Everything began beautifully. My brother picked us up, and dropped us off at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Despite there being quite a few people waiting, we managed to grab a bag & tag machine immediately, and with practically zero queue, ditch our bags to the mercies of the handlers in Dublin and Pisa.
My wife, Niamh, had to stop for cash, and afterwards my brain created an event here that didn’t actually happen – more on this later. We breezed through security – one of the aspects of air-travel I really detest.
Things started to go wrong after we’d ordered food at one of the bars. I’d had a couple of swigs from my cider, when I thought I’d smugly show Niamh that, yes, I had everything in order. But my mini-wallet wasn’t in my pocket. No fake-out. I got that feeling of panic… you know when your stomach drops, then rises and your bladder shrinks to the size of a golf-ball? We emptied my carry-on all over the table, thinking I had absent-mindedly thrown it in there, after we’d gone through security. There was no sign of it, though.
I was convinced that I had looked in my wallet in the airport when Niamh was getting cash out, to make sure I had a float of my own. I raced back downstairs, past all the shops and over to some security guys to explain my situation. I had three cards in there, plus about 150 Euros in cash. I didn’t care about the cash, my bank card (we have an account in Italy, so we’re ok for money) or my Health Insurance card. What was killing me was that my driver’s license was also in there… and I was supposed to be a named driver, so I could share the driving. I was feeling a total moron for having lost it.
Fair play to the lads in security, they searched high and low for it. I convinced them that I definitely had the wallet before security, as I remembered that I had taken it out at the ATM. Anyway, they didn’t find it, and so I raced back, pausing to stop at some shop tills to see if anyone had left it in. They were all cool too, but didn’t have it – they took my number in case it came up. People simply are brilliant, more often than not, aren’t they?
Anyway, we had to leave shortly, so I yummied down as much of my lunch as I could in 3 minutes, before departing for the gate.
The flight missed its departure window, and so left 30 minutes late, at 14:15. No worries, I thought, we can still make Volterra and have dinner there later this evening. I began to get worried again when the captain said they’d have to circle for 20 minutes, as the weather was too bad to land. We knew thunderstorms were on the way and were wondering if we’d missed them in Pisa. We hadn’t. We did land after that 20 minutes, and it was a very smooth landing, fair-play to the pilot. I don’t mind flying, but I do get a little antsy about landings sometimes.
We taxied, and waited for a few minutes. It looked dry out, if dismal. Then came another announcement – ground staff will not work in thunderstorm conditions, so we’d have to wait on-board until the weather got better. He turned the air-con up, so we wouldn’t suffocate. Only then, did the rain come down.
It was liked being papped in a carwash, with tumbling water blurring the view outside and lighting flashing through the clouds.
The photo was taken by Niamh early on in the deluge, and doesn’t do the latter stages justice. After 50 minutes or so, we were allowed leave, and I got a free shower just running to the bus at the end of the stairs. I said to Niamh that I thought the arrivals area would be cataclysmic. The bus started up, and, no word of a lie, travelled all of 40 metres to the terminal stop where, laughing, we all got off and raced inside. I understand completely why they have to do that – not everyone is able-bodied or in the prime of their youth, but it was comical at the time.
Passport control was a breeze, and I thought I might have been wrong about how busy the rest of the terminal might be. I wasn’t. People had piled in, and we struggled up to the telly screen to see on which carousel our flight’s baggage would be arriving. But there was no movement, neither of screen nor carousel. There were occasional announcements that the baggage handling would begin when the storms subside. Still more people arrived into the terminal. One of the two vending machines was out of order, and I managed to get 2 of the last 3 bottles of water from the functioning one.
Feeling a little sorry for myself, I WhatsApp’d my brothers and had a bit of a rant at how things were progressing. I got a call from the brother who dropped us at the airport, shortly after to say that he had my wallet – I must have dropped it in the car on the way. He is due to come out to us for a few days at the beginning of September, so both Niamh and I were happy for Niamh to do the driving in August, and I in September! I can’t begin to describe the endorphine rush I got after that call! While I am writing this, I am still unable to banish the ‘memory’ of pulling out my wallet at the airport ATM and looking at the cash. Isn’t the brain an absolute fucker somtimes?
About 2 hours later, we saw a bunch of students we knew to be on our flight gather around carousel #3 and were collecting bags. I looked at the master screen, and it didn’t say, and the screen over the carousel didn’t indicate the flight either – yet those students knew. Neither of us had heard any announcement. But what the hell, our bags were finally coming out!
Once our bags were snatched, we dashed through customs, squeezed our way through the hilariously over-crowded arrivals area and out into some refreshing air. The car we picked up from Hertz 20 minutes later was a Lancia Ypsilon (we’re here for 9 weeks – our budget is limited!). I will be as nice as I can and say that it was a time-machine: just like driving was back in the early 90’s. Niamh sent the mail to Volterra’s Municipal Police to request that our ZTL & Parking resident’s permit be updated with the registration of our little Tardis. A town’s ‘ZTL’ (Zona Traffica Limita), is an area through which no traffic can pass, save for those with special permits. Each time you break a ZTL sign, that’s a 3-figure fine!
The winding journey to Volterra from the airport was in the dark, save for eruptions of lightning, which flickered across the sky. There were a couple of instances of forked-lightinging, and were I to do this all over again, I’d (remember my wallet!) have parked a GoPro on the dash to capture the journey. The forks were colossal!
We arrived in a partly fog-shrouded Volterra about 70 minutes later, and with 70 kilos of luggage, were reminded how unfit we are. We eventually arrived in our apartment at around 23:00, local time – exhausted, and only fit for our bed.