Day 6 is always a busy day. Some years we just tackle one hill town but we have done as many as three in a day. This year we went for two - Perugia and Assisi.
First and foremost we consolidate bodies into fewer cars. So instead of 8 cars we double up and get it down to 4 cars. Trust me that is still plenty for avid adventure! We start with our morning coffee and some eggs and potatoes for breakfast in our little quaint Umbrian kitchen and then its down the hill and off on our Umbrian Hilltown adventure.
Our first stop is Perugia. 4 cars all traversing the hills, then the highway and then the first exit into the city…..and then the separation, cars get lost and we are off and into our own version of the CBS show The Amazing Race. Trust me - our version would be better! Cars get separated, and then my job is to figure out where everyone is and how to get them to the parking spot! Always a challenge but we always eventually get there and this year was no exception.
The first thing my travelers learn is not to panic. As in life, when drama or storms come your way, the best thing to do is forget the emotion and look closely at the situation and start assessing options. In this case my goal is always to get one car at a time back to where I am. Here is where I learn who my good navigators and travelers are. Yes we could get a bus and all follow Mark with a flag but that is not what this trip is about. This trip is about getting you out of your comfort zone and trust me - we don't realize it, but we spend every day of our lives insulating ourselves from adversity and have feathered our comfort nests to the point that we don't even recognize the fact we are sitting tight there in the middle of that nest. I want my travelers to find that part of them they have lost - that sense of adventure which brings along a heightened awareness of living and stepping out and seeing the world and experiencing new things that most people would prefer to live through Rick Steeves and his travel shows. This trip gets you out of the couch and off the internet and behind the seat of a car desperately searching for me somewhere on some side street in Perugia!!!!
Ok - so back to our journey! The one thing I also find are who my good Google Maps navigators are and who even has a decent phone with data! Trust me when you travel like this - forget paper maps they are worthless - not bad back ups - but Google Maps works great….as long as you have a signal :-). Fortunately, it seems to work pretty well in Italy. So my travelers start to learn what a dropped pin is and how valuable they become. With a dropped pin I can get blow by blow directions to that pin. So I can send a pin to where I am and my travelers can find me or vice versa. It works very well and once my travelers start learning how to do this it is a great resource and skill for years and trips to come.
We all find each other and make our way to the parking lot…..one problem I didn't follow MY pin and had us park in a private swim club parking lot! Ok so now we are all in this lot but there is a gate you need to have open to get out. Luckily someone was answering the call button and between my broken Italian and the gate operator's broken English we managed to get 4 cars through the gate. So now back up a few more hairpin turns up the hill and we were to our true pinned parking lot.
Parking is always a challenge as I try to get all my cars together. The spots are tight and the spaces come at a premium - sometimes we have to wait several minutes for someone to leave and then use our traveler body guards to defend the spots! I told you this was an adventure.
With cars parked we made our way up, up, up to the old city of Perugia. Perugia is the capital of Umbria and a beautiful city with a lovely main thoroughfare framed by churches, museums, trattorias and bars and of course shopping. So we picked a group rendezvous time and place and we were all off on our own mini adventures…..see no following Mark with a flag. Everyone found nice little spots to dine and relax and enjoy a beautiful lunch hour in Perugia.
We parked and made our way down the main thoroughfare into the main piazza where we found our gathering spot and set our rendezvous time. Group photo in front of the cathedral and then it was off to all go and explore. Isabel and I have seen the church many times so we went and found a fantastic wine shop and enjoyed a glass of wine and some antipasti and some quiet time.
Gradually, we all made our way back to the piazza where we shared stories of our explorations and finds, grabbed a cappuccino and some gelato and made our way back to the cars. Isabel is my driver and of course I am the navigator. We had brought two of our travelers that wanted to stay in Siena for the night and then drive home on their own. So I thought I would surprise one of them by having them drive us home to give them a sense of the experience before casting them off later in the week to the Tuscany drivers and roads….. Well she was surprised all right but with me as her navigator she did great. I do think the experience though made them realize that they probably were not quite ready to do this on their own. Better they find out today than later in the week and they lose a day trying to find their way home!
Vivian and I had to do a conference call from our cars so we missed dinner but got doggie bags to go! We then drove off and headed home……no wait - two cars turned the wrong way and they were off in the wrong direction….. one last adventure…..well after about 30 minutes of frantic texts we figured out that they had figured their ways home through the country roads!!! We all made it home, grabbed a glass of wine and relived our day.
I had achieved my goal! I had created some new adventure travelers!