Thank God it's Friday

1st November 1996 at 00:00
Monday: It's half-term and we are in Tuscany - our first ever attempt at self-catering and driving abroad. The apartment is a converted barn in a vineyard, with beautiful scenery, but barns were designed to keep things cool. We sleep under mounds of coats and dressing-gowns.

All weekend, people dressed as peasants have been shooting things and gathering mushrooms in the surrounding woods. This morning's silence confirms my suspicions that they were all off-duty accountants. We drive to Florence where my husband gets emotional at the sight of the city spread out before him from the Piazzale Michelangelo.

Of course it could just be relief at getting out of the car. Italian drivers are impatient and ruthless. We are about to find out that life is even more hazardous for pedestrians. Why do they have zebra crossings, when motorists ignore them? The view from the top of the Duomo - Florence bathed in sunlight - is worth the climb, and the ice cream afterwards is to die for.

Tuesday: Siena today, and another cathedral - like a wedding-cake outside, candy-striped inside. There are frescos 600 years old that look as if they were finished this very morning. I hold forth briefly about the perversion of the early Christian ideal of poverty, which seems to fit ill with all the money lavished on these sumptuous buildings. I must have upset someone, because as we come out, the heavens open and it cascades rain.

Wednesday: The Etruscans cremated their dead, put the ashes in urns, placed the urns in caskets and buried the caskets in stone-lined vaults, just to make absolutely sure. The museum at Volterra has hundreds of these caskets, all exquisitely carved and every one different. We are ashamed to find that none of us knows anything about the Etruscans except, now, their way of death and burial customs. We shall look them up when we get home.

Thursday: Back to Florence for the Uffuzi Gallery. I cash enough travellers' cheques to last the rest of the week. We queue for an hour, mercifully under cover as the rain pours down. The tedium is relieved by a troupe of chanting Hare Krishnas and a copy of yesterday's Guardian. "This," I tell the children, "is an experience you will remember for the rest of your lives." We reach the head of the queue and I realise that my purse has disappeared from my shoulder bag. This is an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.

I resolve not to let it spoil the day, leave the others in the queue and sprint off in search of a cash machine. The Uffizi restores my equilibrium in minutes, and my husband is in heaven. But the youngest child is suffering from an overdose of culture and has to be revived with large quantities of pizza and ice cream.

Friday: A gentle potter round the hill towns of Chianti country today, ending up in our favourite place, San Gimignano. The sunshine is back and the views from the walls are astonishingly beautiful - woods and vineyards, villas and olive groves. Little shops nestle at the bottom of the ancient buildings, selling wine, olive wood chopping boards, a hundred and one things made from wild boar, and of course, ice cream.

I make one last fruitless attempt to ring home. I want to speak to our student son and find out how the cat's keeping, but have been unable to reach England all week. Is my criticism of cathedrals still rankling? Home tomorrow and, for once, Friday has arrived too soon.

Lindy Hardcastle is a parent and school governor in Leicester

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