Italia here we come!

Trip Start Feb 15, 2008
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Trip End May 31, 2008


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Flag of Italy  , Tuscany,
Thursday, April 24, 2008

Just outside Nice is Fragonard Perfumery which was established in 1926 and to this day creates traditional handmade perfumes, soaps and beauty products from natural flower, fruit and herbal extracts. The guided tour gives you the opportunity to test your snout and see if you can match a group of eight distinctive fragrances to pictures of their origins which was a bit of fun. Did you know that to get just one kilogram of pure rose oil you need, I think it was 3000 kg of roses, that's a lot of roses no? We also learnt that perfume is 24% essential oil and the remainder is alcohol and if it's kept in glass it's only good for one year but if kept in aluminium it lasts up to six years, so throw out your old perfume girls and buy new ones, well I suppose that's what they'd like you to do. Finally there was the most important part of the tour, the shop, where they get you to spend your money. They may have got a purchase out of me at the whisky distillery but I sure wasn't buying anything here, though they did seem to do well out of the rest of the group.

We continued our journey into the land of the high heeled boot through more tunnels and across more bridges; in fact as soon as you'd leave a tunnel you'd be on another bridge. This offered some great views up to the mountains and out to the Mediterranean though it can also make you a feel a bit dizzy.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa does lean and I can now actually confirm this. If you're along for the ride on a bus tour as I was, this tower will be a mandatory stop and if you're doing your own thing you'll probably want to squeeze it into your itinerary anyway. The structure stands at a height of 55 metres and is the freestanding bell tower of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa. It is situated behind the cathedral and forms the third element of Pisa's Piazza Cathedral Square; Piazza del Duomo. Although intended to stand vertically, the tower began leaning to the southeast soon after the onset of construction in 1173 due to a poorly laid foundation and loose substrate that has caused the foundation to shift direction. The foundations of the tower have recently been strengthened to ensure the tower does not fall over completely while ensuring that the tower's signature lean is maintained.  

This is extreme tourism at its best. There's a coach parking area about a ten minute walk from the site and from there on you'll need to dodge cars, motorcycles and street vendors trying to sell all manner of leaning tower memorabilia including phallic leaning tower of Pisa men's boxer shorts. Pisa is also a real town, so as part of their normal lives people actually have to live in and around this continual procession of pilgrims trudging across their streets in search of the holy grail of European tourism. The cheesiest thing of all is the unwritten requirement that all visitors must attempt to have their photo taken in such a position that they appear to be holding up the tower; well I did it too. The best of all at this are the Asian visitors, they really do have a style for this and perhaps it stems from practising tai chi or martial arts. Apparently it has also become quite popular for the young men to arch their backs and position the tower in such a way that it gives the impression of a larger than normal appendage, though I didn’t witness it on this particular afternoon. The tower grounds also seem to be the hang out spot for young locals on a sunny afternoon, who gather in groups and sit or lie around on the grass. However there are signs requiring people to stay off the grass and every 15 minutes or so the fun police come along blowing whistles and waving their arms for people to get off the grass. This act of herding the sheep across to the concrete proves to be somewhat futile for as soon as the guards have left, the sheep return to their green pastures. Entry to the baptistery, cathedral and tower are available on purchase of an access all areas ticket which costs €15. We spent that night at our campsite outside Florence.
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