that day because we were too late, so we skipped that and continued walking.
The highlight of the day was finding the Magnum Shop – basically a “your way” method of presenting the popular ice-cream-on-a-stick delicacy. You got to choose a flavour of ice cream, a flavour of chocolate coating, and then a handful of different sprinkles. The effect was good except that it didn’t freeze solid again quickly enough, so they were a bit messy to eat. Kas didn’t fancy an ice cream so she ordered a cappuccino instead. It turned out to be a rather ornate affair. It was a pleasant enough setting in which to pass half an hour anyway.
From here we walked our way down to the Palazzo Vecchio for a few more photos and then on to the Ponte Vecchio for a few more. Progress through the streets was very, very slow, partly because it was really busy and partly because it was really hot. So hot, in fact, that it was dragging us down really quickly. We headed back to the bus station for just after 4pm, having managed to wander round Florence for all of three and a half hours.
To be fair, though, we did have plans for the evening that involved being in the car by 5pm. Over the previous couple of days I’d noticed there was a geocaching event on the Saturday night in the small town of Montecatini Terme, about an hour away in the direction of Pisa. Well, Google says it’s an hour, but we actually did it in about 35 minutes. Anyway, back at the plot, a French family visiting the area had created a geocaching event and on the evening before they had got precisely zero “Will Attend” logs on it, so I messaged them to see if it was still going ahead and they said yes. Well, you have to, don’t you ? After all, it was a new cache type for us in Italy and it coloured in the Province of Pistoia too. It’s the second time we’ve been to a regular event whilst outside the UK on holiday, the previous one being three years previously in Albufeira (see Caching on the Beach).
Because it took us a lot less time than we expected to get there, we were able to have a quick drink in a cafe before heading up to the event location. We then spent five minutes or so playing spot-the-cacher whilst sitting 40 metres away, but the family in question were very easy to spot. I sidled over and waved my GPS at them and got instant recognition. Thankfully they spoke really good English. Given that I’m the only one of the four of us that has anything more than a basic grasp of French it would have been a struggle if they didn’t. Not that the kids really paid any attention anyway. We had a nice long chat about all things geocaching, and got an invite to go visit them in their native Ardennes next year. That works for me, because their home department is the only one in the north-east of France that I haven’t been caching in, and there are plenty of caches there to be going at. Many of those caches belong to the family in question.
After we split up we dived into the first available restaurant to grab some dinner. It had been a long day again and we hadn’t really eaten much other than ice cream during the day, so we were ready for some proper food. We had to wait a while to get served because it seemed that the evening staff had only just arrived and were engaged in a pre-evening pep talk, which seemed a bit strange. Once we did get served, we ordered a platter of mixed starters and then burger, focaccia, Caesar salad and risotto, all of which were very nice. There was some beer involved too, at least for me. Kas had volunteered to drive home.
The drive back home was uneventful, and when we got there Kas wanted to get straight to bed. I thought I’d spend a bit of time finishing off caching logs for the day, so the girls and me went down to the bar, but rather unfortunately almost as soon as I’d got the PC connected to the wi-fi the battery ran out. I’d left it switched on and unplugged while we were out. So that was the end of that. We spent about 20 minutes down in the lobby bar and then had to give up and go to bed.