Making a Pass

I've recently discovered just how close we live to Florence. It's actually only about 35 miles, which is half an hour if you are an athletic crow with an interest in the Renaissance.

As we live in a closed valley in Tuscany with a row of mountains between us and the Tuscan jewel, I normally there by train, which involves going down to Arezzo and then up to Florence, a trip of about two hours if you include waiting around. This explains why I had always laboured under the misapprehension that Florence by car was like a tantalus  – there but impossible to reach. Because by car involves going over the Consuma Pass, you see, and even the name conjured up images of a single file of mountaineers roped together and teetering over a crevasse.

I blame Alan. As a motorcyclist he regaled me with tales of the Consuma Pass – with more bends than a Slinky – its slowness, its altitude. 'There's a bus to Florence,' I ventured one day. Sharp intake of breath. 'It'll be very, very slow. It could take you two hours, it goes OverThe Consuma Pass...' Yes, yes, I could see it in my mind's eye, the bus painstakingly making its way around a sheer drop, perilously angled, the passengers clinging on, eyes closed in silent prayer as they gripped their rosaries. Maybe I would stick to the train.

Imagine my surprise then when on one of our new weekly days out, (well, mornings out with lunch) Alan suggested we go to the top of the Consuma Pass. My eyes widened. Would I need crampons? A flask? I nodded in agreement, wondering if we had a tent in the car.

And then we went on this lovely smooth, slightly curvy road with views over flower-filled fields. 'When does it start?' I asked, admiring a sparkling white herd of Chianina cows lying in a circle on lush green grass. He pulled the car over by a wooden hut with a big sign. This was a bar. 'We're here,' he said. 'This is the top of the pass.'

'What? This is IT? But you said it was perilous, slow – BENDY!'

'I didn't.'

'You did!'

And so it went on, this good-natured banter between Alan and me, his geographically challenged and confused wife. So Florence is as near as this is it? And I never knew.  Hey, I could go there all the time!

So all we have to do now is go down the other side of the Consuma Pass. But wait. Maybe that's the scary bit. Maybe that's the reason we stopped at the top and turned round…