So what have I been doing of late? Melting, really. It sure is warm here.
I sadly said goodbye to Rome on Tuesday, after an action-packed Monday which included visits to Circus Maximus, the Pantheon, the Mouth of Truth, general wandering, and sampling the best gelato and a rival to the best coffee (from the day before). The gelato was soooo good, I even branched out and had tiramisu and white chocolate to go with my traditional peppermint choc chip. And what made it Roman? The dollop of fresh cream on the top, which surprisingly went with it well.
I accidently missed my train to Florence, so I hopped on one to Pisa instead. I happily spent a few hours in Pisa, getting the cliched ‘holding up the tower’ photo to go with the one of me holding the Olympic flame in Sydney. I never knew that everything in the Field of Miracles was leaning, not just the tower – the baptisty and the cathedral were slanted too. I happily snapped away, taking my grand total of photos of Italy to over four hundred.
Florence is just gorgeous really, there’s no other word for it. I think we were on the right track with our courtyard, but imagine that’s an entire city and its surrounds. The first thing that hit me was that there were no beggars – something I hadn’t seen since Monaco. The streets curve in strange directions, flower boxes are at every window and even the fruit at the markets look brighter.
The Ponte Vecchio – the only bridge to survive World War Two in Florence – is probably up there with my favourites so far. It’s lined with jewelry shops, which have more or less been trading since the Medici times. The views are spectacular on either side, and from the Uffizi looking down.
Which brings me to the Uffizi. I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, but… I was disappointed. I was in line for almost two hours (worse than the Vatican because it just didn’t seem to MOVE) and I was cranky when I got in because I realised that the reason it took so long was because they only had one metal detector, and then they didn’t give non-EU students discounts. The building itself will look good when they finish re-doing it, but currently half of it is blocked off, and the other half has every second artwork missing due to the refurbishments, including Da Vinci’s ‘The Annunciation’, which was actually at the National Museum in Tokyo (where I was two months ago). I was able to see ‘The Birth of Venus’ though which I really like, as well as plenty of others that I was able to recognise. There was one of a bishop with a crooked nose by a nobody that rang a bell and drove me crazy for ages as I couldn’t place it… later I realised he was the dude on the menus at Medici’s at Docklands.
I spent the rest of the day exploring Florence, so today I felt like a bit of a change, and as I was keen to see a bit more of Tuscany I caught the train to Siena. Even though the town seems to cater for visitors with deeper pockets than my own, I still enjoyed myself, soaking up the atmosphere in my favourite piazza so far, Il Campo. As I refuse to pay entry into Catholic cathedrals (I feel we need a membership card or something) I admired the outside, and happily got lost in the winding medieval streets.
When I got back to Florence’s Central Station, I ticked off something I had hoped of doing ever since Day One – bumping into someone from home. It was like when Dad saw Uncle Kevin’s friend at Disneyland – I saw Chris, whose house I was at on New Year’s Eve, heading for a packed train – this time, unlike twelve years ago, he was able to yell out something handy: ‘text me!’
So I’ve officially entered Part II of the journey – today is Day 72 of 142. It really has gone so fast. After a few days of feeling extremely run-down – I’m assuming due to the antibiotics – I’m a chipper chicken again, which I’m definitely going to need as the next two weeks read like this: Venice, Zurich, Bern, Geneva, Cologne, Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp and Amsterdam. And… wait for it… there’s an Olympic Museum in Cologne! Oh yeah.