Tuesday, July 24, 2007
We Love the Italians
If you want to see the mass of photos of Italy, grab a beer, sit back and enjoy otherwise below next to the section headings are links to the different cities we visited.
Troy and I have decided the Italians are our new favorite people. We still love the Germans but we just couldn’t get over how incredibly friendly the Italians were. Never once in our time there did we think they were rude or found them to be rude to us…except for the guy at the bus station who couldn’t figure out what bus we were telling him to book us on. But that was clearly our fault for not speaking the language. Every time we asked someone for help or directions they gladly helped us, even if they spoke no English and especially since we didn’t speak any Italian. They would just laugh and smile and help us the best they could. We had one lady escort us five blocks to a barber for Troy to get his haircut because she was not able to tell us in English where to go! We wish everyone could be like them. We just love them!
Love the New Family (Nocciano photos or Abruzzo region photos)Remember back in the Rome blog we mentioned meeting up with a relative from Troy’s grandmother’s family? Well we took it a step farther. (Real quick here, Troy’s grandmother’s name is Mary). As soon as we left Greece we decided to visit the Abruzzo region (mid-east coast) to try to find the village where his grandmother’s family live. We knew the village name, Nocciano, but thought we would be lucky to find a bus there but we would try anyways. We scored when we found out the owner of our bed and breakfast, B&B Pescara, spoke fluent English and offered to accompany us to Nocciano to act as an interpreter. He knew the way there so we thought, why not. We rented a car for the day (luckily it was cheap) and off we went. Troy had called Nicola (Mary’s great nephew in Rome) and told him we were going. So he called his dad, Mario who is Mary’s cousin and told him to expect us in Nocciano, which is where he lives. We get there and ended up meeting three of Mary’s cousins who she has never met plus their various spouses and kids. Not only did Mario give us pictures of himself and his father (Mary’s uncle) but he also gave a picture of Mary’s grandmother whom she has never met. We couldn’t believe his generosity with these photos. He said he had tons of them and didn’t mind giving them to us. Troy snatched them up quickly because he knew his grandma would find them priceless. Knowing Mary had never met her grandmother made us sad to because we both think about the role and relationship we had with our grandmothers and what a loss that is for her.
Florence (photos)After two days in the Abruzzo region, we were off to Florence. As everyone knows, Florence is the art capital of the world. While there you would think we go see famous sculptures and priceless paintings in museums. But did we, nooooooo. We went and saw Harry Frickin’ Potter!!!!!!! I’m at the movie and I’m thinking “I can’t believe I am in this fabulous city and I’m sitting watching this dumbass movie!” Troy is insisting that I let you know that museums and things were closed at the time of the movie… but whatever!!! The only good thing about it for me was that the theatre was over 600 years old. It was complete with sculptures, marble columns, carved balconies and a stained glass dome ceiling. Troy thought he was cool because he got to see the movie before it even opened in the US.
Of all the beautiful things we saw while in Florence, we came across one wacky thing that kinda stood out. They have a Museum of Serial Killers (hmmm… go see paintings by Raphael or wax dummies of Jeffrey Dahmer?) One thing we realized too late upon arrival into the city is you need to make a reservation to see the statue of the David. We didn’t make reservations and didn’t want to wait in line for 4 hours so we decided it was our loss. Upon talking to two local tour guides they gave us a little inside information. If you walk about 20 yards past the entrance to the gallery to the exit door you can see the David. It didn’t make sense so the next day we decided to see if they were right. Sure enough, 20 yards past the main door is the exit with smoked glass doors and you can look right in and there he is. The doors are not even solid and the statue is not even in a room deep inside the museum. People would come out and open the door wide open and there he was again, even more clearly. Of course I made Troy take a picture since you can’t take one inside and I guarantee you the people leaving didn’t think to turn around as soon as they left to take a picture so it was a bonus for us.
Siena (photos)From Florence we did a day trip to Siena. Our old neighbor from Colorado is a wine broker and had set up a wine tour with Dievole, which has the oldest certified grape harvest in Italy dating to 1090. This was a very cool tour since they only do a tasting session five times a day and it has to be done by reservation and Troy and I were the only two at our tasting. Each tasting was done in a different room of the vineyard whether it’s the main wine room, the old cellar, the new cellar or the boutique.
The fourth tasting was done in an old church that dates back to the beginning of the vineyard. Even though it is no longer a church it still has pews, crosses with Jesus, pictures of Jesus on the wall even a prayer book. But on the alter is wine bottles and above the alter is a mid-evil painting of people in a pub. So we’re doing our tasting and in walks this little boy about 10 or 12. He kneels down and starts to pray. Troy and I look at each other and both think “For once, we are in the right place so he must not be.” Our wine guide looked at him and said, “This is no longer a church. You can stay and pray but it’s gonna do you no good!” I don’t think the little boy spoke any English but his eyes got wide with embarrassment and took off. It was sad but funny at the same time.
Venice (photos)The following day was Venice. I don’t know what we were thinking or expecting going to this world famous city in July, the height of the tourist season, but there were so many people there it sucked! We got off the train and took a water bus to the Piazza San Marco which is the most famous square in Venice. That right there should have set off alarms in our head. It was overwhelming the number of people in this area, not to mention the number of gross pigeons feeding off of peoples’ hands and heads. Troy and I were instantly in a bad mood and I decided to take it out on fellow tourists by seeing how many photos I could either get in (a trick we learned from my brother-in-law Ryun) or how many photos I could completely disrupt by walking clearly in the middle of the people having their photos taken. We did the smart thing and immediately headed to the back streets and alleyways, which was the best thing we did. The main group of tourists dwindled out and we were no longer in the crowds and could finally have some breathing space. It was at this point that we could finally understand how people fall in love with Venice and find it so romantic.
The one thing (I won’t say it’s the only thing) that sucked was we bought a Chorus Pass that got us into 15 of Venice’s best churches. I know, I know, me, Shelly, of all people wanting to go into churches. Anyways, it’s Sunday, we’re thinking what a great way to see churches. We spent half our day wandering around to these churches to find out they were all closed!!!!!!! It’s frickin’ Sunday and they’re closed. Needless to say, Troy went back to the tourist office and got our money back. The lady started to argue with Troy saying the pass was good all year but Troy just gave her a look that said, “Don’t even try” and she gave our money back.
Dolmites (photos)After Florence we headed further north to an area called Trentino known for the Dolmite mountains. We think we heard at one point they are part of the Italian Alps but we were never able to confirm that. Anyways, by pure luck we ended up staying in this great little village called Vattaro. It had a population of maybe 1800 and that was on a good day when no old people died (and there were a lot of old people here). It was at the base of one of the mountain ranges so we had great access to hiking. And hike we did. For not having done much exercise (other then running with our packs to catch a train) or have done a major hike since the beginning of Costa Rica we did ok. It was an absolutely beautiful area and we were really happy we decided to go there since we kind of pulled it out of our asses at the last moment.
Como (photos)Next on our calendar was to meet up with my aunt and uncle from Phoenix, Hoyt and Shellie. They are in Europe traveling for 3 months and it worked out perfect for us to meet up with them. We initially met in a city called Lecco then headed up to the Como region known for it’s gorgeous Lake Como. Shellie found this amazing bed and breakfast in a nearby small town that was ran by the greatest Italian couple. The B&B was their home, which we found out the main part of the house was over 600 years old. It had this massive fireplace that used to be used for cooking and sky high ceilings.
We spent one day driving to Lake Como and the surrounding villages such as Bellagio and Verenna but there was a downside to this: It was hot, really hot and the car Hoyt and Shellie rented in Germany didn’t have air conditioning. We all thought we were just going to melt. In between melting, stopping for beers, Hoyt avoiding speeding BMW’s we kept trying to find George Clooney’s house. “Oooh, maybe it’s that one on the hill! It looks so George Clooneyish.”
But now we are out of the heat and in Switzerland. And oh, is it expensive here. Youch! “Yes, I’ll take a bratwurst and fries for $13 please!”