An early start to make it to Florence with a stopover at Pisa for the cliche leaning tower photos and our first taste of authentic Italian food. The rest of the day involved gelato, a swim up bar, a three course Italian meal, and dancing in the hostel bar until closing time. A good night!
Super early morning to get into town for a walking tour of Florence which was really great. We had a lovely born-and-raised Florencian old lady guide and covered the major monuments within 1.5hrs, such contrast to the vastness of Paris. The Duomo was really magnificent: 3000 tonnes in the double-layer dome, first in Europe, built over a course of 300 years, in the age before computer simulation (and still standing). The statue of David was also quite a sight: 16ft tall and chiseled from one block of marble, with Michael Angelo not working from a clay model or anything. You quickly realize that the majority of statues were of biblical/mythical characters – she also pointed out one with the artist’s face hidden in the back of the statue’s head (benefit of having a guide!). As always I enjoyed taking photos down lane ways, and soaking up the sense of Italy that comes with cobblestone streets and old men riding stepthrough bicycles with baskets. We went to the leather shop for a demonstration on how to detect fakes (to be honest I didn’t pick up much of it.. I may or may not have been napping in my seat a bit) and then had a group lunch at a great Italian (obviously) restaurant. A man with an accordion came along.. It was too perfect! Topped the afternoon off with some gelato and a trip to a terrace for a view of the city, before heading back to the bus to make our way to Rome. [insert joke about roads]
In Rome we stayed at a campsite a few metro stops out of the city (but we were staying in cabin-like things not camping) which was apparently popular with Topdeck tours: 6 buses in on that night! We didn’t get home till late because as soon as we hit Rome we were out on a walking tour of the city. Again it was so cool to see so many of the tourist hot spots in one sweep: I’m starting to become quite a fan of walking tours! We went to the Spanish Steps (an area of Rome governed by Spain, with a fountain, monument and $100 high tea place nearby), the Trevi Fountain for a coin toss (like, the most spectacular fountain in the world, complete with a tap/fountain with water which restores virginity… (they have heaps of continuously running water spouts which are free to fill their bottles up at – not sure why they run continuously though)). The other monuments were impressive, but perhaps could have been found anywhere. What was mind blowing though is the part of Rome that is absolutely unique: the ruins. While Florence apparently was built ontop of the ruins of ancient cities (possibly something to do with flood problems, she said), Rome has kept its ruins for all to see – with the exception of the chunks of the Colosseum which were taken for building other monuments! It gives just a glimpse into history but certainly enough to get your imagination going. At nighttime the Forum looks like eerie caveman ruins.. which I guess isn’t all too far from the truth. A massive contrast with 150-year-old colonised Austalia..
I spent the next day exploring the city in daylight, Vatican included.. phwoah. Is Rome just full of giant, incredible things?
I even managed to track down a pyramid, thanks to a tip off from Rick Steves.. Which I’ll admit was a little underwhelming.. but, he came good on his second ‘offbeat Rome’ stop: a flat-roofed chapel with a 3D painted ceiling. The mostly-black dome part had me pretty impressed! A bike-taxi tour around the sites I’d missed, and a toga party marked the celebration of the end to a fantastic tour. Now, just to plan my journey to my new home!