ORIGINAL POST: 17 May 2008
I find it enjoyable to go to a place like Milan and already know what to expect and already know how to get around. My little trip during Leap Year Weekend bolstered my confidence in that...
...but with Milan, I learned Florence, too!
So, I returned to Florence with a few friends in tow.
I will admit, I enjoyed Milan more than Florence the first time around. The second time was ruined by the gypsies and immigrant hawkers and tens of thousands of people.
Second time around, I enjoyed Florence more. But then again, 8:15am may contribute to that somewhat.
What's that, you say? If we were in Florence at that time, we would have had to leave Rome at...
...yes, sometime during the 5 o'clock hour.
Such is traveling like this sometime. It wasn't the first time, and it would definitely not be the last.
Instead of taking pictures of all the fun sites like I had the first time, I was able to just relax and take in some of the people. This was my companion's first time, though.
I saw Michelangelo's David... again.
I saw the Duomo and Baptistry... again.
I saw the Medici Palace... again...
...yet I couldn't help a little decoration added since last time.
Don't get me wrong, I don't agree with what a lot of what China does in their country (and the countries they control), but sometimes I wonder if the people who are all up in arms about "Free Tibet" and "Human Rights in Tibet" even know where Tibet is. Anyways - not important for my story.
What IS important to my story is this:
After visiting a place like Florence with a gargantuan amount of classical art and sculpture just lying around everywhere, the quizzical mind returns to its home and does a little research. Then, upon his return, he sees the things that he researched - such as the famous Rape of the Sabines - and is able to appreciate it all the more:
This was a detail from that sculpture. This, by the way, was the first sculpture featuring true 360º viewing... it means there is no right way of looking at it. There is no privileged angle.
Also, when I return to a place, I tend to enjoy the photographic opportunities more. Instead of shooting all the "pretty scenery" and things I'm seeing for the first time, I can really concentrate on what I really love:
This is their place. This is where they belong. I am an outsider.
This little man was in his place. With his usual paper. Doing his usual thing.
The distinction between traveler and tourist is sometimes a bit of a blurry line for some, but I really thing there is one major difference between the two: a tourist is sort of like a bull in a china shop scurrying from place to place taking all they can from the scene to go back and prove they've been there; a traveler finds himself in a scene learning from and being sensitive to it.
Does a tourist see the people as "real" or do they see them as part of the scene?
Think about it...
Next, we made a quick stop by Gröm. Okay, if you're ever in Florence and you want truly amazing gelato, I fully recommend finding this little place. Off to the south side of the Duomo, the proprietor of this nice little place creates all of his own concoctions from all real, all natural ingredients and makes the gelato right there in the store. If you get there early enough in the morning (similar to the way we did it) you'll have the first fruits of his labor... so fresh that he made us wait 5 minutes so the creamy goodness would "age" a little bit more so the cream is creamy enough.
Oh. So. Good.
Again... this was my second time here. After having tried all the flavors offered by Milan, Pisa, and Rome, this place has my vote.
And again... another stay in the Campo di Marte train station east of Florence. This is the same station I spent 5 or 6 hours in the middle of the night during my Leap Year Weekend stay in Italy.
Though, this time I was going to a place that was just downright bizarre.
Things like this just don't exist in the real world. In fact, the world just doesn't look like this:
Venice, Italy, is more like something from a freaky sci-fi dream where the world has flooded and modern technology has been forsaken. It just doesn't look real...
From the moment you step out of the train station and hear nothing but people and water and little boats puttering by, you realize you're definitely not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
In the 4 months I've been abroad, you'd think there wasn't that much that could just make me pause and say, "Well, golly gee..."
...but Venice will do it to you... or at least it did for me.
(That one is a taxi, guys. Yes... a real yellow-cab taxi!)
After storing my luggage in the train station, I took off all by my lonesome for a little afternoon stroll (and float) through Venice...
Just FYI: if you want to go on a little gondola ride but don't want to pay the high dollar prices for it (sometimes upwards of 100Euro without a singer), you can hop a gondola ferry. They're strategically placed along the Grand Canal and will take you across for a mere .50Euro per ride. VERY good price, I'd say...
Okay, so I can't be a traveler ALL the time. One must splurge sometimes...
And from the lower side of the Grand Canal, it is only a short walk through the narrow streets...
...to one of Venice's main attractions:
San Marco Basilica... which just increases the incredibility of this place.
Taking a look around to the buildings on either side of this plaza, then the brick tower, then the Basilica itself - the whole thing just doesn't match! That makes it more difficult to believe...
...not to mention the location of more winged Petri dishes than any other place I've been over three continents.
I'm sure it looks pretty heartless of me to just walk through and practically trip on them on my way to the Basilica, but after Bird #5920192 almost flies up your nose (again) you kinda tend to get tired of them.
Oddly enough, the Basilica was closed (even at 4:00pm or so), but that's the way things go sometimes.
And did I mention Venice has canals? And boats? And people singing on boats?
And dinner was AMAZING, too. Near the Rialto Bridge...
...you can find dozens and dozens of little restaurants. Yes, you'll be rubbing elbows with the best tourists Italy has to offer, but at least you're going to get a wonderful meal. Then, sit and listen to this place as you eat said meal just a few meters from the water.
Yes, it is becoming extremely touristy these days - I'd hate to even think about this place in the heat of the summer - but no matter the crowds and pigeons, I still found this little waterworld a nice diversion from the usual European cities I had grown to expect.
A little bit of a dreamworld, if you will, but very real at the same time.
Sorry it took so long to get this one up. I was gone again this weekend - I haven't spent a full one at home YET!
Stay tuned for my next stop. Let's just say, we dropped off the Eurail pass and even the Euro for a little while...
...now, can you feel the anticipation?