Wednesday, December 10, 2008

...but I wasn't there very long.

Florence was nice.

But Arezzo was just... whoa...

My sister has been living at the Accademia Dell'Arte in Arezzo, Italy, since early September (or was the late August?)... anyways, it was a long time.

So we went to Arezzo to visit her.

We had to wait a little while until she got out of class... so the resident guard dog entertained us.

As for small-town Italy? When you're making a little trek through Italy, you may be tempted to hit all the highlights - Milan, Florence, Venice, Rome - but there is something really incredible about seeing how the REAL Italians live.

Okay, the people in the big cities ARE real Italians... but... if you have a vision of "Italy" instead of "New York Citaly" then get outside the cities. Go an hour or more. Go to Arezzo. Go to Stresa. Go to Assisi. See the ways Italy USED to be...

With quiet pedestrian streets...

...1000-year-old cathedrals...

...and the gargantuan pigeons to go with them...

I'm sure you can stay in a Bed & Breakfast anywhere in Europe... but when you go small-town B&B, there's something to be said about the experience.

Did the proprietors speak ANY english? Nope.
Did we have to do the ring-once-knock-twice thing? Yep.
Was the door unlocked with a skeleton key? Yep.

It was a very wonderful experience, honestly.

Arezzo is so small there is only one touristy shop and most of it is "antique" souvenirs. Yep, pretty darn cool.

The parents were really enjoying themselves. We all got to see Hailey. And we were onward to our final stop...


It was quite enjoyable to take a walk through the Forum again...

...and just turn the corner to see the Coliseum at the end of the street.

A few of you may remember me writing about Trevi Fountain back in April when I visited the first time: when I was there, I did the good ol' throw the coins in the fountain "as a down payment for my return trip to Rome."


...lets see if I go back for Round 3.


And THAT was the most touristy thing I did the whole time; we definitely saw all the touristy things, but we did well staying away from the black-socks-and-shorts-crowd...

But in mother's constant search for Pashmina scarves that have "Made In Italy" on the tag, we came across this little friend:

Kinda wish my apartment would let me have a cat.


We spent the first day with the Forum and downtown, but we headed to the Coliseum on the morning of the second day.

A little rain never hurt anybody.

And in 2000 years, I'm pretty sure the Coliseum isn't bothered by it much, either.

At times in a torrential downpour, my parents and I left this side of town and took the metro out to...

Vatican City.

The first time I was here, I waited about 15 minutes in the line. We thought we had done good to get there 15min before it opened! Well, this time we took our time and got there at 11am... and didn't stand in a line.

Just as I remembered... I mean, how much could the Vatican really change?

The big ball wasn't spinning today.

And I noticed a little quirk. See if you can see it, too. Look closely:

I don't remember the brontosaurus in the Bible but maybe I wasn't reading close enough.

That was on the ceiling of the Hall of Maps in the Vatican Museum. It MUST be true, right?

Oh, and here's my contribution to this month's edition of "Taking Pictures of Things I'm Not Supposed to be Taking Pictures Of."

Yeah yeah... everybody in the room was doing it. I guess it wasn't against the rules that day.

Photos of the Sistine Chapel aside, it was really cool to see this staircase again.

I think I like the new one. I wonder if they'll let me put it on the next cover, too!


So, by this time of the day, we were all quite famished. And it was raining.

More pizza? Yes.

But we weren't through at the worlds smallest sovereign state...

And I got to see the inside! I had not before. Its a good rainy-day thing to do.

Nuns in the rain. We were in the rain, too. Stand in line for a while to put your stuff through X-ray machines and metal detectors. I'm glad digital cameras are not damaged by X-rays. I went through probably a dozen just during this trip... maybe even more.

By the way, my previous excursion overseas involved a Nikon D80. During that 4 month span I rode it hard and put it up wet quite a few times - even dropping on Mt. Precipice in Nazareth, Israel, and breaking the 18-135mm - and it made it home and is still kicking 75,000 shutter cycles later. Dust storms, rain, snow, extreme cold, all of it... Sure, people in our group came home with their digicams with shattered LCDs and lens extension tubes unable to retract anymore, but the D80 - plastic body and all - definitely can handle being beat photojournalist style.

My D300 this time didn't bat an eye. Rain, snow and cold was about all the "extreme" conditions it had to handle. As for image quality, the D80 is shelved to the D300, but... what do you really expect. Images like: the the high ISO range would have been practically impossible. Little soft? Probably. Still a little dark? Yeah, my bad.

But its kinda cool to be able to set a camera at 800ISO or 1600ISO and let it run. I don't think I took a single photo over 3200ISO the entire trip.

ANYways... nerdy-ness done. Promise.

After a sardine-like ride through the Metro to the Spanish Steps...

...the trip came to an end. All too soon. We flew out of Rome to Newark, NJ, on Saturday after the Thanksgiving rush... but we made it back to Atlanta and finally home about 1am Sunday morning.

At 9am Monday morning I was back in class in Arkansas.

Between classes on Monday, I had a thought: 2 days ago I was looking at the Coliseum as we drove by it on the way to the airport. How small this world really is!?

The Coliseum...

...the aqueducts of Arezzo...

...the Milan Duomo...

...and the flooded streets of Venice...

...they are all closer than you think. No alien planet. Its just a little plane ride across the sea.

Nothing changes the way you see life more than traveling to places that are completely different from anything you've ever seen before. You may have seen gigantic buildings in Big City America, but you won't be able to wrap your head around a 1000-year-old structure built WITHOUT cranes and WITHOUT any computers... done completely by hand and simple machines.

Call me old-fashioned, but that is a testament to the power of the human mind. Not "hey let's see if we can invent something because we're too lazy to do it ourselves"... instead they were thinking "Hey, this is what we have; its not much, but let's do our best."

Yeah, kinda corny, I know... but in a couple hundred years, I'd prefer to be thought of as someone who would have done great things with less instead of taking the easy way out.

Normal posts resume soon. No more overseas travel for now.

Stay tuned,
~noah d.

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