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PeAcE WiTh GuNs

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Photos From Italy


I would've liked to keep the parts of the travelogue together but I'm taking too much time to write them. I have to interrupt the travelogue and publish the photographs. The travelogue continues after this. I would love to hear your opinions/critique on the photos.



Thursday, April 24, 2008

Italy Travelogue (Part 2)

That night I was interrupted mid sleep by someone opening the door. Turned out it was someone moving into the dorm - a lady from South Africa whose flight was severely delayed and she couldn't get any connecting buses/trains to reach the hostel. Anyway, after a brief hello, I went back to my dozing off.

21st March (Florence):

I got up early in the morning, showered, packed and checked out of the hostel. I then walked down to the Termini station to catch a train to Florence.

There are a number of different train services for travelling between cities in Italy. The regional trains are the slowest but the cheapest. They stop at most of the stations en route. The Eurostar trains are the most expensive but are fast and point-to-point. The Eurostar trains from Rome leave every half an hour for Venice and stop at Florence en route. The journey from Rome to Florence takes roughly an hour and a half and costs around €36. The Santa Maria Novella train station is the main train station in Florence. The journey further to Venice from Florence takes another two and a half hours and costs around €40. The direct ticket from Rome to Venice is therefore around four hours but the direct ticket costs around €55. You can book tickets in advance or find more information on the TrenItalia website here.

I reached Florence on a cloudy, dark and gloomy looking afternoon. After experiencing the weather's mood-swings in Rome, I was hoping to see sunshine later nonetheless. I had booked into a camp-site on the outskirts of Florence. Turned out it was an absolutely brilliant place with amazing views of the entire city of Florence. I was at a place called Piazzale Michelangeo (Link). The camp-site was a collection of people with their personal caravans or mobile homes and a large set of shared tents. Each tent had three beds. The challenging part was that these tents had neither electricity nor heating. A little battery powered light was handed out to me when I checked in. This sounded like fun!

I reached my tent and saw that my tent-mates were an American couple. The girl's ankle was badly sprained. She'd fallen while dancing in a club the previous evening. "It was pathetic - it was full of 19 year old American girls. Made me feel like my prom night." to quote the guy. I helped him get his companion into a cab and they went to a hospital. I had a leisurely lunch and went to the statue of David, an imitation of Michelangelo's most famous sculpture.

The square takes its name from the great bronze group that Giuseppe Poggi, the Italian architect placed in its centre, a real "pastiche" of the work of Michelangelo, composed of copies of his David (now in the Academy Museum) and the four allegorical figures Pope Clement VII commissioned him to carry out for the Medici tombs in the New Sacristy in San Lorenzo (these were for the tombs of Lorenzo Duke of Urbino and Giuliano Duke of Nemours).

I took a bus to the city centre which was about half an hour away on the bus.

Bus tickets in Florence cost €1.20 valid for a single trip or €4.00 for four trips and the tickets like Rome, can be found at tabacchi or at ticket counters on the bus station. The camp-site reception also sells these tickets.

I walked to the tourist information centre to see what I can find. I decided to walk to the the Accademia Gallery i.e. Galleria dell'Accademia (Link) which houses the world famous marble statue of David by Michelangelo (Link). It was raining quite badly by then and I thought I wasted an entire day in Florence. I decided to walk on in the rain anyway. The flimsy €3.00 umbrella that I'd bought on the walking tour of Vatican city seemed like every penny (or rather, cent...since we're talking Euros here) well spent. I reached the place only to find a humongous queue wrapping across three buildings. Ouch!

Determined not to let a day go waste, I got stuck into the back of the queue. I got speaking to a nice married couple. The husband was British and the wife was Spanish. They had married and were settled in Spain. Their little daughter was most amazing. She was eight years old and spoke the most amazing clear language I've ever heard a kid that age speak. Most of all, it wasn't gibberish and she sounded at least 15. The man told me that the little girl could also speak Spanish just as fluently. He was a big fan of India and spoke at length of his amazement with India and Indian food. He'd even taught his wife to make a number of curries though she admitted she couldn't make them as well as he does. The little girl then spotted a few girls, about 18 scribbling on the walls, writing their names. Graffiti is a major problem in Italy. A lot of the places are full of graffiti although people were sensible enough to make sure none was on the major monuments like the Colosseum or the Trevi Fountain etc. So the little girl actually went up to these girls and told them that scribbling on the walls was a wrong thing to do. It was hilarious to see a tiny eight year old scolding these older girls. We all had a good laugh. They were all from Chile and were scribbling their names on the wall.

I got some tips on Spanish cuisine from the lady while waiting in queue. After about an hour, I managed to get into the gallery with about two hours to spare before it closed. The most prized possession in this gallery is of course, Michelangeo's David and it is elaborately presented in a large hallway for itself. The statue itself is large and every bit of detail from the hair to the eyeballs to the veins on David's arms are carved in such detail that it is nearly impossible to believe that it is the work of a human hand. The rest of the gallery is full of other masterpieces but the David is surely something special.

I walked out of the gallery while it was still raining badly and walked around the city centre. The shops and the energy on the streets reminded me of a crowded evening on Laxmi Road in Pune. I walked into a Sisley store and felt like buying off half the shop. The suits in Italy really as good as their reputation. Brilliantly cut and most often a very good mix of classic and contemporary. I liked a three button jacket immensely but it was probably an inch too long. I asked if they could alter it for me but it would take them 3-4 days so I didn't buy it. I walked back to the bus stop near the Santa Maria Novella train station and took a bus back to my camp-site.

Back at the tent, the American couple were still gone. They returned late in the night. The girl had snapped her bone quite badly and needed to go back to USA and undergo surgery for it. They had spent the entire day shuttling from one hospital to a second one and were quite disappointed to have to cut their trip short. Unfortunate but unavoidable.

The night was chillier than I expected it to be. No wait... it was actually AWFULLY chillier than I had expected it to be. The rain only made things worse and half the night I could hear the rain slapping against the sheet of the tent. Now that I look back retrospectively, it was actually a good experience. I've never slept in a tent before so this was new and there was something special about hearing the rain almost sing you to sleep.


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