A few days prior to this day, all of us were trying to arrange our works, so that this specific day we would only have to do some minor tasks, in order to catch up the ship that was leaving Patra port at 18:00. Directly after work, we were all running like crazy to our homes to prepare the rest of our luggage, since the previous day we had so many things to catch up, that it left us with no time to prepare at all. The meeting with Ploutonas was at the first tolls outside Athens, at 15:00. Having a 30-minutes delay, Vangelis and Nikos finally arrived at the meeting point.
The trip from Athens to Patra was in between the midday, with 36+ degrees. We only did some few-minutes stops for refueling and finally, around 17:00, we managed to reach Patra. After doing the typical ticket check-in, we entered to the ship, without realizing how fast time was moving. We sat right next to the window and ordered a coffee, realizing that something special was beginning, for all of us, were were over-anxious. We only had to relax and enjoy the beginning of our adventures that we were waiting for it for so long.
Traffic inside the ship was moderate, so, we had plenty of space to move. After doing some rounds in the whole ship, we decided that we would sleep at the airplane-type seats during the night. Going from cafeteria to cafeteria, we realized that it was finally noon. We headed for the central restaurant of the ship, where we had our lunch. After the unacceptable and at the same time expensive lunch, we didn’t have anything else to do …. so we inflated our high class air-beds, laid out our silk sheets (sleeping bags) and dropped dead from 22:00 in the night.
We woke up at 8:30 in the morning, completely relaxed and full of energy, since the fact that the ship was empty, was a plus for us!
We headed for the main cafeteria of the ship, in order to drink our morning coffees and to discuss about our journey’s route. Ploutonas made the appropriate calls and so it was decided that we would pass and stop to Sienna for a while and then continuing, we should end up in Firenze, where we would stay for the night. In Firenze, a friend of Ploutonas was expecting us, Nadia, a student of Architecture.
At 15:00 we got off the ship at Ancona and started to drive through SS76 (SuperStrada) with direction to Perugia. The route was very good and at the same time very beautiful, full of trees all around and in a very good condition, concerning the asphalt. After Perugia, we followed 75bis and saw on our left side the lake “Castiglione dei Lago”. A quite big lake, but it had nothing to offer to us, in order to be considered a place to stop.
We continued by following SS73 and finally reached Siena around 18:00. Nikos was informed that this city had something special to offer to the visitors and he wasn’t wrong! He asked a fellow motorcyclist, speaking some Italian-French words that he didn’t know, since the other one didn’t spoke English, and informed us that we had to leave our bikes in the square in front of us which had also big parking place. Next, we started walking through the small alleys. It wasn’t so difficult to find our way in these alleys, since the crowd that was walking along with us were more than enough (as if there was a special reason why). Following the crowd in the small streets with the wonderful shops, we ended up in the central square and were left stunned!!
There was sure something going on, but we didn’t have a clue, until we accidentally met two other Greeks there, Matina and Vassilis. They were studying Medical Science in the city. They asked us if we came by luck and once we replied to them positively, they told us that we were very lucky. While drinking our coffees all together, they informed us on what was about to happen in the following minutes. We came across the famous local festivity called ‘Palio’ that is being held there two times per year. 14 different neighborhoods contend each other, each one with their own horse,rider and colors, on who’s going to be the the number 1, racing on an improvised horse-racing around the central square. The crowd by that time was getting bigger and bigger, while clans of teens and adults wearing neck-scarf were chanting, mainly to challenge the opponent clans. The square was put into shape for that specific festival. It was like a horse-race outside, with the crowd inside the square, while all around the square there were grandstands. 20 minutes later, the waiter asked us to pay because they needed to pick up all the tables, in order to give space for the show to start. Our table was literally in the middle of the tracks were the horses would run.
We listened to the signal for the start of the race. It was something fantastic, the yelling, the crowd, the spectacle. Only photos and videos can show the tension of the situation. At the end of the race, the winner gets the official blessing by the city’s church, by entering himself AND the horse inside the church! A while later, nearly at the beginning of the night, all the parties spread out in the city streets, celebrating with fire, dancing and yelling. Actually, it looks like a mini-Rio. Unfortunately we didn’t have the luxury of time to enjoy the wild party, since we had to move on to Firenze. While heading for the parking to pick up our bikes, we stopped to get some photos of the great Duomo. A few minutes later, around 20:00 we were already en route for Firenze.
Around 21:00 and after covering the 70 km distance from Siena to Firenze, we were already at Nadia’s house, where she had been waiting for us, so we would like to grab the opportunity and thank her again! We left our stuff in the house and went straight out, in order to catch up the restaurant she already booked for our lunch. Its name was AQUA ALZ, on the street ‘Via Della Vignia Vecchia’. We tasted there some of the most delicious Italian specialties! The restaurant was high-class, with a very good decoration and quality guests. The cost was not preventing for the services that it was offering, 4 people cost 73€.
After our lunch, we had a night tour in the city, with the assistance of the very friendly Nadia. We visited the palace on the central plaza. A raised bridge over the buildings is starting from the palace and continues through ‘Ponte Vecchio’ until it ends up to the ‘Palazzo Pitti’, where all the aristocrats (high-society) were living. The bridge was being build on the older times, in order for the ‘high-society’ to move from their places to the palace, without walking on the public road, along with the rest of the people. We’ve been informed that the bridge opens for the public once per year and you need to buy a ticket to cross it.
Moving on, we visited the bridge ‘Ponte Vecchio’, where it’s considered one of the most beautiful places of Firenze. It’s a stone-made bridge, where on the left and on the right there were tanneries to process leather, but due time, all the shops were been replaced by jewelry shops.
Around 1:00 in the morning, we ended up in the ‘Piaza Spirit’. This square is the main entertaining/gathering point of the student population of the city. People buy beers and drinks from the shops around and sit there and discuss for hours. This is the entertainment of the students there, mainly due to the high cost if one enters on a typical night bar. At the other end of the city, we saw a club of Roberto Cavali, where he was throwing a party, gathering many models and celebrities of the widen area. We were too tired to go there too, so around 3:00 we got back home to sleep, since the next morning we needed to wake up early.