Published: May 9th 2011April 11th 2011
Farewell France, welcome Italy. A travel day, more card playing, sleeping & snacking on pringles.
So the girls (and some of the guys) got a little excited this morning over this one; our first stop of the day was at a perfumery. This included a brief, (and when I say brief this must have been a good 75 minutes) tour of the production process and followed by a long ramble where one of the ladies got her sales voice on, tried selling us a whole lot of stuff we didn't need... or want!
So back on the coach, after a few hours we had crossed the boarder, officially in our second country as part of the Contiki tour experience. We stopped in Italy just past midday, just at a local service station where we had our first Italian food and got a taste of how they like their coffee too! I bought myself a margherita pizza as well as an espresso (once gone 12pm, it's unusual for Italians to order white coffee), was beautiful! True Italian style.
The next stop was pretty exciting, The Leaning Tower of Pisa! Now Mark parked the coach a good 500m away from
the tower so we had a short walk to do. On the way we got countless offers from guys trying to sell us non-legit Prada bags + sunnies as well as number of not so cultural junk. These guys were standing just outside the coach ready for us to get off. We then walked down a narrow street, but there were lots of people around as expected. Gypsies started walking with us, pulling out fake maps pretending they were tourists like us. Next thing, one of them had pick-pocketed one of the girls on Contiki, the girl demanded her wallet back (the gypsy responded, "it's for her baby") and once the lady saw that we were a rather large group she through it on the ground and walked away. Was a close call nonetheless. After that drama, we got to the tower, and there it was standing tall - but not so straight. Another historical site visited!
We arrived at the accommodation just gone 5pm, this time again we stayed at a campsite, in cabins. Dinner we had an included Contiki dinner that was Lasagne and salad. We then got dressed up for the Red Garter, a small Italian
karaoke bar in town. All of us had a few drinks and there was definitely plenty of entertainment for a good night with karaoke-singers and partygoers.
After a nights sleep there were definitely a few sore heads on the coach the next morning. Although, we all just pulled through and went into the city of Florence to go check it out. This began with a group Contiki photo at a lookout just before we got into the city centre, and then followed by a leather demonstration. The demonstrator had a great sarcastic sense of humour, but it was going to take more than just a few jokes to get us to buy some of the overpriced leather goods from the gift shop. €50 (AUS$65) for a protector to hold playing cards was asking a bit much perhaps? Though expensive, still a great experience to go along to.
Once in town, we had a walking tour, this was mostly just an interesting history lesson as well as a helpful guide as to what to do when we got to free roam the ancient city. So from then we had 4 hours to wonder around and see what Florence has
to offer. As most of us were pretty hungry by this time, we found a nice little Italian cafe to have some pizza for lunch. After a quick refuel, we walked the rest of the afternoon away seeing the Duomo, Basilica Sante Croce, the Baptistry and Piazza della Signoria. Also we walked up Giotto's bell tower where we saw an amazing view of Florence. It was an absolute scorcher of a day, mercury was pretty high, when we returned to the coach we may have been somewhat a little more red than we may had planned.
For dinner, we had a feast, true Tuscan style! The food just kept rolling in and piling up. Sat down to antipasti when we arrived, so cold meats and cheese. Followed by 4 different types of pasta and spaghetti, then a chicken dish with potatoes, other veges, then out came the meatballs and finally dessert (if there was any room) which was chocolate cake and a beautiful dessert wine. Just to put the icing on the cake, the waiters brought out a lemon liquor shot too!
Things got a little interesting tonight when we moved on to Space Discoteca, a two-story night
club swarming with adolescent 12/13 year olds drinking their livers dry. Clearly, the government isn't as strict when it comes to underage drinking here in the mediterranean. To make this even more bizarre, these young teenagers visit Florence as a part of a school trip, so they were here playing hockey and their teachers decide to take them to the night club as a part of a celebration. The club itself was pretty incredible; plenty of mirrors on the wall, and a microphone being passed around so you could get in on the fun and get your karaoke on if that was your thing! So some of the others and I decided to opt out early, catching a taxi back to the campsite at around midnight. The taxi ride itself has an interesting story; the metre totalled to €16 when we got back, but the driver then insisted it was €28 instead as they add a surcharge due to the amount of us in the car. End up paying about €1.50 per head extra. Though with his scary driving, not stopping at stop signs and not slowing down when approaching speed humps we really shouldn't have paid anything!