Sunday, July 06, 2008


scan0013_1I just moved so I can't even begin to know where to look for my photos. I found a few randoms on my computer.

My impressions
In the north people are better dressed - tailored, clean, neat, orderly. As you go south the people begin to change and you're more likely to see things like graffiti and overflowing garbage cans.

Tour guides are heavily regulated in Italy. People have to jump through a lot of bureaucratic hoops and do a lot of studying to become licensed tour guides. They know a lot of information, but oddly enough that doesn't always make them good guides. In some places it was worth having them but in others it just... wasn't. I think it really depends on the person and the place.

Everything seemed insanely expensive. The best way to deal with this is to just stop translating the prices into your home currency. How often do you go to Italy?

Things I did not like
The smog. I barely saw blue sky the whole time I was there.

People smoke in pubs and that was kind of gross.

The overcommercialization of monuments, holy sites and attractions. Everything you're supposed to see is surrounded by people trying to sell you tacky crap. Tourist traps are just not my thing.

I liked the feel of these cities and I really wish we could have stayed there longer. Milan's famous for the painting of the Last Supper and for its fashion. We were instructed to wear sunglasses there at all times but I don't think that made us look less like dumb tourists.

Verona has the Romeo and Juliet Museum at the Capulet house. You can walk into the courtyard and see Juliet's balcony (which is a lot smaller than I imagined it). All over the walls and trees in the courtyard people have left love letters, notes and wishes, so it's kind of neat. You're supposed to give Juliet a rub for good luck. You'll know where to touch her when you get there.


I liked Florence! I would have liked to have spent a couple more days there because there was more to see. Everyone else I knew went out shopping but I went with the teachers to the Uffizi instead. I knew it was a big art gallery but what I didn't know when I walked in was that there are soooo many really famous works in there. It was also relatively cheap. It cost six euros, which was the same amount it cost to see just the statue of David.

There's also a huge cathedral with a big dome that you can climb to the top of if you have time and don't mind stairs or the lineup. All around that area there are some other galleries and museums about the Medicis and the Renaissance to check out.

There's the tower that everyone goes to see but I found the baptistry more interesting. Because of the way the roof is shaped, sounds in there echo several times. You're not supposed to talk in there but our guide convinced the grounds keeper to sing a song. It wasn't very long but the notes hung in the air and began to blend with each other. I'd never heard anything like it.

I thought all of Umbria was really beautiful. Unlike most of the rest of the country they don't put plaster on their buildings so everything was built with warm coloured stone bricks. We stayed in a boarding house for people on their pilgrimage to Assisi. I thought Assisi was very beautiful and that the churches were very distinct, but because I'm not Catholic the St. Francis and St. Claire stuff wasn't all that exciting, and neither was the fact that the only thing the shops sell around there seems to be rosaries.

I found Capri absolutely charming, its white cliffs and blue ocean, its giant lemons on backyard trees, one-way streets, tanned people, three-wheeled mini garbage trucks. If you can drag yourself away from the touristy bits where they ply you with free limoncello shots there's lots of hiking and beautiful people. It's worth going on a boat tour.

Rome was just not as magical for me as they say it is and I can't put my finger on why. Not that it isn't worth visiting. There's no shortage of stuff to do once you're there and I think if I went back to Italy I'd give it a second shot.

The Vatican
Bad place to have a guide. The lady doing our tour wouldn't answer any of my questions but talked and talked and talked and would not shut up. We spent an hour and a half in a hot, crowded hallway while she explained what to expect when we entered the Sistine Chapel so by the time we made it in our feet were tired and we were hungry, and it was too crowded with people for any of us to take a good look at the ceiling anyways. No doubt if I was religious I would probably have came away from the place with a different impression, but I found the grandeur of it merely fed my pre-existing dislike of the Catholic Church. Something tells me that holy or no, you don't get that rich without exploiting people. Not that it's not worth seeing by any means.

Venice is beautiful and I think it's worth taking a tour through the Doges Palace and the prison. Even though it's something we can do at home, buying some corn to feed the pigeons is cheap fun. The shopping is pretty monotonous. Venice is a bit of a maze. Major landmarks are relatively easy to find, but that shop you wanted to go back to because you changed your mind? You'd need a GPS to find it because maps won't help you.