Through Florence and on to Rome

Trip Start Apr 03, 2007
Trip End Jun 16, 2007

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Where I stayed
Roma Inn

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Today was a transit day, going from San Gimignano to Rome (talk about 2 places that are opposites, at least at nighttime).
At breakfast this morning, an Italian couple that was staying in another room ate breakfast with me.  The man spoke a little English, so he was asking about my trip and I was able to tell them how long I was traveling and where I'd been (they were especially interested in where I'd been in Italy).  The couple talked for quite a long time with the lady who runs the B&B (all in Italian, of course).  I just listened in.  I could only pick out some of it, but they were talking about the bus strike of the day before and how it messed up the plans of so many tourists.  I think they were talking about how there's too many tourists there during the day (very true).  Italian is such a fun language to listen to, it's so energetic and dynamic.  When they were done talking (for quite a while - I get the feeling that Italians like to talk a lot), I bid them "Arrivederci" and later on when I was waiting for my bus they walked by and waved.  I think Italians are very friendly people.  After I paid the B&B lady and gave her the key, she thanked me, "Motto, motto Grazie."  What a fun experience to stay there.  The name of the place was La Casa Di Giovanna, and I can recommend it highly.
 Bus back to Florence was no problem.  It came about 10 minutes late (Italy just doesn't seem to be as time-conscious as most of the other countries I've visited), and I made it to Poggibonsi in plenty of time to catch the connecting bus to Florence.  Several other tourists weren't sure about the procedures on the bus (where to change and catch the next bus, where to buy tickets, etc), so I tried to help them out since the drivers typically know very little English.
Florence, as usual was a bit of a madhouse.  There's just so many tourists and locals everywhere, it's just not a relaxing place by any means.  I made a reservation for the 5:30 PM Eurostar train to Rome, so I had a few hours to go around Florence.  I headed to the Accademia (where Michelangelo's David is) first, but it had a huge line, so I planned to come back later on.  I headed for the Medici Chapels from there.  They were impressive, especially the tomb room with many works by Michelangelo in that one room.  The gold ceiling wasn't bad either, but as with what seems like practically everything else, there was scaffolding up which tends to ruin the overall feel.
Next I headed for Santa Croce, which is like the Westminster Abbey of Italy.  Many of the most famous Italians have tombs there, including Galileo, Michelangelo, Dante, and Machiavelli.  Of course it had the usual religious paintings and such as well.  Interesting to me were the pictures from the 1966 flood.  The water from the Arno rose 5 meters and the place was underwater.  It took a long time to clean up the place (I think the Pope even declared it a disaster), and some of the artifacts were damaged so much that it's still visible today.
I headed back to the Accademia, and the line was still very long.  By this time it was around 3:00 PM, so I figured if I got in by 4:00 PM, I'd still have time to see David and catch my train.  Unfortunately, the line was one of the slowest moving I've ever been in.  It crawled along for 45 minutes, and then for 15 minutes stood still without moving an inch.  And I'd only moved about halfway by that time.  I guess it really does pay to make reservations in advance, since they let the people with reservations (and tour groups) have priority and the people standing in the normal line just have to keep waiting.  So after an hour I gave up.  I would have like to see David, but he will still be there next time I'm in Florence, I'm sure.
The Eurostar train was very fast and very smooth, and right around 7:00 PM, I pulled into Roma Termini station.  I was expecting the station to be even worse than Florence, but it was surprisingly nice, on par with the big stations in Paris.  There were a lot of upscale shops inside, and even a Nike Town store (called "Nike Termini").  The hostel I'm staying in for 2 nights (Roma Inn) is about 7 or 8 blocks from the station, so I set out.
I've heard that the streets of Rome are crazy, and I can confirm, it's true.  The drivers zip around, not slowing down for pedestrians.  When a light changes red, you can guarantee that another car or motorbike is going to go barreling through afterwards.  Many of the crosswalks, even across very wide streets with multiple lanes, don't have any walk/don't walk lights, so you just have to start out across and pray that you'll make it without getting run over.  There's also tons of people out walking around, and they tend to be a bit more animated than in most cities.  Loud conversations with plenty of spirited gesturing is the norm.  I managed to find the hostel with the directions given.  The Roma Inn was a place I heard about by word of mouth from some Canadian guys in Venice.  It's a very informal place, I wasn't even sure where to check in, and the girl working at the computer desk (there wasn't really a check in counter) was on her first day and didn't really know anything (she hadn't even seen inside all the rooms yet), except how much money I should pay.  So I paid up and she eventually figured out which room to put me in.  Out of 10 beds, only 3 were guys, and 7 were girls.  Rome seems to be very popular with the ladies.  The showers were shared and offered minimal privacy, but everyone got by just fine, with guys shaving and girls applying makeup side-by-side in the morning.
I went back to the station and rode the express train to the airport (Leonardo Da Vinci aka Fiomucino).  It's a pretty nice airport, and at that hour of the night (around 9:30 PM) it was practically deserted, at least in the international terminal.  I was there to scout it out so I'd know where to meet my mom, brother, and sister-in-law when they arrive on Saturday.  Having found the meeting spot and called them to confirm where to meet, I took the train back to the Termini station, and decided to try out the Metro.  The Rome Metro is much smaller than the Paris or London ones, but it gets you within spitting distance of most places you'd want to go.  The best thing is, it's dirt cheap (only 1 Euro for 75 minutes).  The drawback: it's the most crowded Metro I've ridden on.  The trains are also completely covered in graffiti, but it does the job and gets you around.  Turns out there's a Metro stop right next to my hostel (the directions emailed to me when I made my reservation didn't bother to point that out, they only told how to get there by walking).
Tomorrow: Rome!
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