Jun. 8th, 2007 06:50 pm
amalthya: (renegade)
Well, I bought 10 hours of multi-airport internet here and it keeps fucking logging me out even though I clearly haven't moved or gotten up or anything else. It's sort of maddening. Why am I paying for this?

... So much for trying to upload my photos from Lucca!!
amalthya: (moving right along)
Friday 2:53 pm
June 8th, 2007

Well, I was hoping the airport here in Florence might have wifi so that I could burn time in between now and the point when I had to check in. My original flight was at 7pm, getting into Madrid at midnight, but thankfully, I was able to change flights while here and get in earlier at 11 pm. It still seems like an awfully long time to fly for not that far to travel.

And my change of flight was free, because, according to the ticket lady, BUSH is coming into Rome, and Alitalia is perfectly happy to have fewer travelers in the Rome airport (where my original flight was going through)

So... now I'm flying through Milan. I have no complaints, really. Especially since Charles, Tom and Yenni left me with a 1.5L water bottle full of wine. We'd planned to drink it while waiting in the airport, but they ended up catching an earlier flight and now I'm left here solo!

We spent yesterday at the Uffizi Gallery, surrounded by famous and incredible artwork. I know we were supposed to be stunned by the Botticellis, but I found myself much more entranced by the work of Pietro di Cosimo. I'd never heard of him before, but I sent a few postcards today with the painting I liked most, a dragon piece.

While we were inside, it started to hail like you wouldn't believe outside! We decided to walk home anyway, and I've learned from countless Ugandan and Congolese rainstorms that having an umbrella won't really impact a thing. You'll still be wet. Of course, being wet and subsequently cold, looking for Tom in the rainy Tuscan streets was less than fun.

Hmm, maybe I will pay a bit of money and go online while here. Also, I'm getting drunk! Oh my.

Excited to go to Madrid though. Despite my general travel fatigue, I really feel jazzed for that leg of the trip.


The David

Jun. 7th, 2007 10:59 am
amalthya: (necklace)
We went to go and see Michaelangelo's David yesterday, an undertaking that people queue AROUND the block for. Which is sort of funny when you consider that the entire gallery and pull of this one tiny museum is just this big marble man.

He is quite something to behold, though I'll say I'm a bit jaded after the experience at the Leaning Tower. Jaded in that I'm spoiled by wonders EVEN LARGER than Michaelangelo's DAVID! Source of every dirty postcard fit to send your grandmother!

... Oh my.

No photos were allowed at the David, but I think Charles took some anyway. They also had various pieces-of-David postcards available (I thought it was a bit scandalous considering he's a Biblical figure and all) so a few of you might be bequeathed with some David Ass. Since I couldn't take the photo of it myself.

I'm trying my hardest to keep up-to-date with the photo uploading, but I'll admit it's slow and when I woke up before everyone today, I wandered over to the net café to try and play catchup.

Here is my Italian Collection. It includes all sets thus far that I've managed to get up.

I bought the most beautiful serving tray and matching hot plate. It does seem sort of silly considering my recent eating habits to be buying a hot plate in Italy, but hell, I'll have it all my life. I've done more shopping here too than I did anywhere else, but I think that's probably OK too.

Tomorrow I fly to Madrid. I'm giving my big suitcase to the gang to take back to the States for me, and taking my handbag and smaller bag with me to Spain and Germany. I can't believe how long I've been gone, or how long it'll be still til I get home.

Nor can I believe that in the Leather Capital of the World, I cannot find a replacement green leather backpack for [ profile] rosefox. Phooey.


Jun. 6th, 2007 09:20 am
amalthya: (brains)
Wednesday 9:20 am
June 6th, 2007

There's this raw carnivory and lust of Italy that I've noticed, and I'm not talking about the prosciutto. Spitting does seem to be a part of it, though, because I can hear people hocking their loogeys from my apartment window!

There's a roundness to the language that lends itself to booming laughter, and well yeah, the raw meat! We ate dinner last night at Il Latini, which was an experience because it was bustling with hundreds of people, and plates of canteloupe and prosciutto were flying by like bullets.

From the ceiling hung huge legs of piggy. It wasn't as caveman-esque as it could have been, because you couldn't point at the ceiling and say, boomingly, FEED ME THAT ONE! But at one point, all of the meat that's being served has hung from that ceiling.

I was immediately identified as the vegetarian, but it didn't seem to be a menu sort of place anyway so they just brought me things to eat.

Or, I'm sorry, when [ profile] infd asked if we could have menus, the waiter he'd flagged down smiled at us with horribly crooked, scary brown teeth and said

I am-a the menu!

And he wasn't lying. Apparently, dinner was a Huge Plate of Meat. Also, while we usually share 1L of red wine between the four of us for each meal, they had only 2L bottles. Drunk and full of meat!

Seriously, just think of Bacchus, sitting huge and fat and happy and drunk on his turtle!

...minus the turtle, of course ;)


Jun. 5th, 2007 04:58 pm
amalthya: (photographer)
Well, I got the Florence photos up. It's obviously slow, and they're not tagged really, or rotated, or uh, really anything, but enjoy them -- if I'm lucky I can make a set before my battery dies.


Also, you'll have to log into flickr for any group photos (if I've friended you) because of the request of a member of our party :)
amalthya: (harry: limits)
Tuesday 10:36 am
June 5th, 2007

Driving through Italy has proven to be a wonderfully pleasant adventure -- even the night driving in Florence, the accidental foray down the one-way street, and the generally failure-ific capabilities of our GPS in narrow Firenze-ian streets.

And we finally slept with our glass windows closed. Sure, we miss the chatter of the street, but for the first morning, I didn't wake up with 7 mosquitos perched ominously on the wall above my head.

Yesterday we decided to drive to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower. I do find it amazing that this particular town is famous architectural failure. Look! We tried to make a tower and it didn't stand up straight! Come and climb it and press your luck! No whammies, no whammies, no whammies, STOP!

But climb it we did, and may I just it was fucking incredible and amazing and breathtaking. Quite literal on the last part, since it was crooked, worn marble stairs in an endless circular stair. Though there were no windows you could usually feel what side of the tower you were on, depending on what wall seemed to be there to lean on. I won't lie: it was exhausting but when your stairs don't have landings, you're not really sure WHAT floor you're on and not sure when you're supposed to get tired.

The view from the top -- both tops -- the one where they have very ancient warning/mass bells (forbidden to ring now), then, around the edge and up a very narrow, very grooved/cupped, very steep spiral marble staircase to the top deck. Oh, the stairs were also wet from the rain earlier in the day. There is indeed a very good reason that they forbid you from taking up any bags, even purses.

But wow, to see the entirety of Pisa, and practically of Italy, standing at the top as a gusty breeze came through, encouraging you toward the lean, but carrying on it the gentlest scent of night-blooming jasmine and wet foliage.

You really don't feel the lean as much at the top, though. Surprising thought it may seem. But to realize that the tower is 1000 years old, and has probably been leaning for equally that long. Apparently it tilts a little more every year thanks to tourists, too.

Climbing down was another story entirely -- obviously less physically taxing, but damn if the steps weren't uneven and still marble, though there was something comforting about running your hand along the smooth marble walls as you made your way down.

There'd been some question too as to whether we'd climb -- two of our party weren't really enthused when they saw the queue outside and the price (15€) but everyone was glad when we did finally decide to go. No doubt either that it was more worth it than the "So-Called Crypt."

We've had wonderful trip pacing thus far. We usually start every day before 10, and it does feel like we've done a lot in the past five days. But we've also enjoyed food and conversation -- we stayed in a Pisan café yesterday for probably 3 hours. We've developed and Bread-and-Wine-o-meter for the various restaurants we see. Even if you're ambling in Italy, you still walk a considerable amount.

Having the car rocked. We'd listen to Italian radio -- even identifying songs we heard multiple times. Longevity of signal is clearly an American invention, because we'd usually have to change stations every 5-10 minutes as the static set in.

Oh, and for #stuy95ers: Avril Livigne's song Girlfriend doesn't even play in its Italian version in Italy.

I will say though, that there's a point where you're cruising along your roadway of choice, and the road is smooth and your car is... somewhat smooth... and you're listening to good tunes with great friends and where you are seems almost secondary. Of course, there were times when the landscape was lovely marbled mountains and tuscan villas and agriculture, but a lot of the time we could just as easily have been in the United States. Roadways, I think, are often like that. Almost the same, anywhere you go.

We decided to stop in the small town of Lucca on our way back to Florence last night. Lucca is, honestly, the first town that's actually felt like a town and not an excuse for tourists to come and spend money. Not once while there did anyone try to sell me a bootleg watch or some faux designer handbags or purses. There were also locals, out doing local things that didn't include playing the accordion next to your dinner table! We walked around the city wall (more cities should have them) where people jogged and we stopped and took pictures of the sunset before descending to have dinner.

The big nightlife of the city was as the guidebook promised -- a Gelateria in the center of town. Still, though, charming.

We did finally find our car, something that I should give credit to the GPS for, because it's often easy to forget which way you even came in after a day of wandering a city.

All these city walls and things really get you thinking about what Italy must have been like 1000+ years ago, though. Driving from one city to another just wasn't done, I guess. Or perhaps if you were high enough up, it might be considered aggressive. Everywhere we went, jutting out from the highest tree line would be a large stone watchpost, complete with parapets and a tiny window at the top. And really, they were everywhere.

Every city we've visited was also surrounded by a wall. Of course, the wall in Lucca was so large that it had a proper-width road on top, even if they'd converted it for joggers/bikers, and a row of trees on either side of the road. Huge trees growing on your wall? Yea, that's a big wall.

I could see living in a town like Lucca, though. Of course, walking by the real estate office at night, just looking in the window one could see that everyone else is of that same philosophy. 450,000€ for a ground floor 1.5 bedroom? Uhh, maybe not.

We'd had this grand plan to wake up at 7 am today to go queue to see the David. After getting back to Florence at nearly midnight last night, however, we decided against it. Tonight we have reservations at a fancy restaurant, and tomorrow we hit the Uffizi Art Gallery. Thursday has the potential for Rome, though we'd probably have to stay there on Wednesday morning in order to even get INTO the Vatican to see the Sistine Chapel, etc.

Well, now it's nearly noon, and Charles and Tom haven't returned from returning the car yet. Perhaps they've been accosted by angry locals, but I imagine our day will progress as slowly. And definitely, definitely internet-ly.
amalthya: (silly crazy)
Monday 9:08 am
June 4th, 2007

Sure, we'd seen the Ponte Vecchio ("Old Bridge") and wandered around most of the palazzos without actually seeing the Uffizi or the David, but we decided to head out into the countryside and see the little town of Siena.

Siena is a town that, according to our guidebook, had a fierce rivalry with Florence and rivaled it in wealth, status and architecture. Until the mid 14th century, of course, when the Black Plague decimated over half of its population.

Seeing its tiny streets and probably cramped living spaces, I could absolutely see why. We enjoyed navigating through the Labyrinth of Siena -- Charles has been using his treo as a GPS -- he's got some sort of software loaded on it, and a GPS receiver loaded on his shoulder, so it tells us where to go, though not always accurately.

I could very easily picture Siena in the 14th century, without all the Bierreterias, of course (Beer Gardens). The palace was wide and open and would have lent itself easily to an open market. Apparently, they have a yearly bareback horse race there, IN the piazza. We missed that, though.

In the guidebook, however, they told us of a church that held the Holy Relics of Santa Caterina -- specifically, her head and half of one of her fingers. No, I didn't ask how they got either, or how anyone ends up getting half of anyone's finger. But we walked down the steepest hill and up the second steepest hill with the firm intent to see the head.

Yenni became immediately allergic when we entered this very Catholic establishment. We wandered through, staring at the very old murals on the wall, having to walk on thick sheets of plexiglass as they tried to preserve the ancient mosaic of the floor.

We found a promising route to a basement room, but alas, there was NO head! Not anywhere. I saw a cabinet that looked as though it could have been a reliquary. But, no head.

Laughing and not discouraged, we decided to pay 6€ to go into the Crypt under the Duomo. There had to be heads there, right? We entered cautiously, expecting to be escorted into the pits of Hell!!

But no, there was no hell, and there were no heads. It did become a running joke, though.

We'd decided to rent a car to drive to Siena, a decision that I'm extremely grateful for. Not only was the drive beautiful, but easy and we didn't have to worry about the fickle bus schedule. I really liked driving in Italy, and was thankful that Hertz had automatic cars, even though they still seemed to be stick-shift hybrids.

So, on the way back, we decided to just drive around the countryside to see what we could find. It was Sunday night, so most wineries were closed. But we did scope out the town of Badesse -- simply because of its funny name. Yet nary a souvenir shop was to be found in BadAss! Woe!

We did also stop in Sambuca (hehe) and found a tiny café/restaurant that looked out over the beautiful valleys of Tuscany. Oh! And we passed San Casciano, the town where Justin and I went in 2002, searching for Machiavelli's house!

Dinner was delicious at that tiny restaurant. I think that, as New Yorkers, we become somewhat spoiled in our expectations of good food. Trattoria Anita, the place we ate on Friday, is still outstanding in retrospect, but none of the mozzarella thus far has been as delicious as the stuff Clint bought in Brooklyn.

And the bread hasn't been especially wonderful --- I much prefer [ profile] alexsirkman's. But overall, the food has been delicious, because even things like tomatoes are just delectable.

Our apartment is feeling very comforting too. It's been a wonderful vacation thus far, and I'm sure I'll remember to add more things as the day goes on. But right now, it's nearly 10 and I've yet to shower. We're going to Pisa today in the car, and seeing the leaning tower.


amalthya: (Default)

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