Published: May 31st 2008May 31st 2008
First sights of Italy
Lots of farming and agricultural bits and pieces.
Bonjourno from Thornlands. But, this one is all about Italy. You thought France was big.
First of all, Italy was probably my least favorite countries of the trip. Second of all, I loved the buildings, ruins, food, people and history. If it wasn't for the smell, the dirtiness and the craziness, it would have been great. That said, I still had a great time there, Italy was amazing, but don't think I'm in any rush to return.
10/5/08 Antebes to Florence (Firenze)
On our way to Florence, we stopped back in Monaco to visit a French perfumery, which was really interesting to see how they come up with the scents they do, which was handy because I had my camera this time. The company had a number of professional 'noses' working for them, they only work 3 hours every day because their noses become too confused after that time to determine any decent or profitable scent they could make for the next release. Not a bad lifestyle. We ended up buying a few bottles of the stuff, wasn't bad and a decent price.
We had a big drive to arrive at Florence around 4pm. We settled into
We missed out on it.
our nice accommodation, which was up on a hill in the rain forest area out of all the Italian hustle and bustle, even though you could still hear the annoying sounds of the police and ambo's flying down the highway - every European country had their unique siren sounds, and Italy sounded like someone kicking a dying alpaca with emphysema. We promptly got dressed, I had some time to do a load of washing which was handy, and headed straight into town to the 'Red Garter' karaoke bar - bugger, just in time for happy hour, 5euro cocktails. The place was full of contiki people plus middle aged men in suits that we figured were either out to get us, were seriously overdressed and old party goers, or part of the mafia and ready to pop a cap in our asses. We stayed on for an hour or 2 before coming back to the campsite and played pool, and had a few Moretti's - great Italian beer, before hitting the sack.
11/5/08 - Free day in Florence
First up was a visit to the Italian leather showroom, which was full of genuine Italian leather wallets, bags, boxes, jewelery
Everywhere in Europe - why go over when you can go through?
and other assortments of stuff. Decent prices for good quality leather. Unfortunately my trusty wallet fell to bits about 2 days after having the opportunity to grab an Italian leather one - nice. The rest of the morning we spent walking around having a look at the sights, until 12:30 when we had a guided tour of the statues at Piazza Della Signoria - where the Statue of David was. Interesting tour, as he explained the history of the statues and Florence in general. After the tour we split and Matt, Jon and I headed back over the other side of town to escape the gypsies and crazy illegal goods salesmen. I told you about the blokes in Paris, but they were nothing compared to these lot. They were on every corner, trying to flog off fake louis vuitton, prada, dolce and gabbana, guess etc bags, wallets and sunnies. It's illegal to sell fake goods in Italy, so we spent about an hour just watching these guys - very entertaining. As soon as the police were around, they would pull one string from their laid-out-rags and it would all be pulled together, over the shoulder and they would bolt for
Mountains of Italy
It's where Leonardo DaVinci got his marble from to build David.
their lives, and careers. Apparently they could only be charged if they were caught actually selling them to someone. Buying was also illegal, however I did manage to buy a fake louis vuitton wallet, talked the guy down from 40 euros to 2. Thanks, there was my new wallet. Unbelievable to watch.
Anyway, we went back to the campsite to prepare for the evening ahead. Firstly we had a group shot taken overlooking the Florence city from a hill not far down the road. We then headed to a full Italian dinner back in town downstairs in what seemed to be a dungeon of some sort. Basically in a nutshell - I've never seen so much food ever in my life. If there's one thing Italians have sorted out, it's their eating habits and their love for food. The tables were decked out with a bread kind of nibbles platter and a few bottles of Italian wine. First course was a platter full of Italian meats including preshuto and salami etc. Second course - which we assumed was main, was a massive bowl full of bolognaise, spaghetti, another pasta and tortellini. We then were forced to find room for
The village around the leaning tower.
the actual main course, which was a selection of chicken, beef, pork, lamb and vegies - kind of like a roast. Tiramisu was up for dessert - for those who had any room left. We finished the evening off with a shot of Lemonchello - an Italian liqueur made from, you guessed it, lemons. Sonte! Holy crap we were absolutely stuffed, but the night wasn't over yet.
Next was the space disco, which was an optional event that about 3/4 of the group attended, the rest made up lame excuses like "I've gotta do washing" or "eww, discos". The disco was hidden away and was apparently Italy's largest nightclub. We were given a free drink of choice on entry - I had a cocktail called sunset - never heard of it, but went alright. It was a really modern, futuristic setting, but the dangerous thing was you didn't have to pay for drinks. You were given a card they stamped every time you bought a drink - extremely dangerous for a contiki group. I managed to control myself, but some others were forced to take out a personal loan to be allowed to exit the place. We then headed
back to camp for a couple of reasonably priced beers and some foosball with a couple of crazy Canadian chicks from another tour, one looked like Avril Lavigne.
12/5/08 - Florence to Rome (Roma)
Firstly, all roads lead to Rome. That said, we lost our driver today because of weird European driving laws stating they have a rest break after a certain amount of hours of driving, so Jimmy got a few days off and we picked him up on our way to Venice. Fair enough. We had a driver called Christians - who only spoke Italian or French, so it was an interesting few days for Beaver who got the shits every time he had to try and communicate with him. Luckily two of the people on board could speak Italian and French so we were all good. We had a big drive to Rome, and I sat next to Tracy, a Canadian student studying Optometry, and we had a great chat about the differences between life in Australia and Canada. Made the journey seem quick, and we arrived in Rome at about 2pm. Beaver gave us a bus tour of the sights of Rome, including Colosseum
It really does actually lean.
and ruins, and it was there where we pulled up for our guided tour that went for 2 hours around the ruins. We saw sights such as the old Roman villages, Caesar's cremation spot and Colosseum - the thing is amazing and very interesting history behind it. I think I snapped close to 300 photos around the tour. After our guided tour, we had a walking tour with Beaver to the Trevi Fountain - the famous one where you are meant to throw 3 coins over your shoulders to ensure a return visit to Rome. It is said that about 3000 euros are thrown in each day. Blimey. We had the world's best Gelato here - amazing. Coffee, Mint and Cherry flavour, nearly twice the size of an average human head. Belissimo! We then hiked it through the narrow streets of Rome up to the Spanish Steps, famous for the artist who threw millions of multi-coloured balls down them protesting about the Karen people of Burma and the conditions for artists in Italy. What was more interesting is that you are not allowed to eat on the steps and it's a criminal offense to do so. Crazy. It was off
to the Pantheon next - or 'Temple of All the Gods' - built as a temple to all the gods of ancient Rome. Beaver's tour finished at a strip of Italian restaurants where we had some good old fashioned Italian dinner - pizza, pasta and lasagne. It was to die for. We then arrived at the campsite at 9:30pm and crashed.
13/5/08 - Rome.
Rome was our only rainy day all tour, which didn't make a difference considering we were inside most of the day, and Rome gets sticky hot at that time of year.
First up was a preparation, team brief and a general overview of the Rome train system. Tourists in Italy are vulnerable to pickpockets, and the Rome Trainline is a pickpocket red-alert zone. Beaver alerted us all on the dodgyness of the trains and how packed they are making it easy to be a victim of Roman de la il pickapocketo! He also showed us a technique used by locals to basically barge into the train without actually punching someone - both fists clenched, and hands in front, palms facing the forehead. By this stage, the group was psyched and ready to give
But we all knew the words.
it a go. One of the group members thought he'd test the pickpocket's skills by putting a crappy fake wallet in his pocket with nothing but a nice hand written note inside containing one word only, have a guess.
First stop was Vatican City - a country of it's own and home to the Pope and a few other faithful people. The line up was over an hour, and 15 euros later we were inside and headed straight for the Sistine Chapel. The artwork was like nothing I've ever seen - extravagant paintings that were full of so much fine detail from roof to floor for as far as the eye can see down one massive long building. Michaelangelo must have been a busy bloke. We then headed to St Peter's Basilica, home of the Pope and his Church. We saw the balcony where he delivers Mass each Sunday in a variety of languages. St Peter's was the most impressive building all trip from my perspective - amazing sculptures honoring most of the first Popes - and unbelievable artwork and layout.
Lunch time was upon us, and by that stage we had found about 10 more group members,
Not the most comfortable.
so we headed not far from the Basilica to a flash Pizza joint for, well, Pizza, and a Birra. We had a very funny waiter who kept us entertained with his crazy Italian-inspired antics. We walked back to metro station via Castel San Angelo, a massive structure of some sort, and caught the train back early to meet Beaver back at another pre-designated meeting point halfway back to the campsite. We went home with Beaver and got back around 5pm for a beer and some dinner before the disco opened later on - pyjama party. Met up with another group again and was introduced to a few of them, including Amy and Ally from Adelaide who were on the different tour - nice girls. Got to bed around 1am with a massive headache and a few bruises apparently due to me trying to attempt to do the splits. Mmmm.
The bloke with the wallet ended up still having it when we came back home, so de la il pickpockets fail this time.
14/5/08 Rome to Venice (Venezia)
An incorrectly set alarm on my accord entirely made us miss brekky, wake up in a mess
Red Garter -> Home.
full of clothes and crap everywhere and a deadline of 5 mins to be on the bus ready for the trip/day ahead. SHANE GET UP. NOW. It's amazing how quickly you can pack a bag under pressure. We made it anyway, and it was off to Venice for the group, and off to sleep again for Shane and I.
3 hours down the road we ended back at Florence to pick up Jimmy again. Another 3 hrs down the road we pulled in to Verona which was most famous for the story of Romeo and Juliette. We visited the balcony where Romeo was admiring Juliette right before their tragic suicides together. We had a photo with Juliette, and saw the wall with all the love messages graffitied on by tourists. We visited the 3rd oldest Ancient Roman Arena also in Verona.
Another 2 hours down the road was Venice - the crazy city full of channels instead of roads. We arrived at campsite Fasina Venice about 4pm, they were great rooms and the campsite was right on a shipping channel. That night was a pimps and prostitute party, and was a great night full of laughs. Exclusive to
Good Job Matt
You're meant to drink it, not wear it.
this place was a drink called Attitude Adjuster - 2 shots of Vodka, 2 of Gin and 2 Cointreau with OJ. Went down nicely indeed. We were lucky enough to be in the same site as the group from Rome again, which made it another wild night - great fun. HA.
15/5/08 - Venice.
We caught the boat ferry to Venice from just outside our campsite. We arrived in town at 9am for a glass blowing demonstration. Pretty amazing, this guy knocked up a glass horse in about 30 seconds, and we walked next door to see it on the shelf for 200 euros. Nice. After that was a Lace demonstration which was hands down boring. We then had the day free in Venice, so it was off to the Ponte de Rialto to see the markets. I bought a few souvenirs and a gondola hat. We headed back towards Piazza San Marco for Lunch at a pasta joint. We got lots a few times around Venice - there are no landmarks to see and Venice is full of little windy tiny alleyways that ensure you get lost, regardless of a map or not. We ended up back
Florence is really tourist orientated.
at the Piazza San Marco and thought we'd better stay here where we were meeting for our Gondola just in case we got lost again. We grabbed another Gelato - not as good as Rome mind you, and waited for an hour or so for the Gondola ride. Very relaxing and quite interesting to see Venice from the water. We headed straight back to camp after the gondola ride by ferry again and enjoyed an Aussie BBQ for dinner and had a few drinks with James, another fella from the group - it was his birthday. Sonte!
Well ciao for Italy, next we say Hallo and head north into the mountainous regions of Austria and the Alps! ACHTUNG!
There are more photos below