Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bad Souvenirs and Good Food, among other things

I’ve always been the worst at keeping a blog updated. Honestly, the fact that I’ve been this diligent so far is kind of amazing. I want to keep a record of this trip, so I’m trying, but sometimes you don’t want to take the time out to write. Not that I haven’t had lots of downtime in which I could be writing this, or doing the homework I need to get done before July 1st. But in typical fashion, I’ve been procrastinating my ass off. I wouldn’t be me otherwise, right?
Anyway, on Tuesday, I went to Pisa and saw the famous leaning tower and the cathedral there. To be perfectly honest, I was quite disappointed. I went out a tour to get there, but it took almost as much time driving there as we actually had to spend there. I don’t feel like I saw Pisa, so much as I saw the one square in Pisa where the super-touristy landmark accident is.
It started off on the wrong foot. On the bus, I sat down and there was an older man (maybe early 60s), a woman around 40, and a boy around 12, in front of me. The man and the boy were talking about, I shit you not, the atmosphere of the “ring world,” whatever the hell that meant. After listening to them hotly debate something at a rather extreme volume, I gathered it possibly has something to do with a video game? Are you fucking kidding me?
Then the couple behind them get up and say, quite loudly, “Yeah, maybe the back of the bus will be QUIETER.” Another few people moved away from them, and then I did too, because like hell I want to listen to them arguing about the details of some fictional nerd kingdom when they’re in bloody Italy, for christ’s sake. And it wasn’t even like nerding out kind of arguing. The guy had that condescending, know-it-all voice on...about a video game.
In Pisa, I got to see about a million tourists doing the holding-up-the-leaning-tower photo op. Literally, there were hundreds of people all taking that picture, you know? It was actually kind of hysterical. And no, I didn’t take such a photo of myself.
However, I did get shit on by a pigeon. No lie. Just when we were about to leave Pisa, right on my upper arm. Oh, I was impressed, let me tell you. Stupid flying rats. But I can laugh about it; it was just gross.
Also gross:
That one is currently topping my list of worst souvenirs I’ve ever seen, though there are a few other candidates, almost all of them involving the seeming fascination with the crotch of Michaelangelo’s David. I don’t know what everyone’s so excited about. But I forget that the general population is composed of little boys who are still going through that fascinated-by-my-penis phase. Ugh.
However, that night sort of made up for the day. I went out to dinner, and it was just starting to rain, but given that it started to pour as we left Pisa, so I’d already been soaked, I figured a little rain wouldn’t kill me. I get to a restaurant, sit on the outdoor raised patio with a roof, and it starts to pour. I’m talking biblical here, folks.
So I sat and ate pasta and tiramisu and limoncello and talked to an American family sitting nearby, and walked the rain and listened to the thunder, and it was kind of awesome. Am I weird for thinking that?
Anyway, the next day, I went to the Uffizi gallery, and was again, kind of disappointed. For one, the Uffizi seems very small after seeing Madrid’s museums, and it was over twice the price to get in because, as the little angry signs everywhere indicate, there is “NO STUDENT RATE!” No joke about the signs. It’s one thing not to have a student rate. It’s another to be really angry that people are even asking.
I will admit, part of my problem with the Uffizi is the age of the art. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m a modernist. The period from about 1880 to 1960, particularly 1910-1935, makes me happy. The Uffizi has nothing newer than about the 1600s, as far as I know. It’s mainly religious depictions, photo-realistic portraits and a few landscapes. Meh.
However, I will admit that The Birth of Venus (google image search it if you’re not familiar with the name, but trust me, you’ve seen it before) is a really beautiful painting, as is Spring, also by Botticelli. Other than those two, I was pretty underwhelmed.
Thursday, I went to the Palazzo Pitti, and had similar problems to the Uffizi. It was small, overpriced and not really to my art taste. I also found the gallery there to be extremely overcrowded. Rather than having 5 paintings in a room where you could actually look at them, there would be literally 30 paintings in a room, 3 high up to the very high ceiling, and then there was frescoe and stucco work everywhere. It was extremely distracting and overwhelming.
While I was there, the real storm began, making the night before look like a gently summer rain. This was an epic thunder and hail storm which kept blowing the windows of the palace open so staff had to rush around with mops and cloths, slamming old windows closed. At least that was mildly comical.
Between the storm and the price of entrance, I skipped the supposedly beautiful Boboli gardens, and instead had lunch while the storm calmed. When it did, I headed to the Piazzalle di Michaelangelo, which is up a rather large hill, but provided and really great view of the city and the river.
However, by the time I climbed the hill, it was back to raining harder (thought not so stormy this time), so I caved and bought an umbrella with part of The Birth of Venus pictured on it. Cute souvenir, actually.
Friday was my tour out to Siena and San Gimignano, two smaller Tuscan cities (really, a city and a town), where we saw the cathedrals, and all sorts of amazing medieval architecture. Early in the trip, a nice lady said hi to me and we got to talking, finding out that she lives in Kelowna right now, but grew up in Cochrane, of all places. Small world.
So we ended up spending most of the day together, since we’re both travelling alone right now. It was nice to have someone with similar cultural references to talk to for a while, since I haven’t had that much in the last 3 weeks.
Siena and San Gimignano were both beautiful, and I couldn’t have asked for better weather. I got really lucky that I picked to do the tour on the one day it ended up being absolutely lovely out. Plus I bought some cool stuff, some of it for you cool people back home, actually.
When the bus got back to Firenze, the girl from the tour, Leah, and myself, went for a drink, which turned into two, which turned into dinner and wine. It was lovely to just sit, watching the sunset, eating good food and drinking chianti after a day out in the Tuscan sun. It’s really kind of surreal. Plus, it’s given me more inspiration for a new play I’m already thinking about (despite not actually being done the one I have to hand in about a week and a half from now).
On the walk home, after Leah and I parted ways, I got more attention on the walk home than I’ve gotten in Calgary in the last 5 years, I think. I had a guy stop mid-stride on the sidewalk, introduce himself, and ask if I wanted to go for a drink. Another guy stopped me, asking me how much longer I was here, etc, obviously fishing. I got a few calls of “Ciao Bella,” and even a guy in an upstairs window who made little “pssst” noises until I glanced up, and then said “Ciao Bella,” a la Joey Tribbiani saying “How you doin’?”
Honestly, it all made me feel like my fly was undone or I had something all over my face. I don’t trust that kind of attention worth a damn. It was weird, though I was drunk enough to find it flattering at the time. It’s only now I’m getting weird about it, recalling it with a clearer head.
Today was my last full day in Italy. I set an early alarm, planning to go to the Accademia and knowing that I would be waiting a long time if I didn’t get a move on early.
Well, I set the alarm. And then, when it rang, I reset it for another hour later. And then I killed a ton of time around here, not getting out, so by the time I got there, it was after 10, and I had to wait over 2 hours to get in.
While it’s cool to say I’ve now seen Michelangelo’s David up close and personal (and damn, that’s a big sculpture; it’s pretty rare for me to feel tiny, but I did), the rest of the Accademia was pretty unimpressive. It’s really quite a small museum, and most of the rest of the work seemed to be really old (1300-1400) religious works, which get old fast. They do have a cool room of plaster sculptures which larger works all over the world are based on. Beyond the sculptures, I was totally unmoved by the Accademia.
I did some shopping after that, and along with some gifts, I bought myself a really pretty eggplant purple, Italian leather purse, that I managed to pay only €30 for because a) I began to walk away when he said 40, and b) I spoke just enough Italian to ask about prices IN Italian, and that helps. I also got a bit of a deal on some other stuff because of the language thing. Good thing numbers are about the strongest part of my Italian. :)
As a little update for you: I still want to eat everything in Italy. Mi piace the food here. A lot. I’ve had so much good pasta. Gnocchi is awesome. Last night, I had chicken with lemon sauce, and a salad, and I swear I don’t know how Italians make everything good, but they manage. In the last 5 weeks, my palate has definitely grown, and I like things I didn’t before.
So, I’ve spent the last couple hours trying to repack, as I leave tomorrow for Paris. My iPod cord has gone missing, so lucky for me, I’ll be seeing my parents tomorrow, and they will be bringing another one. I’m going to be sorely disappointed if my ipod dies, as the battery is low-ish right now. Boo.
I’m also trying to finish off my bottle of wine, since I wouldn’t want to waste any of it. :)
I don’t know what my internet situation will be like in Paris or London, but I will hopefully find some time to get some entries up. I’m meeting up with my parents in under 24 hours. Playtime is over. :(
No, I’m kidding about that last part. And not just because they read this blog. It will be nice to have someone to talk to besides myself and the few random strangers I manage to speak to.
On that note, Salute for the last time from Firenze, Italia.
Ciao Bella!


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