Treasures of Italy
14 June 2010 | Brindisi, Italy
Well, we've just completed a weeklong tour of the major tourist cities of Italy - Venice, Florence, and Rome. We started off in Venice with a long overnight train ride into the city. I must've gotten 2 hours of sleep (or at least the equivalent of 2 hours). When we arrived in Venice and got to our hostel, I was so tired I went to sleep right on two of the waiting chairs! But I was eventually woken up and we got some breakfast before heading out to see the city.
I survived that and slept through lunch (after which I was feeling marginally refreshed). Then we continued on to the Rialto Bridge, Piazza San Marco, and a smoothie shop. By then I felt like I actually had some energy and we took vaporetto #2 around the Grand Canal and other areas. Then we returned to the hostel for a half-hour before meeting up with my dad's friend, Michel. We stayed up late with him eating dinner (I must've eaten 10 fries and had a couple bites of chicken). But, it was fun, and I think I would go back if I got the chance.
The next morning (after I'd tried to go to sleep and ended up unconscious) we took a high-speed train to Florence (Firenze in Italian). The high-speed trains are quite nice with little to no graffiti on them. They don't even have a special car for the engine (which is electric and uses 340 volt). The first class coach is in the engine car.
Florence is a pretty cool place. Things aren't too far away especially if you've gotten a hotel between the Duomo and the train station. We weren't so lucky, but our hotel was nicer than we expected. It is called Hotel Alamanni and is on Via Alamanni (go figure!). But it was kind of out of town, so we had to walk awhile before we got into the tourist area.
The Duomo is awesome. It's free to go in, and tourists use that to its full extent. The church is still used as a church, so they want you to keep quiet, but nobody wants to, so they have to keep reminding everyone. But the workmanship is so detailed and amazing. Unfortunately, someone could get a pressure washing job for several years if they wanted to.
We went to the Uffizi gallery next and saw a lot of famous pieces of art (including Botticelli's 'The Birth of Venus'). It was amazing, but also quite boring (I thought). You see one Renaissance piece of art by an obscure artist, you've seen 'em all. However, what I thought was the most interesting was the frames. Some of these frames are gold plated with exquisite columns carved on the front and elaborate carvings around the edges. Others are just your plain 12' by 12' gold plated frame.
The Galleria d'Accadmie just had the David by Michelangelo and a bunch of other paintings. If they didn't have the David, I doubt they'd be able to charge as much as they do -- there's nothing else there.
From Florence we took the slow train to Rome. Rome's cool, but it'd be nice if it wasn't so modern. It kind of degrades the sense of how old the ruins really are. We saw the Coliseum (Colossi), Forum, Palatine Hill, the Vatican Museums, St. Peter's Basilica and Square, the Jewish Ghetto, the Pantheon, and the Hippodrome. The Ghetto, Pantheon, and Hippodrome are free. The Ghetto is just an area, and while the Pantheon is an actual building, the Hippodrome is just a grassy field you can fly kites in. The Coliseum, Forum, and Palatine Hill are all on one ticket (12 Euro). However, the Vatican Museums are separate (goes to show that the Vatican is its own state, albeit the smallest) and cost a number I don't know - we skipped the line (I'm glad we did - the line must've been a couple football fields long) and went on a guided tour. That was neat, because we saw only the necessary stuff, although we missed a lot. I bet we'd still be there if we had gone by our self!
St. Peter's Basilica and Square were cool. The Basilica is the largest Catholic Church in the world and is built on the remains of St. Peter. There is an Egyptian obelisk where he was killed and the Square is built around it. The church itself was worked on by 4 architects through a succession of 22 popes. Michelangelo himself worked on the dome (the largest in the Catholic world) but couldn't see it because he died. He was 79 when he started work.
That concluded our tour. The next day we took a brief walk-around tour of the Palatine and Forum before we jumped on our train and headed back to Brindisi. Overall the trip was awesome. I'd go back to some places again, although I probably won't do the whole thing. At least I know what to see!
P.S. The photo is of the Coliseum.