Finishing Italy in a Hurry
Trip Start Nov 29, 2005
79Trip End Nov 21, 2006
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But Florence once again proves how much Italians care about their religion. I thought the duomos in Venice and Milan were fairly impressive, then I got to Florence. Keep in mind that I had just come from Rome so it would take a fair bit for me to bother taking out my camera for a church. But Florence manages to maybe even top St Peter's, from the outside anyway. I had been warned by my cousin about the duomo because apparently it's the number one pick pocket spot because every one is so busy gawking at the church.
Florence was also good in the respect that it scratched another item off the list of things I never have to see again. After hitting Rome and the Vatican I would've felt fairly content if I never saw another church (particularly the inside) again -- you've seen St Peter's, you've seen the top of the scale. And now, thanks to Florence, I never have to see another statue again now that I've seen Michaelangelo's Dave. And if you think I'm being obnoxious and silly about this whole never having to see another statue again thing, well, there's a quote more or less to that effect right in front of it. And David does live up to the hype. It's even bigger than you think and the detail is amazing. It's impressive enough that LÁccademia, the museum that houses it can force people to make reservations, make those who don't have a reservation wait on line and then charge €9.50 to get into a museum that really is pretty worthless aside from the world's most famous statue
My one complaint about Florence is that my first night there was the most worried I've been about going home since I've been traveling. It certainly didn't help in general that I've been hanging out with Adrian all this time, an Aussie who likes to bash Americans any chance he gets (and having one around gave him plenty of excuses, he didn't know what to do with himself when I was the token in a sea of Aussies and Kiwis at Oktoberfest), but that night we went to a bar that was holding a beer pong tournament. I advertised it to him as a way to get a glimpse into a little American culture, and I had no idea how right I was. The tables were turned as he was the lone Aussie amongst nothing but Americans. The problem was, though, we were bored out of our skulls. Just about everyone was too self-absorbed to bother meeting someone that they didn't come to the bar with or who wasn't in one of their programs and every effort we made to muck around and entertain people completely crashed. That combined with €5 pints made it an early and disappointingly quiet night. I just hope that that's not the sort of thing I have to look forward to whenever it is that I do come back.
From Florence, we moved on to spend our one hour in Pisa. I propose that the town council of Pisa vote to build a new train station right next to the main plaza where the Leaning Tower and the duomo (it's a decent duomo, but a) I'd just come from Florence and b) I was there to see a tower not a church) to make it that much easier for people to get in and out quickly. Still we managed to hop the bus from the station, run into the plaza, take our picture kicking the tower down (had to try to come up with something original -- is it original, I don't know, but no one else did it), take the obligatory picture holding it up and then get back on the bus while our one-hour public transport ticket was still in effect
What I did feel cheated about was missing out on the Cinque Terra. Ask anyone what they think of Cinque Terra and the answer is always, "amazing, the pictures don't even do it justice." The plan was to get into a town nearby that morning (it was still early, we were go getters and got up with the sun in Florence), find accommodation, ditch our bags, do the hike through the five towns, get a proper night's sleep then "screw the pooch" and head on to Switzerland. The only problem is, Lonely Planet sucks. They talk so much about how Cinque Terra is something not to be missed, then when you actually get to the entry on it there's barely a paragraph that only vaguely hints on how to handle minor things like where you should get off the train. Of course I couldn't make sense of it all until we were speeding away from the town where we should've gotten out and it didn't become crystal clear until the train didn't stop again for another hour and a half. So instead of leaving at La Spezia, we ended up in Genoa (Columbus' birthplace, if you care), and again we got screwed by LP. Genoa has two train stations and the guidebook says that if you get off at the first one you can find decent accommodation and if you get off at the second, you're closer to the water but you're also in a shady part of town -- so you're inclined to get off at the first one