Free travel is now officially over and we have arrived in Munich. After our stay in Rome, we made our way to Florence and checked in to our hostel, which was very nice. That evening we went to Piazzale Michelangelo and looked at the city from above. Florence really is a beautiful city, not too big, not too small – just right. Everything we did was within walking distance and the people were very friendly.
We had three full days for our stay so we decided to explore Florence on the first since we already had plans for the others. Our morning started at Accademia where David is housed. I’d seen it in many pictures and little replicas but nothing compares to the giganticness of the statue. Everyone really just stands there in awe at the detail put into it and how realistic it is. After that, we went to the Duomo which is the beautiful church which dominates Florence’s skyline. It was beautiful inside but it didn’t compare to Chisea di Santa Croce where every famous Italian in history is buried.
Of course, we went to the markets as well where you can get anything leather along with a lot of other stuff no one really needs. The funniest parts about the markets were the migrant workers who were selling bootleg purses. When the police would come around the corner they would yank all of them up in a sheet and throw it over their shoulder real quick so that the police couldn’t say anything to them. As soon as the police were five feet away they would lay them out again.
The following day we took the train to Cinque Terre where we hiked the route between five small Italian villages dotting the coast line. The weather was perfect and the towns were beautiful. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves on this one. We all agreed, this may have been our favorite day of the entire trip thus far. In one of the villages we heard a band playing so Rachel began to dance around the streets – until the marching band came around the corner with the casket and the entire village following in procession to the church. I definitely experienced second-hand embarrassment for her. But that little incident didn’t stop us from having a great day – this hike is a must for anyone traveling through Italy.
Our last day in Florence was fulfilled with a bike tour through the Tuscan countryside. We went to an old estate where they still make wine and oil and then we rode through the beautiful wine country. The whole time in Italy was filled with the best eating I’ve done on the trip so far with lots of pizza, pasta, and gelato. After a week straight of Italian I am looking forward to some sausages and pretzels while we’re here in Germany.
Since we only live once, we decided to squeeze in Venice on the very last day of free travel. That city certainly makes anyone a romantic and we took a gondola ride as a group right at sunset to take in the city and its hidden waterways. I look forward to returning, but next time it’ll be with my wife riding next to me in the gondola. What I enjoyed the most in Venice wasn’t listed in any guidebooks I had read but when I got there I knew I had to experience it. The square is full of pigeons and they sell pigeon food, so I did something I had only seen in movies. I tried to convince others to join me but they wouldn’t so I poured the food all over me and lay down so I was completely engulfed by them. It really is hilarious to watch someone covered with hundreds of pigeons. I know my Nana wouldn’t have approved but all of the pigeons looked very well groomed, and considering I had eaten one a few weeks back at a Chinese restaurant in London, I wasn’t too concerned about having them crawl all over me.
The night train to Munich in second class was an experience, with all of us and some random smoker who snored all night sleeping snugly in a little train car. I’ll do it again, but next time I will pay the extra money for first class so my bed can be a little bit longer. The week was great and Italy may now be my favorite country in Europe. Internet access may be scarce from now on so I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to update.