Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Italy, day 8

On our last full day in Florence, tourguide Kim took me to the Duomo so that I too could take in just how huge the thing is. Her pictures from actually going up into the large dome tell the tale better than my little shots do, but here they are anyway.

The fact that there's an indoor sundial helps illustrate this place's size a bit. It was darker in here than these photos suggest; that's just the piece of reality a long exposure trades away I guess. That and, the people walking around weren't actually all that blurry. :^)

Il Porcellino! The custom here is that if you pet the pig's nose, you're destined to return to Florence.

Sounds good to us.

The remainder of the day was mainly spent at a couple of art museums, the Accademia and the Uffizi. Again, no pictures allowed inside. I would agree with a no-flash policy, but renaissance art belongs to the world. Anyway I'll skip the soapboxing and just say that no matter how many times one has seen photos or videos of the Birth of Venus, David, or any of the less-famous pieces housed there, it's quite incredible to walk up and let your eyes drink the stuff in in person. The sheer size of some of these works is impressive, let alone the detail and how well so many have held up over time.

Sunday would have been day 9, though we didn't take in much to share. We woke up prior to the crack of dawn, caught a taxi to the train station, took a train to Roma Termini, rode another train to the airport, stood in a bunch of lines, got picked out for bag inspection several times, flew for an inhumane amount of time, ran from one end of the airport in Boston to the other and back to just barely catch our connection, flew again in increased discomfort, waited for luggage that, as it turned out, had never left Boston, came home and collapsed.

To the credit of whatever airline or agency deserves credit for such things, our luggage did get delivered the next day.


The idea of running off to Europe to find oneself (or whatever the cliche is) has always had a curious appeal, but living and eating and working and walking in Florence for a week has given me some real interest in that kind of travel. We got to do both touristy-type stuff and explore things on our own, the latter of which was especially satisfying. I've long been aware of some of the cultural and practical differences one encounters when leaving this melting-pot of ours, but physically experiencing a slice of Italy has made those a lot more tangible. Some differences I very much enjoyed, others not so much...

Population and traffic and transportation are basically solved problems in Italy, at least compared to our situation here. I think the US is a young enough country that we tend to flail wildly between different approaches, be it in our politics, how we deal with social problems, or in our city and suburban development. Italy has had a long time to sort these things out. At least that was my impression.

Italians are thin. :^) Of course, they walk everywhere while smoking, which I'm sure helps. But the meals there are several courses, not skimping on the portions either. These meals do tend to be composed primarily of actual food (as in, not chemicals), which probably factors in somewhere.

Speaking of meal quantities, the drink-to-food ratio is much lower in Italy. If I were to venture a not-very-serious guess, I'd say this might be partially attributed to the scarcity and scariness of public restrooms. (Some public toilets feature paid time slices and automatic doors, which neither of us dared try, and others are apparently locked doors with no handles, which stumped us entirely.)

I'll take plazas and markets over strip malls and retail giants any day. Even when the merchants are selling mass-produced items, walking around shops with atmosphere and personality just feels much more human than the karts and registers and aisles of boxes we've got here. Kim told me about a shop she walked by that had someone inside making puppets. It's more cost-efficient to have colossal stores of stuff made by third world laborers, but there are more kinds of costs than hard numbers.

...Wow, this has gotten long. Anyway, we had a great time. We'd love to learn the language and return someday. (Wouldn't want to let down il Porcellino!) Anyway, back to my usual, infrequent, unfocused blogging about random nonsense. When we have a proper full album up, I'll be sure to toss a link here though.

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