Yes, the rumors are true: in Italy, there really is pizza on every corner.
Florence, Pisa, Rome... even the Pope's house has a pizzeria, but Kari and I soon agreed that he should stick to his day job (Popery).
You can walk the entirety of Florence within a few hours and yet you can't hope to take in the twenty-plus monuments and attractions there within a week. However, making the most of our two days in Florence, Kari and I managed to check out:
-the Duomo, the Baptistery of San Giovanni, and the Basilica of San Lorenzo, three churches conveniently located next door to one another,
-the Church of Santa Croce, where greats such as Donatello, Michelangelo, and presumably the other ninja turtles, are buried,
-the Ponte Vecchio, the only major bridge left standing in Florence after WWII, now a major centre of bling,
-the Uffizi Gallery, home of Botticelli's Birth of Venus,
-the Accademia Gallery, home of Michelangelo's David, and
-the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza, whose foremost exhibit focuses squarely on Galileo's Telescope.
Add to that an initial day trip to Pisa, where the tower and shops may be shifty but the pizza and pasta are definitely bang on. (While every meal in Italy was delicious, we found the foodstuffs in Pisa to be on a level of their own.)
When not taking in the sights around town, a good deal of our time was spent in PLUS Florence itself, a hostel which (remarkably) gave Villa Saint-Exupery a considerable run for its money! Aside from the aforementioned swimming pool and sauna, PLUS also had a great restaurant area and bar, along with an amazing view of Florence from its uppermost rooftop patio; all the makings of a great place to hang out after a day's exploration.
While Florence as a city had the feel of an aging town formerly the the centre of art and culture, Rome is very much a bustling metropolis, yet one still rooted in, and respectful of, its history. A casual turn off a side road will lead to a quiet square hidden from view, complete with immaculate statues, fountains, and the occasional ancient egyptian obelisk thrown in. Like Paris, Rome is easily navigable on foot or via the metro, so the numerous points of interest are never out of reach. Even out-of-the way destinations such as the Vatican and the Catacombs only require a short transfer by bus, and are definitely worth the effort. On a spiritual level, I count our visit to the tomb of John Paul II and passing through the shrouded halls of the Catacombs among the high points of the trip.
Capping off this adventure on Friday night, after a few free pizzas and 3-token beers, Kari and I found ourselves sitting at the Alessandro Palace bar, feeling utterly amazed at all we had seen and overwhelmed by what a great time we'd had. Though we are returning home, Edmonton now seems like only a brief stopover along a greater journey still ahead.
Until next time, how about a few choice snapshots to sum up our Italian experience?
Ed finds pushing over the Leaning Tower more difficult than at first glance...
...although Kari makes it look easy to hold up.
PLUS Florence is where the fun's at!
The Duomo (Arigato).
Kari makes a new friend outside the Uffizi.
A photographable copy of David.
Being naked must mean less wind resistance with the slingshot.
Ed gets some perspective on Galilean science.
The Ponte Vecchio.
Santa Croce. Each rectangle on the flooring is a tomb marker!
Did it justify the means?
Hotel Alessandro Palace, the #1 Roman hideaway with nightly free pizza parties.
The sacred Court of the Pinecone at the Vatican. I'm not kidding.
"He's-a cookin'-a somethin' up-a!"
The Pope will not see you if are missing a leg, bicep, or any part of your swimsuit.
Kari and Ed people-watch on the Spanish Steps.
Dove est Waldo?
Ed's shoes always come undone when there's a gelateria nearby.
The towering Pantheon.
Kari bemusedly wonders when the bread will arrive.
The majestic Trevi Fountain.
Ed at the entrance to the Catacombs.
A spectator's view of the mighty Coliseum.
The Roman Forum awaits.
With a tranquil walk through the Forum, Kari and Ed bid arrivederci to Italy.