Posted by: Team McSlade | June 22, 2010

A Tuscan Teen Dream

Don’t use Easy Car!

With that bold statement out the way, Matt and I left the apartment early to get the bus to the airport for our hire cars. We managed to get the green men on the streets quite nicely, waited five minutes for the shuttle bus and found our way to the Easy Car office with relative ease.
That was the end of the tranquillity.

We show our paperwork for the cars and the lady behind the desk asks for 1500€ as a deposit. What the…? Fifteen hundred bucks? Euro bucks? Damn, lady, that’s my whole visa card.
She said we had to pay it, or take out more insurance and then still put a deposit down for 500€. No surprise that this ‘deposit’ was not mentioned when Jo booked the car – only written in the small print when the paperwork comes through.
Thus I used the office’s internet to transfer cash, buy the extra insurance and then see 500 bills head into escrow with these clowns.

Finally, lighter in the hip pocket (and after showing more scrapes on the cars than they had marked down, ‘oh, sorry…’, ‘no dramas peanut head, we’d love to give you more money that you don’t deserve’) we drove back into Rome.
We thought Spanish driving was mad, but the Italians win. Crazy lane changes, dangerous overtaking, horn action and two sweating Australians. A nice drive past the Colosseum and then we packed the cars and were on the way out to Pisa and Volterra.

Tolls, a chance meeting with an Australian Italian and a better feel for the Tuscan region we were driving in to. Volterra was reached mid afternoon and a ‘New Moon’ was seen on the horizon.
In case you are living under a rock at the moment, the ‘New Moon’ reference is for the Twilight vampire books, with NM having part of it set in Volterra.
Jo was thrilled, I was Pfft.
The town was a belter, the fountain in the piazza is a figment of Hollywood’s imagination and the clock tower was a winner. Matt and I did some pre-season training (in thongs) after parking out of the town and jogging back to meet the ladies and small people.

Look, no fountain

Pisa was next. Now, if you are unaware that Pisa has a tower that isn’t straight I am starting to wonder if you are actually living in modern society. We knew it was there; just not the exact location and the local signage to Pisa gave us the vintner’s tour of Tuscany. Eventually in Pisa, Matt hit up an Italian lad for directions and with his mud map we took off for the tower. A mosey along the river and into the old city area and we were lost.
Was it left and then right or vice versa? Asking a few others had us returning the way we came, then an old duck gave us directions in Italian and eventually we saw it.

The Cathedral was nice and straight, the tower was not. As we got there at about 8, most of the touristas were gone. One crazy girl was still there and even her boyfriend thought she was daft. She wanted him to take a photo of her ‘hugging’ the Leaning Tower. His response was ‘That’s the gayest thing I have ever heard’.
She said ‘I don’t care.’ He took the photo.

Everyone took a turn at pushing over the tower for the camera, Jo held it up with a pregnant belly, Zach was the winner for best photo and TC took about 37 photos trying to get two small kids to smile for a family photo was not an easy task.

Push, young man, push

We stayed in Volterra that evening in an old monastery and then the following day put a solid six hours into driving down to Pompeii for Zach’s birthday. Please note, that we did ask Zach where he wanted to go for the b’day – he answered Pompeii – unfortunately for him he didn’t realise that many hours would be spent on the road.
Yep, a teenager now, thirteen, the big 1-3 and still the call of ‘Are we there yet (Papa Smurf)?’ flew from the back seat with regularity. Prior to the six hour trip, we went into Volterra for coffee and a cake. Perhaps not the wisest move, considering the chocolate tart that Zach ate could have turned the skin of a brown cat inside out, such was the sugar content.

After blasting down the A1 past Rome and Naples, Mt Vesuvius was sighted and poor signage negotiated we were in the gates of 66 hectares of ruined city. Back in 79AD Mt Vesuvius blasted and sent ash 20km into the air, covering the city of Pompeii in 3 metres of ash. Those that didn’t suffocate from the ash were hit with the pyroclastic flow and that was followed up with boiling hot lava. So the city now sits missing the top floor of most buildings, but some wall murals; tiles and courtyards still look as if they were only built thirty years ago. It’s as if time stood still.
Plaster casts have been made of people that were trapped in the ash whose bodies decayed as time progressed; leaving a peculiar reminder of the disaster that befell these people.

Pompeii family shot

We finished off Zach’s birthday with dinner at a restaurant next to the site, with pasta, pizza and an ice cream to round out entering teen years (in Italy).

Happy Birthday Bullfrog.

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  1. Yes the car rental situation in Italy (and Spain) is complicated. Ireland is not too dissimilar. A €1200 deposit is required. If you rent a car in Germany you are not even allowed to travel to Italy. It is self explanatory once you hit the road of course.

    Perhaps some places in south east Asia could offer Italy a challenge as to worlds worst drivers though. I travel regularly to Penang (MY) where road markings, lights etc. are dismissed as vague, dreamy suggestions (2 lanes become 4, double white lines and traffic islands are negotiated from both sides etc.) But I have fond memories of being in Florence where I was nearly rundown by a mo-ped in full flight whilst making a call on a public phone.
    BTW Lovely photos!

  2. Hey Ryan, Jo, Zak and Jess

    We are very much loving your updates, this one from Italy really resonates.

    Heartfelt congratulations for the family extension plans guys. Surely these must be the most momentous times in years.

    Warm regards from not so warm Adelaide (although today is unusually sunny and what?! 20 degrees tomorrow).

    Grazie e ciao – Frank

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