Day 16 – In Which Florence is Rocked by a Massive Segway Smashup

During my short time in Florence I have learnt one thing. It really would be a nice city if it were not for the relentless crush of tourists (see my previous post). During daylight hours it is difficult to go anywhere interesting without being surrounded by selfie stick waving tourists, shouting guides and eager touts. The best time to explore the place is after nightfall when the masses have left and some semblance of sanity returns to the streets.

Last night I set off at around 9.30 pm and had a delightful walk in the warm summer air. Although there were still quite a few people wandering about, most of them were locals who have presumably learned that this is the best way to cope during the height of the tourist season. In the larger Piazzas there were still a few African trinket sellers who were occupying themselves by launching small luminous whirlyjigs high into the air. With so many in the air at the same time, they looked a bit like multi coloured fire flies.

I have calculated that, over the next 7 weeks, I will be staying in something like 35 different hotels. With so much packing and unpacking it is very hard not to lose an item or two along the way. So far on this trip I had prided myself on being very diligent and thoroughly checking the room every morning before leaving. This morning I realised that I had blotted my copybook but leaving my GPS adapter mounted on the handlebars of the bike when I returned it a couple of days ago. Although this was not a tragedy, it was a bit of a nuisance as I was planning to use the GPS for the entire France ride.

I decided to ring Eurobike to see if the bikes had been collected from the hotel yet. As it turned out they would be there for another day. The only problem was that the hotel where the bikes were returned was quite a distance from the place where we are now staying. In fact the taxi fare was well over 20 Euro one way (around $35 AUD). The thought of spending around $70 to retrieve a $16 mounting bracket seemed a little ridiculous. In any case there was nothing I could do about it until the afternoon. This morning I already had made other plans.

Following the great fun we had on Segways in Rome, John, Gonny and I had decided to book another Segway experience in Florence. We turned up at the Segway office and found that we would be joined by two others. Paul and Karen were a friendly couple from New Orleans, however they were not experienced Segway riders like us. We nodded sagely and offered them lots of useful advice, like “try not to fall off or you will hurt yourself”.

Our guide for the morning was a diminutive Italian girl called Mia. She started by giving Paul and Karen an initial training session. Karen immediately got the hang of the thing and was soon happily cruising up and down the alley, spinning in circles and executing other complex maneuvers. Paul was also very keen. He climbed on board, violently shook the control stick back and forth, immediately sending his Segway out of control and crashing into a row of parked bikes. The Segway went one way, Paul went the other and Mia looked on in horror. I was also very upset that I had not had the episode recorded on my GoPro camera.

Paul climbed back to his feet, apparently shaken but not shattered. He assured Mia that his cuts and bruises would soon heal and that the rips in his clothes were not anything to be concerned about. He climbed back on his recalcitrant Segway and our little peloton rolled out into the chaos of tourists. Once again we observed that walkers seem to get into some sort of trance when they walk and that no amount of bell ringing, shouts or abuse will make them move out of the way. On numerous occasions I nearly skittled whole families of blind and deaf wanderers. I took my example from the local bicycle riders who simply charge right through the crowds at maximum speed and don’t seem to have any concern for anyone who might get in their way.

Just as we thought we were over the worst we came to a traffic light. We all pulled up to a stop. It was just at that moment that the ground parted and a huge automatic bollard sprang forth from the bowels of the earth. This would not normally have been much of a problem had it not chosen to emerge from its subterranean resting place right when Karen’s Segway was parked on top of it. Karen was caught unawares by this unfortunate turn of events and she was thrown violently to the side, narrowly avoiding being pinned underneath her machine. She had actually surpassed the severity of her partner’s previous accident and poor Mia again apologised for the booby trap that she had not warned us about. The Segway had of course kept going on its own agenda but it was eventually rounded up a short distance away. Karen rubbed her new assortment of soft tissue injuries and was relieved that no major bones were broken. These Segways are more exciting than most people realise.

Fortunately we suffered no further incidents and 3 hours later the machines were safely parked outside the office where we had collected them. In spite of their injuries, Paul and Karen said they had actually had a lot of fun. And so had we.

After a short rest back at my hotel I then set off on foot back to the Grifone Hotel and my lost GPS bracket. After all, it was only 4 km away and there was a principle at stake. About 45 minutes later I found the hotel, retrieved the bracket and started the long walk back. By the time I eventually made it back to my hotel I was a little hot and bothered, but at least my inventory was, once again, complete.

Tomorrow morning we catch the plane to Paris to meet the rest of our France riders. And that will be be another story.