Thursday, 17 May 2012


Woke up in Napoli to rain, the first time I had seen it since I left London over 3 weeks ago, got out my pack cover for the first time and my raincoat that was stashed somewhere down the bottom of my pack and headed out.
The thing about these Italian streets is that they are all made from stone, the ones in Napoli are made from lava rock, are black and really shiny, therefore when wet they are lethal.
Had my usual power walk on to get to the train station, and all of a sudden I was on my way down, and once you are going down with a pack on your back there is no way of saving yourself, I smashed my knee on the ground pretty hard and got pretty soaked in the process too. Dusted myself off and limped to the station, it came right after a few minutes and I yet again have another bruise, however I got to the station in the end and was soon on my way to Firenze.
For some reason I wasn’t feeling on top of the world like I usually do when I’m heading to a new city, not sure why, most likely just the tiredness was catching up to me, always working out where to go next, traveling there, walking the lengths of that city countless times to see everything, then doing it all over again every day, it’s pretty exhausting after a while.
I managed to get myself on a fast train, travels at about 300kph, only stopped in Roma and then Firenze, so all up it was about 2.5hrs, cost about 53 Euro.
Got off the train and was hit by a blast of freezing cold air, totally was not expecting that, Firenze was so cold and I only had my cardi on, the temperature difference was huge between the two cities.
The directions to my hostel weren’t the greatest, so it was a bit of a mission to get there, but once there I was greeted by the receptionist who didn’t even look at me, grunted how much to pay, gave me a key and pointed to where the lifts were, she could speak English as I was a big hostel but she was just awful.
I unpacked my gear and got myself organised for what I was going to do for the rest of the day, I got in at 10.30am so I had a lot of time to kill but I had no clue about the city or what to do here, apart from of course Michelangelo David, so like I do in every city I headed out walking to see what I could find.
I asked the lady at reception for a map, and she said nothing & didn’t look at me and handed me a map, I then asked for her to please show me where on the map the hostel was, she grunted and then marked my map with an X. Definitely not the warm welcome I got in Napoli that’s for sure!
I hate buses, anywhere I hate them, love trains but buses aren’t my thing, so I started walking into the city.
Stopped on the way to grab some food, desperately in need of an espresso too, was real nice just to get a normal ham sandwich for once, and not bloody pizza or pasta! Continued on my way and came across the stunning Duomo Cathedral and bell tower, it is built from green, pink and white marble, a huge structure and so pretty. At this point I was still not really feeling great, just felt like it was a bit of a chore to go and see the sights, and where I had just walked from wasn’t anything special and I was wondering what all the hype was about when people say how beautiful Firenze is. So the best way to get an idea of a city is to get up high, so I climbed the bell tower, 6 euro to get up there but it was so worth it, 416 steps to the top and once there my mood instantly brightened and felt heaps better about being there.
Terracotta roofs on white buildings, surrounded by green tree covered hills, it was really beautiful. Took a few token self photos, and just chilled out up there for a while enjoying the cool air and recharging my batteries.
I went into the info centre in the square and they circled a few more things, they said that if I only have 1 day in Firenze then I need to do the things they circled.
There was a huge queue to get inside the cathedral, so I joined them, and met a couple from Melbourne, Phil & Julie, who helped me out by marking my map with places to go. They invited me to dinner as they were meeting some friends back at the cathedral at 6.30pm, so I thought why not and told them I’d see them there. As it was a Monday, most of the museums and galleries were closed, so they showed me where the famous bridge was and a few other things. After seeing the magnificent outside of this cathedral I expected the inside to be just as if not more, but I was pretty disappointed when I got inside, it was just a big empty room really. None of the walls or ceiling was decorated, there was the usual alter at the end and a big clock on the opposing end, so after about 10 minutes I was on my way.
A museum at the back of the cathedral was open, and it was one of the ones marked on my map so I headed inside, spent 6.50 to do so, it was ok, nothing great, the highlight was that there was a piece my Michelango that was unfinished, the arm of Mary and leg of Jesus broke off while he was carving it, the grain of the marble wasn’t the greatest, so he gave up and handed it to someone else to finish but it never really did, so Jesus is all finished but the others are all still rough.
Next I headed to the Palace of Medici, also marked on my map, this was a massive disappointment, I paid 6 euro to get in and it was just a big old house, it was nice and pretty but nothing really amazing that I believe my 6 euros was worth seeing.
Walked back through the city towards the river, walked along the riverfront to the bridge, lining the edges of it are jewellery shops, some stunning jewellery there too. In the middle of the bridge is a viewing area to look down the river, again took some self photos, and continued on to the next spot circled on my map, however at this point my expectations weren’t very high of these so called ‘must-do’s’ that were taking all my money.
Walked through a piazza that had protesters in the middle, blowing whistles and banging pots and pans, just making noise, it was awful, just like the protesters up on Mt Vesuvius they had no signs or anything so there was no way of knowing what they were even making all that noise about.
In this piazza there was a replica of the David and some other really neat statues, also the next place on my list to visit. This was another palace, but it was really quite stunning inside, so I wasn’t so disheartened to pay to get inside.
At 6.30pm I met up with Phil & Julie for dinner, also met the other 2 women they were meeting but their names escape me at the moment. We went to Piazza de Republica, a stunning piazza just down the road from the Duomo, it had a carousel in the middle of it and the restaurants lining it looked super expensive which I was a little concerned about.
I had promised myself that morning that I was going to stop having pasta and pizza at for dinner, and that if I’m going to have it to restrict it to lunch only, cause this sudden change of diet isn’t the greatest for me and my thighs!
I got a green salad with tuna and egg, was super nice and refreshing change from carbs, Phil and Julie shouted me a glass of vino rosso too which I was stoked about.
I had about 3km to walk back to the hostel after dinner so I left before dark, Phil was really worried about me walking on my own, and gave me a big hug and their email address to get in touch with them. I said goodbye to my adopted mum and dad for the evening and began my mission to the hostel, there were heaps of people around and lots of women walking on their own everywhere so I didn’t feel worried. There was a train station in between the city and the hostel though so I went the long way round to avoid it and was back at the hostel in no time.
Only one other person sharing the 4 bed dorm I was staying in, and that was a wonderful girl from Buenos Aires, Laura. Back in Argentina she is a surgeon, her day job is running her own plastic surgery clinic, then she also works in the hospital as a burns specialist surgeon. She has been studying full time for the past 12 years and this is her first real holiday. I said to her that I might have to travel to see her after I finish in Europe cause I’ll probably be in need of some lipo by then ha. We got chatting and made plans for the next day, she was only in Firenze for the same amount of time as me and then she was heading to Siena so we decided to head to Pisa in the morning. We knew that there was nothing really else to do in Pisa apart from see the tower so we weren’t too sure if it was going to be worth the time going out there just for the token ‘holding up the tower’ photo but we went anyway.
We caught the bus to the train station, a man standing by the ticket machine saw that we were going to Pisa and had two tickets for Pisa-Firenze that he didn’t need anymore, so we bought them off him for 10 euro instead of paying the normal 14. We still had to buy our tickets to Pisa with only about 5 mins to spare, the machines were a nightmare and time was ticking, we got our tickets with 3 mins to go and the platform we had to get to was on the other side of the station, so we sprinted, jumping on the train with about a minute to spare.
On the way we learnt some Italian, with Laura already speaking Spanish she can talk to people in Italy really slowly in Spanish and they understand her so she already had a head start on me.
We walked through Pisa and eventually saw the leaning tower, it was really pretty, another beautiful sunny day so the cathedral and the tower both looked wonderful against the grass surrounding them.
Its so funny when walking around the tower, its as though a few hundred people are all doing a big miming show, standing still with their arms in front and palms vertical, but we had to join them.
There was no way we were going to pay 15 euro to climb to the top, so we paid 2 euro to get into the cathedral, which I think was a bit crappy seeing as even St Peters Basilica in the Vatican City was free, this was the first church I’ve had to pay to get into. And in the end it was just ABC, another bloody cathedral, was the same as heaps of other ones I’ve seen, pretty but nothing new.
We stopped for lunch then made our way back to the station the long way, seeing the rest of the small town, we fell asleep on the way back and were in desperate need of a gelato when we arrived.
Our next mission for the day was to see the David, the queue to get into the museum was huge, way down the street, but we joined the line and enjoyed our gelato in the sun while we waited. It was 11 euro to get in, but it was just something you have to do when you are in Firenze and he did not disappoint, he was beautiful. Over 4m tall, and just perfect, there were signs everywhere saying that photography was forbidden, and guards yelling ‘No Photo!!’ very angrily at anyone who did take photos, but did that stop us, hell no! We were seeing the David, probably never to be seen again, we had to record this. One guy from Oz said that he got told off and a warning that he would be kicked out if he did it again, but we were very sneaky with our photo taking, first taking some from way down the back of the hall and using my awesome zoom. Then close up, I would have my back to the guard blocking his view of Laura and she’d take a photo, then visa versa. When right next to him I took one of him without them seeing, then one of his back too.
We stayed in there for a while just enjoying the view of Dave, also there were other Michelangelo sculptures in the museum, half completed ones that weren’t finished due to lack of funding, but it was neat to see the process of how he carved them and the stages of turning it from a block of marble to a masterpiece.
There was one more thing to do for the day, see the pig statue, apparently if you touch the pig you will return to Firenze. It’s a cool looking statue, made of brass I think, looks like a wild hog we have in the NZ bush and is life sized.
On our way back to the hostel we stopped for dinner, I fought my demons and said no to pasta and ordered a caprese salad, and it was amazing. Laura wasn’t used to eating so early, 7pm, back home she has dinner at about 10pm, but after a big day she was starving and got a pasta.
Absolutely wrecked we got back to the hostel to find that our room was still empty, only the 2 of us again which was awesome. I really wanted to get to sleep but I had heaps of organising to do, at this stage I still had no idea where I was going the next day, after brainstorming with Laura, I decided to train to Venice, stay there one night, then train back to Verona. In Verona, there is a friend of Matteo, Alessandro, and I am able to stay there for a few nights which will be awesome, I’m looking forward to just chilling for a few days without doing anything in a rush, having a house to stay in and not a hostel. Alessandro emailed me back this morning saying that I’m all good to stay there, and that he hopes that I like small dogs and wine, sounds great to me!
Also I have heard back from a farm I emailed to Wwoof at in Spain, they couldn’t accommodate me but they put me in touch with a place in the South of Spain who I emailed and they have availability from now on, so I will hopefully make my way down there in the next week where I can have a place to stay for a few weeks.

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