Rick hit the store first thing, getting supplies for his scrumptious omelets, (6 eggs or 12 eggs, to go three ways?), while Rob hopped on the Internet to plot the route to Bologna.
We packed up the last of our belongings, and the second room key reappeared, along with Rob’s sweatshirt, and maybe one of the walkie-talkies. We hit the road for Firenze well before the 10 AM checkout time. By now, the trip into town was routine for Rick and we navigated to the Roman gate with ease, grabbing a free parking spot very near to the gate. We walked a new road to the river, then past Osteria Giovanni where I spied Giovanni arriving for work. Closer to the tourist center we watched the motorcycle police play cat and mouse with the unlicensed street vendors.
Skirting the leather goods market, we finally reached the line at the Accademia where we could view the David. For the first half-hour we had a sliver of shade as the line inched along in what seemed to be five-minute intervals. After about an hour, Rick investigated the head of the line. The report was an estimated three hour wait from our location. We cut our losses and bailed out.
Stopped to refuel on the way out of town. Another 50 euros bought us a similar number of liters of diesel fuel. Ken was impressed by the mileage we had obtained through the week, consuming only on the order of 25 gallons. We grabbed another coffee, some sandwiches for the road and used the bathrooms. Rick earned the ire of a pink-shirted young Italian man driving a fast black car, as the van was left blocking the pump after Ken filled it up. I only shrugged my shoulders since the key and driver would not be emerging from the bathroom any sooner if he honked any more.
The trip to Bologna was quick and easy, passing long lines of large trucks in the slow lane, making their way up over the mountains. Our first stop was the airport, since we needed to return the van by 5 PM, as we had rented it for a week. But it would be more convenient to store (or check) our bike boxes now. We learned there was no storage, and as I tried to locate the local agent for British Airways to inquire about early check-in, I discovered that some aspect of the airport operations was shut down due to a strike. No wonder Ken had thought it was odd there were no planes flying in and out, and the terminal was so peaceful. Plan D was seeing if we could keep the van an extra 12 hours. Sure enough, for about the cost of a taxi ride, we could return the van in the morning for an extra 35 euros. Perfecto.
The Giro was passing through some spectacular coastline near Genova, and there were short clips of the scenery in and around Cinqueterre. Between the conversational terms, the words relating to roads, bicycles and races, and the names of the riders, I almost felt like I was getting useful information from the Italian commentary. With an uphill finish it was an interesting stage to watch, as it really split the field and both George Hincappie and Danielo DiLuca were in contention at various points in the race.
Refreshed, Rick wandered out to top off the gas tank, ultimately successful after returning for more cash and a second trip. Then we set off on foot for the old city, passing through one of the numerous city gates and walked towards the main town square. There seemed to be very few tourists (Rick Steves does not even mention Bologna at all) though there is still an abundance of old buildings. However, any historic ambience this might create is negated by a graffiti problem the city seems unable, or unwilling, to control.
We found the main square with its civic buildings and extremely large cathedral. We had seen in Firenze the debates about the facade of the Duomo there, and the debate appeared to be ongoing in Bologna. The bottom third was constructed of the pink and white marble we had seen in Sienna and Firenze, while the remainder was constructed of the plainest brown brick.
Off the square we happened onto the main district for selling produce, fresh meat and fresh fish. We eventually settled on a cafe nearby with outdoor seating, and a limited menu, since it was still well before restaurants began serving dinner. We each had lasagna bolognese and enjoyed the people-watching with a few beers. We finished our last meal with a gelato stop on the main plaza, where the owner offered that we could sit in the chairs on the plaza for no extra charge. I suspect this gesture was motivated more as a means of populating the area so other customers might also drop in. Still, it was a welcome change from Firenze. We each had seconds. After three long, hot, city walks in one day, we treated ourselves to a taxi ride home for an early bedtime.