Nov 4, 2007
|A couple of italian peculiarities to get started...
When sitting on a train, men and women come around with small trinkets (torches, watches, plastic flowers, Small trains) and place them near you and then walk away. They return after a few minutes to see if you have touched it (this is usually what they regard as you buying the product)-luckily an old italian woman explained this to us, so we didn't get caught, but we saw this happen to an American guy a few seats ahead of us. It seems like a very sneaky way to get money without having to market your product-imagine if this was how clothes shops operated-you touch, you buy.
One aspect of Italian culture that is very easy to adjust to is the food that is provided at bars when you order a drink-this ranges from crisps, olives,and peanuts to a full scale antipasto buffet (sandwiches, cold meats, quiches, focaccias)-its a really cheap way to have an entree before a meal. One Italian habit that we have not taken a shining to is the aperitif: We first encountered this strange drink in Venice, where we went to a wine bar and ordered a spritzer (expecting a glass of wine with soda water or lemonade). This is when we knew we were definitely in a foreign country-we were given bright red drinks with olives in them (the olives were the only thing that our stomachs could handle). The drink had a martini mix in it (campari), this ginger liquid, wine and something else which made it taste disgusting...we were soft and put it at the counter and left. We came up with a new theory as to why the Italians drink it-they have a spritzer before their meal to ensure that no matter how bad their dinner is, it will always taste better than then pre-dinner drink.
We have spent the last 2 days in beautiful florence with bright sunny days and lots of people everywhere. Yesterday we walked around and got our bearings (much easier compared to Venice) and we walked up to Piazzale Michelangelo where we saw a beautiful view of the city (it was a hefty set of stairs on the way up though). On the way up, we walked past the Duomo, the Uffizi and many other stunning statues and florentine style buildings. On the way up, just before the Arno River, we saw the statue of david (we were a little confused-he was the same size as the other statues near him and we thought he was housed in the Accademia). We continued walking, still a little bemused. By the time we got up to Piazzale Michelangelo, we saw another David? This time he had a green tinge to him. We are still waiting in expectation and hopefully when we go to the Accademia on Wednesday we will see the real one.
We crossed the Arno River, via the Ponte Vecchio, which was brimming with tourists.
The artwork done by streetside artists were excellent. It was like going to the Fremantle Markets and watching the Asian man draw (except 100x), on each corner there was another artist-they work so quickly and with amazing accuracy. The stonework is also different here compared to Venice. The buildings combine many different materials (brick, stone, marble) within the one monument and the streets are a slate type material. The streets are kept very clean here during the day, and then the street sweepers and water machines get to work at night.
Today we went on a day trip to pisa to see the leaning tower. Impressive, but so were the buildings next to it (duomo and another palace), but its funny how they get very little credit or prestige, just because they are straight. Maybe that is what Perth should do to build up tourist numbers: get some dodgy architects to build a few wonky buildings?
We took many a picture with our arms dangling in the air in the middle of the grass, standing on pillars, leaning on strange angles, blowing air in different directions-and after all this, we have some photos that worked were we are holding up, blowing over and leaning on the tower. After a while, I found that I was subconsciously changing the angle of the building in the pictures I was taking:on the camera screen, Si was leaning, whereas the tower was straight? I kept on lining my shots up with the grass/ground then slowly moving up, but the angles definitely mess with your head. Also, as you walk closer to the tower, its lean decreases quite rapidly and it almost looks straight.A very strange experience!
Our accommodation here in Florence is fantastic. We are about 200metres from santa maria train station and within walking distance to everywhere. We are close to some excellent restaurants, which we are slowly trying out, night by night. Also we have free internet access (which is so good considering some of the places we have been).
Hope all is well back home and we will write with more soon.