In 2006 we visited Tuscany and stayed At the Hotel Royal Victoria which was a grand old building but was unfortunately located on a busy main road. As soon as the light went out the traffic noise immediately increased in volume and I worried that I might be about to suffer a night of enforced insomnia.
It became increasingly intolerable to the point that I even contemplated overcoming my reluctance to close the rotting wooden shutters. This would have been useless because it was clear that even after carefully maneuvering them into position this would make no discernable difference at all to the appalling din because there was a constant drone of vehicle noise made worse by the rattling engines of the Vespa scooters (bzzzzzz-bzzzzzz-bzzzzzz); Vespa is Italian for wasp and believe me these things are well named; they are a complete bloody nuisance! This was accompanied by the piercing sirens of the police cars (da-loo-da-la, da-loo-da-la) which although quite lyrical during the day are downright diabolical at night and these were competing with the shrieking ambulances (do-dah, do-dah, do-dah), and worst of all there was a loose inspection cover in the road directly below the room which of course every vehicle just had to drive over with irritating regularity (ker-chunk, ker-chunk). Italy of course is the home of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and a nation with a reputation for a love of pace and reckless behaviour behind the wheel so everything seemed to be travelling at top speed and using full throttle.
I eventually managed to block out the noise (it’s amazing what half a litre of Chianti can do) and eventually dropped off to sleep. But not for long and it became so unbearable that Kim even contemplated sleeping in the bath tub at the back of the room just to get as far away from the street noise as possible. This was truly a room for insomniacs and the more I tried to blot out the dreadful noise the worse it got. On May 11th 2007 a Cornishman, Tony Wright, beat a forty three year old Guinness World Record by staying awake for eleven days and eleven nights. If he had booked in to the Hotel Victoria in Pisa he could have gone on much, much longer.
We couldn’t possible put up with another night of traffic disturbance and Kim had worried all day about a repeat of the sleepless experience so back at the hotel the next afternoon there was only one thing to do and that was to apply for a room change away from the relentless traffic noise.
Almost every guest review said that eventually they had to make the same request so I don’t suppose it came as a great surprise to the desk clerk to get this urgent application. He searched the hotel register and found an alternative room at the rear of the hotel and apologised for the fact that we were moving from one of the best suites in the establishment to a basic standard room. He seemed to think it was an odd decision and this has led me to the conclusion that Italians are obviously oblivious to traffic noise but quite frankly we couldn’t have been happier and were delighted to be transferred to an obviously inferior but crucially quieter room with a delightful roof garden outside.
We moved in, opened a bottle of red wine and because the weather was improving and Pisa had not had the heavy rain that we had experienced in Siena, sat outside to celebrate the transfer and enjoy the relative peace that the rear of the hotel offered.
Later we walked out to a nearby restaurant that we had picked out the day before and enjoyed an excellent meal of wild boar. After dinner we went back to the new hotel room and after a final drink on the roof garden enjoyed a peaceful and undisturbed night’s sleep. It was lovely.