Highways and Doorknobs and Forts

My last two days in Firenze involved staying awake and active. I had to do whatever I could to avoid the anxiety of leaving and hunger of being broke. Instead of sleeping all day or watching horribly dubbed TV I chose to get up and go out. My mother also offered to send me money in spurts. Well it was per my request so I didn't have much to spend and had enough to navigate back to Paris and home. The day of the Accademia fiasco I'd discovered an alliance banking ATM closer to the hotel. This meant that I could drain my account for whatever could be sent as well as explore. I expected to find somewhere that was off the beaten path for tourists i.e. a small bar, a free gallery. Just anything to occupy my time and spend as little of my money as possible. So I set out to this bank the latter part of the day and had a bit of an adventure.

I'd mapped the bank at the hotel and screen shot the directions. It wasn't that far - a few blocks east, only two turns and then just up ahead. Once I got to my final turn it was at a banking epicenter. Banks lined both sides of this major highway and thankfully the bank I needed was on my side. There was no method of me crossing over, at least not nearby. I'm trekking to the bank on a Sunday. I have very low expectations. After Rome I don't know if this bank will be visible, have an ATM or be as they say in Europe "completely shut". There is no one around in any of these 70s style buildings. There are no cars parked behind them and no lights visible through the windows. All I see and hear are cars whizzing past on this divided highway. It feels like the banks are here on purpose - so no one can get to them. There is graffiti, trash and protest flyers blowing around. All the signs for a foreigner/tourist to wish they had brought travelers' checks. 
I find the bank and see the ATM through the door. I reach for the doorknob. Nope.

The doorknob doesn't turn and the place is locked. There is trash inside this place. I wonder is this bank even functioning. All I see is an ATM, a frosted door to its left and a flight of dark stairs going behind the machine. The ATM is showing a reel of banking options. There are Italian ladies playing eager to help tellers and bright colors on loop so the machine itself is working. I go to grab the knob again and see the card slider. Ohhhh?! It's one of those. I'd had fun with those in NYC when she failed to tell me that is how it goes. Yeah in the world of magic and Mickey Mouse ATM's aren't locked up. And in NYC everyone is so used to there own fucked up surroundings they just assume everywhere else is the same. So I struggled there and now I was struggling on a completely different continent. My card would not register. At first I thought oh dear I don't have a chip card and this far off the grid maybe that was required. I also thought I was being skimmed and totally voluntarily giving up my banking information. I would swipe and it was beeping every time I did but the door still would not open. I think I slid my card about twenty times. Each time I heard an audible beep and I attempted to turn the doorknob. I'm looking around hoping someone will come and let me in.

I finally bang on the door not thinking it's Sunday and no one is in there to help me. Please understand my desperation - now I had walked clear to the other side of Florence, I was thirsty and only had about 10 Euros. Italy was sort of expensive in comparison to Spain. If I bought a Coke I was almost 3 Euros in the hole. I was attempting to get another 20 - my last 20 - to manage for the next two days. I was determined not to go back to the touristy side of Florence and besides I had no idea where that first ATM was. At this point I was way too close to what I needed at the moment and the only think between me and the ATM was a doorknob. And finally I slid my card and pulled up a bit on the knob. The door opened and the cold air conditioning inside of that tiny space hit my face. The "Italian" doorknob much like the typical European door handle just needed to be pushed in while turned. And I probably have failed you all by now but yes the U.S. has different doors and knobs that need grip to turn. In Europe there are handles and levels and sometimes strangely positioned versions of knobs that require tension not grip. In France, one must turn your lever up to lock and down to unlock or vice versa - either way you don't just turn a knob or pull a lever. Ugh it's so complicated people get stuck in places or locked out all the time. 

When I finally got that crisp 20 I tucked it into the depths of my Kate Spade wallet. Thankfully exiting was a hell of a lot easier. But something tells me that I can manage from this point on. Having conquered the vault of tragedy I figured I should celebrate. I looked south from whence I came at it was just as dull as before. North there were people - goo gobs of people walking and riding bikes. There was a park. It had a fort. I saw an ice cream stand and a fountain. I felt rich in so many ways and I sauntered to that park thinking "victory!". I imagined drinking cold water, taking pictures and having gelato. It's Sunday so the fort is closed. The water is nasty and warm. The ice cream all Magnum bars aka not refreshing. Instead I finger the gate to the fort and watch Asian kids stand on things and take selfies. I'm back to being defeated. So I meander west through the familiar ways to the hotel. I find myself in a bunch of narrow streets of government buildings, military barracks etc. I finally see people again and look up to find the train station we arrived at facing me. I'd went in a circle around the hotel. Basically, Florence proper is very small. There was no more hope for gelato or cold bubbling mineral water. There were just other lost people with tickets in hands and McDonald's - two of them. Back to anxiety and hunger just with 20 Euros burning a hole in my pocket.

I digress...

There really aren't any websites for ATM's use or a dummies book - each bank has there own rules and warnings for that. The following link gears you towards converting before you leave and the commenters leave a ton of advice - so here However, no one speaks to the dreaded room with an ATM inside you may not be able to get into without chip & pin or doorknob savvy...

Locked Inside With Your European Door? - unsolicited, rude advice here

Debates On Why The U.S. Has Different Doorknobs here

I can't provide any decent links on the park and fort I visited. Just know that the park is called Giardino Della Fortezza and it's fort is named Fortezza De Basso. Both names are extremely important because just as there are a zillion St.Maria's in Rome; Florence is full of giardinos and fortezzas. The park happened to have a Facebook that has nothing on it. Just googling forts of Florence drowns you in paparazzi photos of KimYe's nuptials. Yes, they were married in Firenze, in a garden, with a fort .. but on the other side of the Arno. If I had my way I would have gone there instead. 

Trust me.

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