The Italian Affair Part I: Genoa to Siena


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July 25th 2006
Published: July 25th 2006
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Cinque TerreCinque TerreCinque Terre

Looking back at the middle town (3 of 5)
Well, after leaving Cham at 9 am on Tuesday morning, a series of excellent bus and train connections landed me in Genoa around 4 pm. The tourist information office was horrified that I had not pre-booked accommodation in Genoa so I suggested I could keep going on to Cinque Terre. Greater look of horror. She told me people were coming back from there to Genoa to get accommodation. Oops. Turned out, the HI hostel had beds so I spent 3 nights there, subjected to the worst bus ride ever multiple times a day up a series of windy roads.

Genoa was not a pleasant town. And that was my opinion before I received my first souvenir from Italy - a copy of the police report for my stolen purse! No real damage done, except the inconvenience of having to cancel credit cards, the loss of cash, my drivers licence and purse (so Lisa, we no longer have "matching" purses). My purse was taken out of the top of my backpack at the main train station. Why I had a brain explosion that day, I will never know but it was the only time I had my purse so easily accessible
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The approach to Monterossa - the fifth town
for the whole trip. Not happy with myself. And I think I fell for the oldest trick in the book - distraction. There was a verbal argument going on in the ticketing area - the only time anyone could have got within several feet of me so it must have happened then.

Anyway, I spent much time in Genoa inside their magnificnet churches. Not only were they peaceful and calming but cooler than most other buidlings and not filled with Africans trying to sell me something. The latter have been ever present in all places I have visited in Italy except Siena, where I am at the moment, and loving the break!

The one highlight of Genoa were the other people in the hostel. I spent 2 nigts hanging out with 3 young Aussie boys from Sydney who had come over for the World Cup and had bought Eurail passes. They had seen most of the Aussie soccer matches as well as getting to Barcelona, Pamplona (for the running of the bulls), Paris, Prague, Rome, and Genoa. Apart from consuming a few Italian wines together, the boys taught me a new card game called "West" - which they
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The complex, from left to right, the cemetery, the Baptistry, the Cathedral, the tower
had in turn learnt on a train to Prague! The other night I spent with a Canadian woman who had just been to Australia as part of her travels. She was good fun and we even got involved in a new Canadian reality travel show about 4 young Canadians travelling through 20 countries in Europe in 60 days. Our involvement was to help them with a "task" which was to have as many people as possible filmed walking an imaginary catwalk . I will not make the cut, as I did nothing special, however, some of the boys later in the evening will have as they did their runway walk in the buff!!

I also spent one fantastic day walking the 11km of Cinque Terre. It was picture postcard stuff the whole way. It was also a good workout in the heat. I drank 1.5l of water and 1l of gatorade over the 4 hours it took me to walk it (and have lunch, look at local markets, take heaps of photos etc) and then another 1.5l of water and 500ml of gatorade at the end. The towns were cute but beaches were either rocky/concrete or covered with rows
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The best feature of my accommodation in Florence and a new theme in my photography
of beach umbrellas. I don't think the Europeans get what a beach day really is. Oh for some waves, soft sand, and plenty of space.

Next stop was Pisa (for an afternoon). The tower is over-rated but the other sites nearby were sensational. The bapistry had fantastic acoustics, the cemetry had a great array of sarcophagii and the cathedral reminded me a little of the Mezquita in Cordoba - the arches and the stripes, I think. I did walk up the leaning tower. It was a little disorientating at times. The view over the very flat town of Pisa was good.

Caught an early evening train to Florence where I stayed 3 nights. Did some of the important "must sees" (thanks Dave De Bono and Joe Sinisi Sr for your notes - most handy to date) including the Uffizi, the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, and the outside David, overlooking the township of Florence. Because I was there over a weekend, I missed a few other sights I would have liked to take in but still enjoyed what was on offer. The markets were interesting and so was the sight of the illegal street vendors packing up their stuff as
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Overlooking Florence from near the "outside" David
soon as police were spotted. They were clearly very practiced at it.

The weather here has been so hot and unfortunately, the hostels in which I have been staying do not believe in providing air conditioning. I am pretty sure that the temperature in my dorm room in Florence would not have dipped below 30 degrees at any time, making sleeping virtually impossible. So, I decided to head to Siena to try and get some rest outside the city. According to the "Rough guide", Siena is the perfect antidote for Florence. It has certainly been that for me and may also have something to do with me having a single room with ensuite and air-conditioning - there was nothing else available in town!

I have seen most of the sights of Siena but mainly just enjoyed the feel of the place and wandering the streets. It is more like what I expected Tuscany to be - great buildings, great views, rolling hills outside the walled city etc.

Heading to Rome tomorrow........

And apologies for the spelling in this chapter - no word processor available to keep an eye on my typing!


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Siena

From the viewing tower of the siena museum


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