Thursday, September 10th, 2009
The day before our Florence trip, and possible trip to Venice, so after class Rachel and I went to the library to try and figure out where we were going to stay. A big group of students in our group were going to stay in a duplex that was registered to one person, which I was trying to avoid. The issue (besides having 10 people crammed into two rooms) is that you need to register where you’re staying with the hotel. If unregistered people are in the room and the police come by (and they do this), these people are generally sent to jail for the night, something which I was trying to avoid.
After a long discussion, we decided not to plan for Venice, and to instead plan our Saturday and Sunday while already in Florence. With this in mind, Rain, Rachel and I went to the Capitoline Museums.
These museums were awesome. The Treaty of Rome was signed in one of the rooms, the original she-wolf of Rome was in another, and everywhere was ancient art and sculptures. The artwork was simply outstanding!
Getting back, I watched the fallout of the Venice trip amongst our group. There was much drama involved, as many people had already paid for the room or train tickets. Luckily we were smart and didn’t do any of this, so just kind of hid and watched the whole thing unfold. Much later there was a huge party at our apartment, where I sat around and listened to music while watching everyone else drink way too much.
Friday, September 11th, 2009
Remember that party? Unfortunately what they didn’t really consider is that we had to meet in front of the Rome Center at 8am. I woke up nice and early and packed for about one and a half nights, as that was really all I was willing to carry. We got on the bus and took the super fast Eurostar express to Florence. 250km and 90 minutes later, we arrived in the ancient town founded by Ceasar.
We took a bus to the heights surrounding town, as that was where the European University Institute (EUI) is located. This post-graduate institution of higher learning is founded by EU member states and supports research and other educational goals to advance EU policy. We had a pretty standard cafeteria lunch before touring the grounds of the university. Then we had a lecture from one of the Professors there about 9/11 (since it was the anniversary, after all) and the implications it has for human rights.
After a reception at the EUI afterwards, we took the bus back to Florence Proper and were on our own for the rest of the weekend. I took a nap before wandering around the river and then going into the interior of the place with Rain before getting back to our hotel at midnight or so.
Saturday, September 12th, 2009
Waking up at 8:00 for breakfast at the hotel, Rachel and I went to see “David,” which was not that great at first glance. Yet once I processed the artwork, I realized it was fairly impressive after all. Then we went to the Duomo (Florence Cathedral) and toured the inside before climbing up the very long way to the top of the dome to enjoy an amazing view of the Florentine skyline. We then met Rain and went to the Florence market where I got some scarves and ties before wandering off to eat lunch. Going back to the Hotel, Rachel and I had to plan our next move. In one hour of internet time at the hotel, we planned our destination, found a train schedule, booked a hotel, and in the closing minute scrawled out some random street names to where the hotel was located. We did not get a map.
We want to Palazzo Vecchio and stayed a while in the center of the renaissance before going to Ponte Vecchio (the bridge with all of the jewelry vendors on either side of the street crossing the road).
Slowly ambling back to the train station, we got on the Regional Train to Perugia departing at 18:13. Arriving in the dark at 20:18, I managed to buy 4 bus tickets from the rather unhelpful guy at the booth. When I asked if there was a map, he said that they didn’t have any, despite being an “Information Booth,” and said there were no maps around since every place was closed. He did point us to take a bus to the city center though.
A helpful guy waiting for the bus pointed us to the “right” autobus to get to the City Center. We dutifully got on, and as the bus went on, it seemed we weren’t really going anywhere. I was keeping an eye out for any signs to the City Center, and after what seemed to last forever, we showed up at what seemed to be the top of the hill and a semi-legit looking square. We got off, and saw a long street which was wide and full of people. Cautiously going down this via, we found the center square, but had no idea where to go from there. I decided to circle the square clockwise in hopes that we would find a street or Piazza which was one of the landmarks we had written down. After what seemed like forever, we found a small map which had one of the landmarks. Almost running down to this piazza, we finally found an amazing sign which pointed to our hotel.
I can’t really say how perfect it all worked out for navigation. We made some good guesses and managed to find the right place. Later we were talking about how calm we seemed on the bus, while individually we were both panicking in our heads about where we were going, if the stranger was actually helpful, where to get off, and where to go from there. The mistake we made was not getting a map beforehand from somewhere. I just assumed there would be a map at the Bus Ticket / Information booths which were everywhere. Lesson learned!
It was 9pm when we got in to the hotel, and luckily the lady who co-owned it spoke English quite well, as the Italian-portion of my brain was completely fried. She gave us a map, and some places to eat.
After throwing our stuff in our room, we went to a small street and got some wonderful Margarita Pizza before finding an underground lair restaurant and got some bread with mixed toppings, a baked cheese dish with truffles (the mushroom), Tiramisu, and some much-needed wine.
On the way back to our hotel, we saw the most amazing thing ever: it seemed the entire town was walking towards the center square at midnight. Some were young, some were old, some were wearing business suits, and even the town bishop showed up.
The Palazzo was completely packed, and everyone was speaking Italian. We have no idea why the party was happening, but it was a great experience and seemed to be fairly authentic.
Sunday, September 13th, 2009
After a much needed full night of sleep, we woke up at 8:30 and had a light breakfast at the hotel before going off to explore Perugia. It was raining! The streets were empty, and it was creepy as we walked through the town and found some awesome streets to walk down. Finding the old walls and lots of steps, we went around aimlessly before finding the main square again. We went to a museum featuring artwork from 12th century into present day, and was quite interesting to view the progression of artistic techniques. Then we went to an old Entruscian Well and a few more museums featuring various pieces of the Entruscian culture, including one which had a huge underground excavation site which was quite awesome.
One interesting thing about Perugia is that they have a series of escalators all over the city which help people from the “suburbs” make the journey to the center of the city, and part of this network is an underground tram which shuttles people through the area. The system was fairly amazing and very modern.
We then went to the underground fortress museum/ruins which was the perfect lair before finding a bus back to the train station. Taking a 2.5 hour train ride, we arrived at Rome around 8:30pm and took a crowded bus back to the stop near the Campo. One interesting thing was that a priest was right next to us on the bus, and I’ve never seen Italians so well-behaved. They don’t bat an eye when a nun is around, but the priest made everything very calm and orderly.
That was about it really for the weekend. The pictures for this might come later, as there are a lot of them and I don’t really have that much time!