Taxi strikes, Nonas, and other Italian specialties

Trip Start May 23, 2006
Trip End Aug 02, 2006

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Hi Everyone,
Sorry about the long delay since my last entry. For the first part of the delay, not much was happening in my usually fascinating life, as classes wound down, and I spent much of my time still under curfew in the apartment as I tried not to further injure my foot. On a foot-related note, one of my classmates had her boyfriend, who just happened to be a doctor in Australia, coming to visit her, so I was lucky enough to get a house call from Doctor Jon, which helped to relieve a lot of the stress I was feeling because I had no idea what was happening with my foot but it didnt look good. Now it does, I am sure you are all relieved, and waiting with anticipation for me to post pictures of the scar I am left with!
On a much more travel related note, my mother arrived a week ago to Florence, and we had three days together there. We spent a lot of time walking around the city, seeing the Piazza della Repubblica, the Uffizi, the Medici building, the Ponte Veccio etc. etc. etc. It was really nice. One afternoone we went to Lucca, a medieval walled town about 1 hour outside of Florence (or 2.5 if you get the milk run train, which we did by accident!). We got to see the Tuscan countryside, fields of sunflowers and what we urbanites decided must be wheat, and some olive trees etc. It was beautiful. In the town, everyone seemed to be wearing a Pink Floyd shirt, which made sense once we realized that Roger Waters was playing there that night. We went to check out the piazza he would play in, decided it would be pretty cool, but didnt get tickets and got gelato instead! Then we headed home, for an evening of more walking around Florence. The following day, we went to an open air market in Florence. Overall I have been really disappointed by the shopping here, the Euro is so strong that there are few good deals to be found, and a lot of the quality is crap, so sorry to anyone expecting presents, there wont be much.
The following day, after an evening spent organizing and packing as only our family can do, Mom, Matt and I went to Naples on the train. The city of Naples, especially coming from a tourist haven like Florence, was quite a rude shock- the streets were really dirty, the drivers were classifiably insane, and the overall vibe of the city gave all of us the feeling we should hold our valuables tightly. Still, we managed to navigate our way to our B&B in a back alley (via del purgatorio, actually), and by lunch things had really perked up, as we were sitting eating the best pizza in all of Italy (it had won awards!) for about half the price of the crap they sell all over Florence. We then walked down to the marina, got on a boat to Capri, and then walked over to the dock running tours to the Blue Grotto. Unfortunately, Frommers lied to us (and will be getting a VERY angry letter), and the Blue Grotto closes whenever the people running it decide it is lunchtime, and not one hour before sunset, as we were led to believe. So, having spent 14 euro to get to Capri, we decided to take our bloody time exploring the island before getting on the ferry back. But it was hot and expensive and very uphill, so within two hours we were on a ferry back to Naples, where we went for another cheap and delicious meal in a piazza, complete with wine and limoncello cake for dessert.
The following day, we woke up at like 6 AM to get to Pompeii, which was absolutely incredible. We beat all the crowds and arrived when it opened, so we had the entire city almost to ourselves, and were able to just explore without any hassles. It is incredible to see the way everything there is so well preserved, especially compared to the forum here in Rome- it made it so easy to imagine what it must have been like to actually live in Ancient Rome. There was even graffiti advertising "loose" girls inside the local bar that survived till today!
From there, we got fresh squeezed lemon juice (the region is famous for its lemons), then went back to Napoli, pushed to the front of the luggage check line as we had about 10 minutes to make our connection, and rushed onto the Eurostar to Rome. Tired and a bit cranky, we arrived in Rome some time later, at which point I discovered my lens had torn in my eye! So, no worries, I put in my spare, and we went to McD´s to try to find a bathroom. Alas, there was none, and within another 5 minutes, the second lens had also (for reasons entirely unknown to me) also torn! So there I was, blind in one eye, just arrived in Rome, and at high noon when the streets were hot enough that noone was out on them! Strangely, the whole area outside of Termini was deserted, even the cabbies that usually harass you for fares were not there, which was a shame since we planned to cab to our hotel. Instead, a sketchy man approached us, informed us that there was a taxi strike, and offered us a ride in his private car to the hotel (for a hefty price, of course!) We bargained, struck a deal, and got in, discovering that Rome is actually a really civilized city to drive in when there are no cabs! The streets were virtually deserted, there were no horns blowing or near-accidents, and some drivers even looked like they were considering obeying street lights! That being said, we discovered pretty quickly that the downside of the strike means that the public buses are obscenely crowded, at any time of day or night, and there seem to be no more buses now than ever before.
At any rate, we arrived at the B&B, were directed by our little old lady Italian landlady to go to the Ottica on V. Nazionale, as it was the only one that would be open on a Saturday night. Sure enough, they gave me a sample pair of lenses, and I have since been visiting every Ottica in sight to get a small stash of trial pairs so that when they tear again in Corfu I won´t be screwed.
So far in Rome, we´ve done a tour of the forum, seen the Colosseum, visited an open air market selling goods of bad quality at low prices, and basically just walked around the city like it was our job! Today Mom and Matt went to the Vatican, which I decided that I could miss, having seen it twice already.
Tomorrow we leave for Venice, which should be quite nice, and then I head off to Greece, so there should be at least one more entry left before the end of the trip!
I can´t wait to see everyone in August, I miss you guys and am excited to come home soon.
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gopandas on

Hey Zo + Esther!

Hope the traveling is going well.. sounds as adventuresome as usual! I love coming to work and being able to read about your tales! Glad to hear the foot is well on its way, mine unfortunately is still in pain, but i am seeing the doc next week. Joe gets home today, but i won't see him until probably wed. booo hahah. Work is well. We are having a heat wave this week/today... its sooo hot! Anyways i miss you lots and lots and lots! Can't wait for you to get back! You missed Team Super Drunk! And kristin went on a really great date where they both ended up in the drunk tank! I am not sure whether i was upset at her for not taking good care, or admiration. Either way its a great story.. call her inmate #F4! All the best my love, keep fit and have have fun! Body Break!
Love ALI + Scrabble

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