Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy

August 31st, September 1st 2010

Who pays €10 just to check out a naked guy? Me.

Ok, not just any naked guy, the naked guy in Florence, the statue of David. The Florentine authorities really know how to maximize tourist revenue. Just put a world-famous piece of art in one of the lousiest art galleries in Florence, and everyone will pay an exhorbitant entry fee just to see it. The statue was a lot bigger than I expected and was very, very impressive. How did they even move it around without cracking it? Is marble really that solid? And all this was carved from a single block of marble. By the way, every picture out there of David is a front shot, and although photography is banned, I managed to sneak an ass-shot of David so check it out, David from the behind. Please, no gay jokes. It’s art.

I was also, sadly but proudly, the first in line to the Uffizi Gallery, one of Florence’s most famous art gallery, which included works such as The Birth of Venus and my favorite, Michaelangelo’s Tondo Doni (the color, especially the baby pink, was absolutely creamy, exquisite and vibrant). The Uffizi usually has long lines (we’re taking about 2 hours if you arrive around 11 am). I got there around 7:45 am, it opens at 8:15. I was originally #4 to arrive but because I sat on the doorsteps to read while waiting for it to open, everyone thought I was #1 and formed a queue behind me (the 3 girls in front of me submissively did the same). My competitive nature kicked in and I felt proud that I was managed to steal #1. What a nerd lol. I blame it on the Malaysian school system.

I ate some great food in Florence. One of my favorites was freshly-made oven baked pizza. Nothing but good dough, good cheese, tomato sauce, and olive oil. I also had some pasta (again, eat pasta while in Italy, it’s Italy! And I’m Dr Pasta, I have to study the art of pasta). If only I was a wine-man, I’d be sampling all kinds. After all, I am in the Tuscan region. But all I know of wine, sadly, is there is red, white, and pink. I will be hoping to learn more about wines and cheeses through my life, I hope. Who knows, I may become a wine-snob, like Miles from Sideways. If you have not seen that movie, watch it. ‘I WILL NOT DRINK ANY FUCKING MERLOT!’

I spent part of my last day visiting Pisa, only an hour’s train ride from Florence. The Leaning Tower was smaller than I had thought it would be but also a lot wider. Ate some delicious ‘Yogurt with strawberries and honey’ gelato, which was like having a party in my mouth. I’m a huge chocolate fanatic when it comes to gelato but that takes the cake.

Florence, Italy Pics

Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy

August 28th, 29th, 30th 2010

Didn’t do much the first day. I decided to do laundry and lounge around in the hostel. I have designated a blue t-shirt, purchased in a Paris supermarket, and a 32-inch inseam with 30-inch waist (my dimensions are the other way around), purchased in Poland, to be my ‘laundry-day wear’. Ate some Chinese food and wondered what cuts they use from the cow to make the beef dishes, not just this restaurant but all over the world. They’re never lean and meaty, but mainly rubbery and chewy.

Next day, I visited Vatican City. I came just in time for a 1.5 hour queue to the Vatican Museum, where the Sistine Chapel is located. I have a massive painting which I did in high school for art class hanging in my parents’ garage of Adam and God nearly touching fingers, you know, that picture. Of course, my drawing and painting skills are severely lacking and the overall end product is hilarious looking. I wish I could’ve taken a better picture of the actual Michaelangelo version, which is breathe-taking, but picture-taking was banned and there were plenty of security personnel making sure of that. I did do a couple of ninja-snapshots. Anyway, it was nice to see the actual piece of what I attempted to copy, poorly, in high school. The entire Sistine Chapel was covered from top to bottom with beautiful art, much like tattoos.

Went to St Peter’s square of Vatican City around 12 pm, just in time to see a live feed on big-screen of the Pope giving a sermon somewhere else, I believe Castel Gondolfo, a distance from Vatican City, to mass there. I lined up to check out St Peter’s Basilica, which was equally impressive from the outside and inside. Other than that, I was actually surprised at how accessible Vatican City was to the public. I expected it to be a walled off island in Rome, with only a few gated entrances where those colorfully-clothed Swiss Guards would let the crowds in from. But only small sections are guarded and sealed off, I’m thinking where the Pope lives. Those Swiss Guards wear very colorful garb on Sundays but I was back there on Monday, again, and saw them dressed in plain blue. Maybe that’s their version of ‘laundry-day wear’.

Spent my last day there checking out the Colosseum. Inside, I was disappointed at how much lay in ruins. The entire ground was gone and I could see into the underground tunnels that once lay beneath where the gladiators dueled. Since the Colossuem was oval-shaped, depending on where you stand, it could look small or it could look massive. I wished I was there back in the days when gladiators fought. ‘Maximus, Maximus!!’ (he could have been real).

Went to check out the impressive Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Lots of ruins, including some very impressive looking ones. I took one of my favorite and best pictures of Arco di Settimo Severo, dedicated to the Emperor Septimus Severus (talk about a cool name) and victory over the Parthians. The lighting was just perfect.

I visited several other little spots in Rome (bought unlimited all-day subway passes, so I had to maximize their use by zipping up and down Line A and Line B). Both lines go through Roma Termini, Rome’s main train station. This station has been the most awesome train station in Europe because it’s quite happening in there. Lots of shops, a couple eateries, very modern and busy, and even has one of those electronic arrival/departure boards where the characters flip and the right words/numbers are displayed. I actually spent two nights eating dinner at a self-service joint (popular with the station employees) and watching Serie A soccer with everyone. But yes, I hung out at a train station.

Rome, Italy Pics

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy
August 27th 2010

Not quite what I thought it would be. I had previously imagined the only way to get around was on gondolas and if you walked outside the door, you’d fall right into the water. But in reality, Venice is made out of pedestrian walkways, with canals running through it. Just pretend it’s like any other city but instead of roads with cars, you have canals with boats (to transport things).

The bus from Ljubljana took me to Mestre, just outside Venice. After finally acquiring a bus ticket (Why don’t they set up ticket booths next to a bus stop? Why do we have to go around asking coffee shops if they sold bus tickets? And why do coffee shops have no idea where I can get bus tickets if they didn’t sell it themselves? And why do some locals have no clue that the bus driver himself sold tickets? And why did the bus driver try to lie to me that he didn’t sell tickets, only to be called out by a local, and only then did he admit he had tickets?), I arrived at the Venice main bus station. Got checked in to my hostel (check in at main office, then they send you walking 10-15 mins to your actual rooms), then went to walk around.

Venice has a ton of alleyways and mini-alleyways. It’s very easy to get lost. At least they have signs telling you which alleyway to take if you want to get to certain main attractions. And every shop in Venice is catered for tourists. I wonder where all the locals live and if Venice is anything more than a tourist-town. I noticed a lot of Asian women with non-Asian men (nothing against interracial dating but Venice seemed to have quite a lot). Also noticed a lot of Asian people (mostly women) working in Venice shops. Is it trendy to work/live in Venice or something?

After walking around the city, getting lost, finding my way again, hanging out at Per San Marco and people-watching, I decided to eat at an Italian restaurant near my hostel. A bunch of people eating in there, good sign. I walk in, order a plate of pasta for €7.50, which in hindsight, was a bad choice. Why is it a bad choice? Because I am ‘Doctor Pasta’. I may not make world-class pasta, but I’ve made pasta enough times to know when I’m overpaying for what is essentially a very cheap meal to make yourself. But I had a huge craving for pasta (I believe I last had it in Norway), and figured, hell, I’m in Italy. Of course, the restaurant charges an additional €2.50 cover charge on top of the meal (common practice in Italy I learned). If I bought my own ingredients, cooked it myself, €10 would make 4-5 meals. But the pasta was good, and I’m sure I paid to eat some secret ingredients (riiiiiiiight…). If I had a do-over, I’d order a meal I couldn’t make myself (basically anything other than pasta).

Of course, I have to mention gondola rides. Overpriced tourist trap. Expect to pay €80-100 per person. If you try to get a discount, I’ve heard the gondola drivers will cut out the good spots. Also, there’s nothing romantic about it from what I’ve seen. How could it be romantic when you have a ton of other tourists on every bridge and sidewalk, staring and taking pictures of you as you pass by?

My feet are killing me. The trailrunners I bought in the UK were USA size 10, when I really wear 10.5. The guy at the store recommended I get 10 because he thought it was a better fit for me. But he failed to realize (how could he forget, he sells shoes) that feet expand. So often times, my toes (left pinky toe and its neighbor) would be squished, causing a lot of discomfort. I’m constantly on the lookout for backpacker stores to get another pair of shoes and ship this pair home. But you can’t really google “backpacker store ” because those foreign cities don’t make English websites, they make foreign websites, so you’ll have to google it in foreign words, which I don’t know.

Venice, Italy Pics