Today wrapped up our final day in Italy. We depart first thing tommorrow morning via high speed train into Rome, which should take about an hour and a half.
I slept in today, got up just after noon, had an awesome sandwich at the local cafe (although I belive they call them bars).
Did a little bit of writing, and then walked around. It started raining shortly after I left the Internet Cafe. I headed back and mostly sat around and watched the European Games on TV and some CNN International. Florence really isn’t any fun in the rain.
Tomorrow we leave at 7:10am for the train. We’ll arrive in Rome and then make our way to Agnone where my great-grandfather (my mothers, mothers, father) is from.
We leave Monday for Switzerland where we’ll see Remo and GÃ¼nter.
I leave late Wednesday or early Thursday for Germany so that I can fly out of Frankfurt Airport to Denver via Dulles.
Most people were surprised that I wasn’t taking my computer with me, but the reality of the situation is that I don’t really need my tablet to check email, update my blog, check my RSS feeds, or chat online.
What I took with me:
512MB Lexar ThumbDrive – $59.99 (I bought it 6 months ago, prices have dropped since)
Firefox Portable extracts straight to the thumbdrive.
You can install Skype straight to the thumbdrive too (or just copy Skype.exe from your existing installation), however you will also need to create a BAT file to make sure it loads your profile. On my thumbdrive, I have a folder called Phone with Skype.exe inside. I also have a BAT file called skype.BAT. In skype.BAT, copy and paste this code:
skype.exe /datapath:"Data" /removable
Then create a new directory in Phone called Data. Skype will now use that location to store your profile. This is very important when you start using computers in places like Italy where the computer language is set to Italian.
PuTTY is an open source SSH client I use to connect to various computer systems, such as my site.
Flickr Uploadr is what I use to upload my wonderful pictures. The downside of Flickr Uploadr is that I have to authorize on every computer I use it on. This is not that big of a deal as I just deauthorize when I’m done. But it does beat using the web interface every time.
Unlike yesterday, today was an early day. We had a 9:30 walking tour around Florence. Italy has some great treasures within it’s cities and it was neat to hear about them. .
Almost all of the items we saw were the originals, which I thought was very amazing because they not only survived this long, but they are also in such great shape.
We finished up at the Accademia Gallery where we saw The David.
It really is an amazing piece of work and I would have gotten a better picture if taking pictures were allowed (which they aren’t).
Afterwords, I took off to the Museo di Storia del Scienza, or simply the Science Museum. Unlike the Science Museum in London, this one was not free. However, they had some amazing artifacts on display, including the middle finger of Galileo.
The two floors of the museum covered most of the scientific revolution of the 17th century. From devices to calculate the position of planetary bodies to telescopes to see the actual bodies. Microscopes, primitive medicine, electricity, even basic physics.
I really wish I could have taken pictures. But like the Accademia Gallery and the Uffizi, no photos or video are allowed. The museum also was not very crowded, so it would have been harder to sneak pictures with my rather large D70.
After all the walking I’ve done so far, I’m ready for a break.
Dad and Brian arrived slightly earlier then we thought they would last night, but that was. Dad brought computer, so I was able to take a break from watching CNN International and was able to watch two more episodes (one disc worth) of The Prisoner.
The only thing planned for today was the walking tour of the Uffizi.
After staying up a little later then I should have, I woke up, grabbed a quick continental breakfast downstairs, and then went back to bed, finally waking up around 12:30pm.
The Uffizi is one of Florence’s most popular attractions. Not being an art buff, I had a hard time truly appreciating all the items inside. I personally think the history of the building is more interesting then the thing inside.
The word Uffizi comes from the Italian word for “offices,” as in office building. The building was built around the mid 16th Century for the Medici family. They used the top floor to store items they collected, thus turning it into a private museum.
Eventually the Medici family lost control, the Uffizi was turned over to the public, and a museum was born.
With the official tour complete, we went to the cafe on the roof and had a quick break.
View from the top of the Uffizi looking at Duomo:
The Uffizi did have an excellent special exhibit on Leonardo da Vinci. The tour guide informed us that Leonardo’s last name is actually not da Vinci. Da Vinci means “from Vinci” which is now called Florence. Leonardo’s last name is actually “di ser Piero”, which means “son of Piero”. Thus his full name becomes “Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci”, or “Leonardo, son of Piero from Vinci.” Leonardo was an unusual name for the time, so it was simple enough to call him Leonardo from Vinci, or Leonardo da Vinci.
As the sun began to set, we made our way to the Piazzale Michelangelo, known as the premiere spot to watch the sun set. It really is:
I had the entire day before Dad and Brian arrived. I spent various parts of the day walking around, checking out the sights, getting some Internet related things done, and just decompressing in general.
We’re staying at the Welcome to the Hotel San Giorgio & Olimpic in Florence, which is about here.
Behind us is a giant outdoor street market lined with carts. People mostly sell leather coats, belts, purses. Also tshirts and other memorabilia.
That street is actually pretty wide, even with all the carts in it. A lot of the side streets are small, especially when cars park on the street.
There are a lot of cars, for what seems like such a small area, but I think there are even more Vespas and a few of these Vespa-like vehicles made by BMW:
I also have seen a lot of little motor vehicles like this:
I discovered I “own” a tie shop:
I made it all the way down to Ponte Vecchio, which literally means “Old Bridge” in Italian. It spans the river Arno and is Europe’s oldest bridge. Amazingly, it wasn’t destroyed during WWII due to the express wishes of a German commander to preserve the bridge. So instead of destroying the bridge, they bombed the buildings on both sides of it to make it impassable.
It is said that the economic concept of bankruptcy originated here: when a merchant could not pay his debts, the table on which he sold his wares (the “banco”) was physically broken (“rotto”) by soldiers, and this practice was called “bancorotto” (broken table; possibly it can come from “banca rotta” which means “broken bank”). Not having a table anymore, the merchant was not able to sell anything.
Here’s the Duomo, which translates into Cathedral:
I walked around quite a bit this night, actually looking for an Internet cafe that was open. It’s amazing how busy things are even after the sun sets. I was also amazed at how many hotels are in Florence.
First off, the keyboard here in Italy is even weirder then in London. Second, Italy requires, by law, businesses that offer Internet access to the public to ask users for identification. Somehow that’s supposed to thwart terrorism. Whatever. Here’s an USA Today article on it
(Note: I just figured out how to remap the keys on the keyboard to use the United States layout. This should go smoother now).
We took a taxi from our hotel (Columbia Hotel) to Gatwick airport (see map). The ride took over an hour, which is rather long considering we only went 30 miles.
Check in was simple and security was lax, especially by our standards.
After you pass through security, you end up in an area which I can describe best as a holding pen. You don’t know what gate you need to go to, so you just hang around here with everyone else until the monitor is updated with your gate information.
I took the opportunity to look at the shops and contemplate buying some earphones as I broke mine on flight from LAX to London. Despite the duty free pricing, the exchange rate was still horrible enough to prevent me from buying anything. I did, however, discover that I “own” an electronics brand.
Our gate number was finally displayed and we walked over to our gate “holding pen.”
We boarding our Airbus A319 from the outside, not on a jetway. I’ve never done that on plane of this size before.
We were pushed back by this beast and then we took off!
The flight was two hours long, but we also gained an hour (take note! I’m now +0200 GMT, which is 9 hours a head of pacific time.
We landed, walked down the stairs, and boarded a bus to the main terminal. We passed through customs in about 30 seconds and then mom picked up her checked bag.
This was the first country we’ve been in that is predominately non-English speaking. We spent the next 10 minutes trying to figure out where to get Euros and where to catch a vehicle of some sort to the city center so we could get to our hotel.
We were finally able to catch a bus. Once we got of the bus, it took another half hour to go the 200 or so meters to our hotel.
The weather outside was sunny, 32 C. In the last few hours, though, it’s turned very cloudy, although still very hot. And now it’s raining.
The last few days have been really packed. So I took the chance today just to walk around a bit. Here are some of my photo highlights. Remember that you can view all the Europe photos on Flickr . Also remember that London is currently +0100 GMT, which puts it 8 hours ahead of those in the Pacific time zone.
Advertisement in general is different. I didn’t feel barraged with crap from companies like I do in the US. When I am assaulted by advertisements, its from someone handing me a pamphlet, which actually quite often. But it’s different because I can readily choose to ignore it.
Also, in the phone booths: advertisements for female escort services, or whatever the heck you want to call them, are everywhere.
Gambling is legal. Even on the Internet.
Extension Cords vs Socket Extenders.
Internet Cafes are slow. At least by my standards.
Internet Cafes are also hot..which makes sense considering how many computers some of them have. It really does feel like a server room.
Cold vs Chilled. Example: Cold beverages vs. Chilled beverages.
Strollers vs. Push Chairs
Cash Registers vs. Tills
And they call / a stroke, instead of a slash (or a whack).
We spent about two hours yesterday and another three hours today figuring out what the heck we’re going to do. First it was France, then Scotland, France again, but not Scotland would be nice to.
One of the main reasons for going to Scotland would be to see our really extended relatives and visit all the dead ones too. But the area was remote, a good hours drive from the largest area and there was no way we were going to try and drive on the left side of the road (it was hard enough just trying to cross it on foot).
France didn’t seem to enticing, despite the ability to see such great things as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. And to only have a day there? That didn’t really make sense either.
We eventually decided to do nothing, the rest of today in London, then head out first thing tomorrow for Italy.