Thursday, September 06, 2007

Italy In A Nutshell

I've been meaning to throw up a few blog posts about Europe for about a week now. Since it's hard to know where to start though, I thought I'd begin with a brief recap and then segue into a few random observations and hidden gems we ran across on the trip.

We embarked on our celebratory post-bar trip at the beginning of August. After bumming around in Switzerland for two weeks, we made our way to Italy. Our first stop was Florence. If you've never been, it's truly worth a visit. Our initial impressions, however, weren't so gushing. Perhaps it was the city's stark contrast to Switzerland as we drove through a ridiculous maze of streets in trying to track down our bed & breakfast. Bern might just be the cleanest city on earth while, as we drove in circles through Florence, the place seemed overrun by graffiti with shops everywhere closed up. Luckily, the city's charms quickly grew on us though. Our hotel was just two blocks from the famed Il Duomo (one of the largest churches in the world), which allowed us to spend a lot of time wandering the narrow downtown streets. The archaic street layout that so frustrated us on our arrival is actually pretty endearing. They've tried to keep it from changing too much in order to maintain the city's ancient character. There's a mess of history there, a lot of it awe-inspiring. From the famed Medici palaces, to the picturesque Ponto Vecchio, to the perfection of Michaelangelo's David, to Machiavelli's tomb. We also found out the reason for all the closed up shops we noticed on our way in... despite August being Florence's busiest tourist month, half of the city heads out on vacation. Go figure.

Next we drove the Chianti road through Siena to Rome, a city that is everything it's cracked up to be. We relished our time there... outside of having our camera ripped off that is (those damn Gypsies). From the Vatican to the Roman Forum, few cities have such a sense of antiquity. I could honestly sit inside the Pantheon for hours. One of our favorite things was all the amazing artists that lined the streets and piazzas peddling their works. We came home with more than a few pictures to frame.

After four days of tromping through Rome's many museums, cathedrals, parks and ruins, we broke for Naples. Now I'm not sure what you've heard, but I think you should know that Naples is essentially the butthole of Italy. It's only worth going to because of how close it is to so many other choice spots. We spent our two short days there first taking a boat to Capri to hit the beach and then driving the Amalfi Coast. With no time for things like Pompeii, Mount Vesuvius, or the Blue Grotta, though, we promised ourselves we'd return.

Last but not least, we returned to Switzerland by way of Milan. We only spent one night there, but as Melbo can attest, the shopping was fantastic. Melbo already wants to go back.

Some random highlights and lowlights:
  • Word to the wise... most of Italy hasn't heard of toilet seats yet.
  • The Italian police... whose idea were the hats?
  • Just in case it seals the deal for you... rest assured that there are segway tours of Florence.
  • One fine piece of ass...
  • A great place to buy "David-inspired" paraphernalia for the kids.
  • Even McDonald's got a Gelatoria.
  • Hands down the greatest statue I have ever seen in my entire life. Buy your own replica here.
  • Choice menu items... although I've got to tell you, the boiled ox tongue isn't all it's made out to be.
  • Italians love kids. Almost everyone we passed seemed to coo at E and we were stopped more than a few times by passerbys who wanted their picture with him.
  • And finally a spoiler alert. Erich's true identity... Emperor Palpatine


buddens said...

Looks like you guys eventually bought a new camera? Gotta love American Express! (We had a run-in with some gypsies too, but Michel menacingly barked the F-word at them and scared them off).

We saw those "David" boxers everywhere in Venice too. And the toilet seats ... stark contrast to the self-cleaning ones in Switzerland! And I have to agree, although we never saw a gelateria in McDonald's, I have to say Italian McDonald's are my favorite! They put so much sauce on their sundae's, it's great!

And my favorite is that Erich has his shirt unbuttoned to impress the hot girl holding him. You've taught him well!

David said...

Did you come across any "toilets" that were just holes in the ground? Those were my favorite.

melbo said...

Actually Melanie, we unbuttoned his shirt because it was super humid and he was a little furnace. And he's a freakin' hottie.
The toilets were a joke. I rate restaurants in the US on the quality of their bathrooms, but things were the opposite out there. We didn't see any holes in the ground, David-but then we didn't go anywhere too fancy. I wasted a lot of toilet paper lining the seats and more than once I had to spread my legs wide open to keep from falling in.
Great trip, though. I can't wait to go do it all over again!

Marc said...

Buddens - And an overpriced camera at that. It takes solid pictures though. I truly wish we had more of a "run-in" to speak of... it would have been a more satisfying way to get ripped off. Instead, the camera was sleuthly stolen while we were sitting secluded under a tree in the Villa Borghese Gardens. A passerby alerted us to the theft just after it happened, and I scoured the gardens, but to no avail.

David - We were fortunate enough to avoid any "hole" encounters.

Melbo - Hmmmm... there seem to be a lot of people with a "wide stance" in the news these days.

Alifinale said...

I am 100% jealous! I so want to go to Europe. Looks like you had good times, and of course E was a hit!

Marc said...

Next summer before you guys cash out at a law firm Ali... you'll have earned yourself a getaway after putting up with three years of law school and a year of slugging away as court clerk.

CRAIGERS said...

I must sounds like the month was well spent. And after all your time at "work"?? you two deserved it. Wonderful pics too. BUMMER about the camera though.

King Family said...

We had the exact same feelings about Italy. Rome was my favorite. Florence was beautiful but Rome was more exciting. My brother in law's camera was stolen in between the two cities as well. How funny. What a great trip. BTW, I didn't know you were married to Anne Hathaway. (your wife looks exactly like her.)

Marc said...

Craig - Is that a dig?! ;) Don't you worry... come Monday I'll be doing my fair share of work and more.

Blondemama (aka King Family) - Italy is definitely good times. My mouth is watering for a fresh basil, tomato, and mozzarella salad right now. As for Anne Hathaway... you're not the first to notice the comparison. Melbo sounds off about it here (in one of my favorite Melbo blog posts).

Morris Family said...

Cool pics! Sounds like you guys had a great time.

Erich's grown so much. He's a handsome little guy!

stevie bevie said...

SLC provides segway tours as well. Liz went on one and tells me it was super sweet.

Marc said...

Morris - I'll have to agree with you there. He's a looker. Red-hair and all.

Stevie - You passed on a segway tour of SLC?! Why the hell didn't you go?

annakramer66 said...

Florence Segway tour – perfect way to see the city! We all had fun and it was great to have the overview in the beginning to get used to the Segway and insure our confidence in driving them. The information shared along the way was interesting and educational.

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