Sunday, December 29, 2013

Arriving in Florence

A glimpse of the Duomo
Arrived in Florence without much ado and grabbed a cab to commence our windey way to the apartment. The Florentine system of narrow, one way streets, meant our progress was interesting but slow. As we drove, we caught glimpses of the Duomo and other famous sites. I called our landlady (Padrona) to let her know we were on our way. Half way through our conversation in the cab, the phone cut out.

I called her again and she advised that she could not meet us for about 90 minutes. She said there were plenty of bars and cafes to bide our time. In what seemed no time at all, the cab dropped us off at the apartment and while Su minded the bags, I went out on a scouting trip to find a place to wait.

Found a little bar around the corner, so we dragged our cases off to the bar for a drink. Lucky for us, the very friendly proprietor did not mind large bags blocking his narrow bar for an hour or so. There was no phone coverage in the bar, so I had to keep ducking out into the street to check the phone to see if the Padrona had called.

Yes! She had called, but we had missed the call. Leaving Su to mind the bags, I went back to the apartment. Having to go back to work, La Padrona quickly took me through the apartment, showing me the layout and together we read the meters for water, gas and electricity. At the end of our stay, we will read them again and determine what costs we have incurred for utilities.

We agreed all the paperwork, signed the lease agreement, and I paid the month's rent.

Outside in the courtyard, La Padrona's telephone rang. "Its the best place for telephone reception" she said. Anxious to get back to the bar and bring Su back, the full import of this escaped me.

Su and I dragged the cases back to the apartment and began settling in.

It's a lovely apartment, small but well laid out, with a tiny outside courtyard (3mx3m). It has hot water radiators to keep the place warm (and to hang out our washing). Full details of the apartment can be seen at: 

More on the apartment later.

The SIM saga....

I'm not sure when we first realised that there was no phone reception anywhere in the apartment.... that you had to go outside into the freezing courtyard, find the one spot in the far corner by the wall, about half a metre up from the ground, then you had to bend down double, put the phone vertically between your legs, twist your head to the right, and then, you could get 1 small bar of reception. And of course, YOU MUST NOT MOVE WHEN YOU TALKED!!

This was a disaster; our plan for connection to the internet was to use “phone tethering”. Without phone reception, we had no internet. No blog, no maps, no email, no train or bus timetables, no nothing! Un disastro!

When we lived in Italy in the eighties, there were no cell phones. So, before we left, I did a lot of research into Italian SIM cards and internet reception and the general opinion was to buy your SIM card from a local network operator and not to use your Australian SIM card. The three recommended Operators were “Wind”, Vodafone and TIM. According to the internet forums, Wind seemed to have the edge. We bought a Wind SIM for each of our phones. They worked well in Rome. I could now say to Su with a straight face, “I think I've got Wind!”

However, coverage varies by location. Having realised that the Wind SIM was not going to work very well in Florence (apart from wide open spaces like parks), I reluctantly bought a Vodafone SIM to try. This was just as bad as Wind.

Typical traditional Tuscan breakfast.... 
Finally I bought a TIM Sim (sounds like a Chinese take-away). A great improvement on the other two - we had two bars in the courtyard, and very spotty coverage inside the apartment - but - you have to be near an external window and it is very variable.

We had noticed in the streets, that people were standing at open windows using their mobile phones, or standing out in the streets talking... now we know why.

More to come.....

Those new phone numbers again:

Rod +39 331 762 6037

Su   +39 366 362 1649

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