La Dolce Vita

Trip Start Mar 04, 2004
Trip End Jul 02, 2005

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Where I stayed
HI Venice

Flag of Italy  ,
Monday, April 25, 2005

At last we have truly made it to the heart of civilization, Italy!
Land of scrumptious food and gorgeous art history. Tina and I began
our time here by flying into Milan where my good friend Massimo met us
and introduced us to the wonders of apperitivo; basically you buy one
cheap drink and get a free meal! Most bars between 7-9pm in Italy.
Backpackers take note, this is the best value for money meal in the
country, possibly in the world. Massimo took us up to the lakes, to
medieval townships and castles and showed us the high fashion,
beautiful churches and massive fortress of Milano, all the while
plying us with wine and gelato and oodles of home-cooking. Emily, Tinas good friend from NZ showed up and we all had some hard-out nights at the bars, salsa dancing and booty-dancing. Alcohol (not from bars but from supermarkets) is soo cheap here. For inexpensive entertainment Tina and I usually buy
a couple bottles of wine and watch the sunset in some prime location.
Then it was onto the magical city-state of Venice. I mean it when
I say magical as this city lives up to all its romantic hype, even
though it was wet and the HI hostel there is unwelcoming. We bought a
guide which gave us insights into the maritime and art history of this
floating city, and enjoyed our time cruising the Grand Canal looking
at Palazzos. I stood awestruck in Piazza San Marco, looking in
astonishment at the church with its Byzantine, Gothic, Baroque and
Moorish influences. Such glorious fusion, such a ethereal fairy-land
feel. And next door is the Palazzo Ducale with the most impressive
rooms, ie some of the biggest and best decorated in Europe, I have
ever seen. We attended a Vivaldi tribute concert, were beguiled by
the Carnevale masks (now there is an event I MUST attend), found cheap
eats against the odds and took so many pics I thought my camera would
We have now spent a week in the epicentre of the Renaissance, the
Medici glory known as Florence. So much art, so little time. I still
have much left to do, should I ever return and I cant imagine not.
Highlights were the Davids by Mike and Donnie, Birth of Venus and
Prima Vera by Botticelli, the hands on Da Vinci machine exhibit, the
whole Palazzo Pitti, oh! those opulent Medicis! and wandering the
streets, with the best wander being up to Piazzale Michelangelo to
watch sunset over the golden Arno river and the Ponte Vecchio. Weve
also done day trips out to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which
astounded me with is size and the beauty of the Field of Miracles, and
into the Florentine countryside for a walk in the olive fields of
Tuscany. While in Florence we camped at Villa Camerata in the hills.
Very nice place to be and the Tibetan tent held up well.
Now we are off to Siena.
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