Victor and I had been staring out the window of the small jet from his window seat in row 7, wondering what we were looking at. I wasn’t sure where we we were. It wasn’t Firenze. A small brushfire burned white smoke pluming toward the sky. The pilot’s voice came over the intercom:
“Ladies and gentlemen, the wind is too strong to land in Florence, so we are diverting to Pisa.”
He provided some additional meteorological information. I quietly groaned – heaven help me should I ever be able to return from Amsterdam to Firenze on the KLM Cityhopper connection and actually land in Firenze. This happened last November too, when I was unceremoniously deposited in Venice due to thick fog, brought to a hotel for an hour and a half, and found my own way home on the first fast train out of Venice to Florence.
The plane was full of mostly American and Dutch tourists, and one Italian man who immediately began hissing, “cazzo, cazzo.” Later, when we were on the ground, he called his mom right away to discuss the diversion.
The plan circled out over the Mediterranean, glittering blue and flecked with whitecaps. The cold front rolled in on Thursday, breaking the heatwave they dubbed “Lucifer,” and the wind still whipped at the coast. We approached a first time. No luck. Back out to sea. It was no smooth ride either. This repeated at least four more times, with no further comment from the pilot, fighting that buffeting wind. Pisa lay spread out below us with its clay roofs, the mouth of the Arno slugglishly pouring out to sea. Finally, he went for it, and took us around the south and east sides of the city as the plane creaked and rocked to and fro. The wind was stiff. Get down, get down, get us down, I muttered. My palms were wet. Victor whooped a few times, buckled into his seat; six year old boys have no fear whatsoever in these situations. We finally landed with one bump, then another, and some hard braking. Right after we landed another plane came in, and immediately took off again without ever touching down.
The scene outside was chaotic. We were not the only flight that had been diverted due to wind. KLM said a bus would be waiting for us, and one was, but it was far too small for all passengers. Jason snorted and bought us tickets on the private Autostradale bus, which pulled out of the parking lot on time at 5:30 even as many of our fellow passengers from the flight waited in the sun for the second coach to arrive. The bus driver characteristically responded to a few of our basic questions before we left with the Italian frown and upturned palms. I was greatly entertained by a personal phone call he took from his hands-free, chatting loudly to a friend all the way to Florence. “Yeah, I put money on that horse too, it was no good! Didn’t pay out! Hey, the hairdresser is right next to the caffe. Did you go grocery shopping yet? What are you doing later? Ok, what about in 60 minutes? 90 minutes?”
The bus deposited us outside of the Fortezza, behind the train station. Jason quickly collared a taxi to drive us home. In the newly cooler air, everyone expressed their relief at the change in weather. We drove across Florence with our two smaller travelers, who cooed at Piazza San Marco. Even the light seemed softer, and San Marco seemed to be a gently glowing peach. It was good to be home.
One day, two small children, three airports, four cities. Two tired parents. And now, the 3 am eastbound jetlag, which Eleanor recommends you best address with yogurt, breakfast cookies, and an orange popsicle.