Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Viva Italia

Man-o-man. Italy was a trip!

So I didn't have to many preconceptions about this country other than the art, pasta and women. But wow, it was much more than I thought.

If I was to do a food analogy here, Maastrict how be a saltine cracker and Italy would be a super deluxe enchilada. Loud, colorful, tasty, messy, and potentially dangerous.

I felt it as soon as I got off the train. It felt like being in Mexico. The people looked Mexican for one, and they all were much more vocal. I remember picking up a woman's scrunchie (sp?) and handing it to her, and I got several huge "GRATZI!"'s in return. A Dutch girl would have smiled and maybe nodded.

The city itself was very pretty, but I had to handle myself differently. For one, I knew the car wouldn't stop for you, crosswalk or no crosswalk. My poor friend Stephen nearly got run over at one point and then the driver, who stopped inches away from him, chewed him out in Italian. This made me laugh. Stephen is a very mellow logical white guy, and this contrast was comical.

There were a lot of situations where Stephen's whiteness kind of clashed. For example, when asking for service, he would make a request without the latin propriety that involves at least a greeting. If you smile and speak Spanish, this helps tremendously. At one point, out of frustration on the service, Steve started asking me to do the talking.

I did the talking at the hostel we stayed at, and the landlady, if I do say so myself, loved me. She was a very quirky, worrisome woman, but she didn't mind sharing gossip and talking directly to me. She even would laugh at "Senior Dark" (Steven Dark) behind his back. I later learned that she was from south Italy and how she had been working here for about 20 years. It was also interesting to learn that she wasn't welcomed initially to Florence, due to her accent. She said south Italians have a reputation for being mafiosos. And the way she acted, it wouldn't surprise me if she was.

So while we were there, we hit up a few musems. The first was Leonardo's interactive musem. It was basically a exhibit of his sketches brought to life and you could toy around with them if you wanted. Pretty cool. We also got to go to the Galleria, which was my personal favorite stop. After the Mona Lisa let-down in France, I wasn't expecting much, but holy crap, that David statue was amazing. Yes, I waited in line for an hour to see and giant naked man, and yes indeed. . .it was amazing. The sheer level of detail and the sheer size of the statue really impressed me.

And then things got a bit sour in there. Right to the right of the statue was this giant photo of an old man that looked like he was trying to fly, but was completely stark naked. The background of the shot had a bunch of morphed renassaince paintings. His dong also looked like it was glued to his stomach, so it was pointed straight up and a little to the left. Some kind of sick joke. I dunno.

We also got a chance to wander around in the botanical gardens, which were fabulous. There were scenic walkways, statues around every corner, pretty fountains, and awsome views of the city. Well worth the 6 euro to get in.

After that we hit up "S.Miniato Al Monte" which is basically a huge cathedral on the outskirts of flourence. This cathedral was the most impressive so far. We walked around and right before leaving we decided to take a rest on the pews. Then suddenly, I saw a door near the alter that looked like it led downstairs, and through it I spotted some monks. Then suddenly, they started chanting gregorian chants! I felt totally engrossed in this whole gothic looking building now. Very cool.

Near the cathedral was Michealangelo's Square. It's basically a huge square with a mold copy of the David with a spectacular lookout over the city. There were vendors and people. Lot's of fun energy. I watched a group of teenage guys pass a soccer ball around ala hacky-sack style, and they were freakin' good. They were doing tricks and stalls that I couldn't even do with a hacky sack.

We headed back and ate at a Pizzeria. There was this old Yankee who suddenly butted into our conversation, but we appeased him and talked back. He was a private pilot, so he knew his way around Europe, and he let us know that he was "the expert" when it comes to all things Europe. Pompous old rich fart.

After that we spent the evening in Flourence enjoying the night life. Like Mexico (again), things comes alive in the evening. Street performers and artists come out, restaraunts open, and people are abundant. At one point I just sat in this square enjoying this band's renditions of some of my favorite Italian melodies and watching this spray paint artist work his magic. I nearly bought one of his pieces.

Even back in the hostel, you could still enjoy the nightlife (unfortunately). Right outside our window were restaurants and performers. I just stuck my head and applauded seeing as how I couldn't sleep with them around.

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