Still alive

Trip Start Jun 03, 2011
Trip End Jun 18, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hotel de La Ville Florence
Read my review - 1/5 stars

Flag of Italy  , Tuscany,
Monday, June 13, 2011

I promise we are still alive! However, our Florence hotel wanted 11 Euro/day for internet access, so forget that noise. Florence in a nutshell: lovely Renaissance art.  Less expensive than Rome, but you have to pay to get into anything.  For us, it had the unfortunate luck of being after Positano, but still had quite a few lovely sights.  Now, for the entries from the last few days!

6/10/11: Goodbye Positano!

Today we traveled from Positano to Florence.  Positano is going to be hard to beat.  We stopped by and listened to a street musician on the way back to the hotel, and he as the best street musician I have ever heard.  He was playing a harp and singing in a gorgeous baritone in Russian.  So, Positano in a nutshell:  It's a fabulous place to relax and not feel like a bum for doing it, as you are still getting plenty of walking in.  Bring good walking shoes.  If you forget: get some sandals made for you! They’re more expensive than most sandals you would see, but they are made to your specifications to fit your feet, so I think they are worth it.   Apparently if you take a day trip to Capri you need to go to Anacapri, on the other side of the island, to get away from the tourist traps.  Try the bakery in Positano.  Eat something with lemon in it.  Try the limoncello, often given to you right after your meal.  Eat a saltimbocca at the little pizzeria by the beach.  Take sandals to the beach, the rocks are sharper than sand.  Bring a hat and sunglasses.  And enjoy, it’s lovely.

Now, to our first day in Florence (called Firenze in Italian).  I have never understood why we insist on changing the names for cities when we translate.  Our first Florentine event involved our cab driver running over 2 scooters.  No the riders, just scooters parked on the side of the road.  And if they weren’t broken then, they were broken when he pulled the scooters apart, accidentally ripping off the windshield.  So, never riding in a cab here again! Our hotel charges 11 Euro/day for internet, so updates aren’t really going to be made here.  I’ll just do a mass update when we are somewhere with free internet.  So far, a relatively uneventful evening in Firenze, just one long train ride, some meandering and some food!

6/11/11: Just say no to driving in Italy.

Thinking about renting a car in Italy? Probably not the best idea.  Gas stations are overly complicated, city roads are insane, and oh god scooters.  I’m still recovering from the experience.  But, instead of complaining about the minor heart attacks, let’s talk about Tuscany.

First, we went to Siena.  Nice town, although it seemed to just be Firenze in miniature.  It even had a little church that looked like the Duomo.  So we spent a few hours there, then onward to San Gimignano!  Know as San Googly Oogly to us seasoned travelers.  Very near the highway exit of Piggly Wiggly, or Poingy Boingy, depending on how slap happy you are when you read the sign.  Italian is as interesting language. 

San Gimignano is a small Tuscan village with lots of medieval architecture and LOTS of wine.  For such a small town, it theoretically contains 70 towers.  However of these only 14 are still intact.  Very pretty and rather calm.  There were quite a few merchants, our favorite being "Il Piccolo Mercantino," Translated to “the little merchant.”  It was two boys, probably about 4 and 7 years old, selling stuff that they made on a little bench outside of their apartment.  They were really quite adorable, so we had to get a little plastic bracelet, costing us a whole 0.50 Euro. 

Now just outside of San Gimignano was the highlight of the day: Guardastelle.  We took a random turn down a shady little road, following a little bitty sign that said there was a winery that way.  We found the winery, a very small production, which creates 3 different wines and one type of olive oil.  We learned a little bit about the wine and had a little tasting.  We saw part of the distillery, although we were a bit rushed as apparently there was going to be a wedding reception there in the next few hours.  The wine: Oh so good.  The olive oil: even better.  Apparently in Italy they are not allowed to add sugar to their wine, so it’s all in the grape.  We ended up leaving there with 6 bottles of wine and some olive oil, so it was a lovely little visit. 

We have decided so far that if we ever come back to Italy we are spending some time in Positano and some time in Tuscany, but in the country this time.  A nice relaxing vacation on a winery (there was a small hotel in Guardastelle) with good wine, good olive oil, and an amazing view sounds fabulous. 

6/12/11:  David!

Today was our day for wandering around Florence.  We started out the day with a visit to the Accademia.  A recommendation for this: If you call or go online, you can make a reservation for your ticket.  It is about 4 Euro more per ticket, but you get to stand in the short line that moves very quickly.  The non-reservation line was forgotten by the people controlling entry, and after not moving for about 40 minutes a group of about 15 people were finally let in.  After almost 2 hours in that line, I would say it’s not a bad idea to pay the extra cost.  However, getting to see David was worth the wait. 

On your way to see the David (the real one, as there are copies everywhere), you first go through a hallway with a lot of unfinished pieces by Michelangelo.  This gives you a respect for all the effort that went into these sculptures.  First they are chiseled into the vague shape.  Then, bit by bit, they are sanded into their proper forms.  I have no idea what they used for sandpaper in 1504, but I can’t imagine it was a simple process.  Plus, marble is hard.  I’m impressed that David only took 2 years to make, as that thing is HUGE.  Also, it seems that loons have a habit of going after Michelangelo’s sculptures with hammers.  Eavesdropping on a tour guide told us that a few years ago, someone went after David’s foot with a hammer.  Broke a few pieces off that had to be fixed.  The same thing happened with the Pieta, which is why it is now behind bulletproof glass.  Jesus lost some toes as well. 

After going through the rest of the Museum, we went and meandered, eventually winding up at the Piazza de Michelangelo.  From there you have a copy of David (made from bronze and about half the size) and a lovely view of the city.  You have to climb quite a bit to get up there, but the view is worth it. 

From that viewpoint we could see towers that we hadn’t been to yet, so we continued our quest in search of these places.  We found that the library has bell towers and then found another piazza with a palace and lots of very impressive statues.  Then, of course, downpour.  And lots of peddlers with umbrellas.  I swear, it rains and they come out of the woodwork.  The police chased them away from the big awning we were under about every 45 seconds, they would just circle around and come back. 

Tomorrow there are plans to meander to other places, as we noted from the Piazza de Michelangelo that we haven’t even really explored half of the city.  There are so many more sights to see!

6/13/11: Last day in Florence

Today we went to go see the Pitti palace (where pity parties are held.) The palace itself in magnificent.  The walls are painted to form illusions such as balconies above you and statues in the corners.  Each room is painted differently, and I wish I could have taken pictures.  Alas, I then would have been kicked out, so I’m sure there are images somewhere on the internet.  They also have an area that is the “Costume museum,” which I was excited about and then disappointed by.  I was assuming that the museum would contain pre-1900s clothing, alas there seemed to be only 2 outfits that old.  They were burial outfits from around 1750, rather interesting to see.  The rest of the museum consisted mainly of outfits from 1900-2005. 

Also included in the Pitti Palace ticket was the Boboli gardens, which we were also rather unimpressed by.  While the gardens were vast, they did not seem to be very well maintained.  There was quite a bit of trash lying about (including a used diaper… lovely) and the plant life seemed as though it were designed to be in better order than it was.  Alas, the palace was very interesting.  Also within the palace was an exhibit on treasures from the Kremlin.  The labels were in Italian and Russian, so we had no idea what most things actually were, but we could deduce and also seethe years, so it was rather interesting. 

For the rest of the day we just meandered.  We found a neat little park, we discovered that some MTV thing is going on in Florence, and we ran far far away from people who looked like they were from Jersey Shore.

6/14/11: Hello Ravenna!

Good riddance to the Florentine hotel.  They had hidden charges with everything, their staff was rather gruff, and we had to beg for ice.  We were told it would be an extra 5 Euro if we wanted ice... I don't think it's that valuable of a commodity, thank you.  Florence in and of itself was quite nice though, it just had the unfortunate luck of being directly after Positano. 

The food we had last night seemed to not agree with us, as both George and myself were ill last night and this morning.  But I guess that's a risk you run when your favorite foreign dish involves room temperature moldy raw pork... But all is well again, and we have arrived in Ravenna!

This hotel is already much nicer than the last one (and much cheaper as well.)  We are only here for a day, as we leave for Venice in the morning.  There is apparently a music festival in town right now, and the concierge gave us a few ideas on local sights.  So off to explore!
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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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Rhiannon on

Ahhhhh! You guys rented a car. That's terribly brave.

Positano sounds splendid. Okay, well, all of it sounds splendid. Such beautiful buildings. Such beautiful looking weather.

A piti palace-- handy! :-)

Isn't Ravena where one of the popes was? (When there was that argument and we ended up with three popes at the same time?)

From the US State Department re driving Italy on

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Italy, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Italy has one of the highest rates of car accident deaths in the European Union. Streets in Italian historic city centers are often narrow, winding, and congested. Motor scooters are very popular, and scooter drivers often see themselves as exempt from conventions that apply to automobiles. Pedestrians and drivers should be constantly alert to the possibility of a scooter’s sudden presence. Most vehicle-related deaths and injuries involve pedestrians or cyclists who are involved in collisions with scooters or other vehicles. Be particularly cautious if you rent a scooter. You should remain vigilant and alert when walking or cycling near traffic. Pedestrians should be careful, as sidewalks can be extremely congested and uneven. Drivers of bicycles, motorcycles, and other vehicles routinely ignore traffic signals and traffic flows, and park and drive on sidewalks. For safety, pedestrians should look carefully in both directions before crossing streets, even when using a marked crosswalk with a green avanti ("walk") light illuminated.

Traffic lights are limited and often disobeyed, and a different convention of right-of-way is observed. Italy has over 5,600 kilometers (3,480 mi.) of Autostrada, or superhighways. Commercial and individual vehicles travel and pass on these well-maintained roads at very high speeds. In rural areas, a wide range of speed on highways makes for hazardous driving. Roads are generally narrow and often have no guardrails. Travelers in northern Italy, especially in winter, should be aware of fog and poor visibility, responsible for multiple-car accidents each year. Most Italian automobiles are equipped with special fog lights. Roadside assistance in Italy is excellent on the well-maintained toll roads, but limited on secondary roads. Use of safety belts and child restraining devices is mandatory and headlights should be on at all times outside of urban areas.

U.S. citizens driving in Italy should also note that, according to Italian regulation, if a resident of a non-European Union country (e.g. the United States) violates a traffic law, the violator must pay the fine at the time the violation occurs to the police officer issuing the ticket. If the citizen does not or cannot pay the fine at the time, Italian regulation allows the police officer to confiscate the offender’s vehicle (even if the vehicle is a rental vehicle).

Fausto on

Dear guys.....this is amazing!!!!
I'm the owner of the winery you visited and I don't know how I found your blog!!
I'm so impressed!! Thanks to mention us in your travel story, it's a pleasure.
I have a fan page on Facebook (if you use it). Do you have any photos to share with me?
Last....yes in Italy we can't add sugar in the wine.

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