I wanted to write about this because it was a pretty cool experience and wanted to share it. I also wanted to put out some suggestions and or things that I might do, but we will get to that later. So now let’s talk about my trip to Italy.
I don’t want to sound all pompous and shit about traveling abroad, but everyone should do it at least once just to see how other countries and other cultures around the world are. As Americans it’s easy to forget everything else that goes on outside our borders and for those that think America sucks I encourage you to travel to another country and see for yourself how much better in every aspect the US is.
I have been to a few different places (London, Paris, Versailles, Nice, Cannes, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Lloret de mar, and now I can add Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Rome to my list.) But this is certainly the longest I have been out of the country, I was gone almost 2 weeks. And I have to say that by the end of the trip I was kind of ready to get home. Traveling is certainly fun, but it is expensive and also exhausting. Still now that we are back we are already talking about where we want to go next.
We took months to plan out trip, I say we but my wife did the bulk of the planning and I have to give her credit, she did an excellent job. Obviously we knew about all the big cities Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan, those were the obvious choices to start with. We had also seen pictures of Cinque Terre and wanted to go there but did not know if we would have enough time. So we eliminated Milan after some quick deliberation. I have heard from multiple people that Milan is not really that cool. It’s mostly an industrial city and lots of fashion stuff, which is not really my thing. But if you like that, then by all means keep that on your list. Plus there is also one of the most spectacular gothic cathedrals there that I kind of wanted to see, but it did not really makes sense to travel there just to see it, so maybe another time. After that we had our cities, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, then Rome.
We decided to fly into Venice then train to Florence, train to Cinque Terre, then train to Rome where we would fly home. Our trip took us from north east Italy to central Italy, Tuscany, then to the west coast and down the southern coast. I think this is possible the best way to see Italy given an 12 day trip. We really got to see all different aspects of a very different and unique country. I will say that I was surprised how dry Tuscany was, it almost reminded me of a desert. Still there were tons of farms and wineries. I have read that grapes do not need much in terms of care or water so they are fine, but I am curious as to what else Tuscany grows? Again perhaps that is a trip for another time.
Italy is a country that has so much to offer from ancient history to the newest fashion. It really is a great place to visit given that they have so much history in each and every city. While this could also be said about any or most European cities, Italy is still unique and here is why, it can be summed up in one word, Renaissance.
Yes the French have Descartes and Voltaire, the English have Newton and Hawking, the Dutch had van Gogh, and Rembrandt, but the Italians have Michelangelo, Rafael, Donatello, Dante, da Vinci, Galileo, Machiavelli, Julius Cesar, Cesar Augustus, and I will add Enrico Fermi to that list (I am certain I left off some others for the other countries but you get the idea). Almost all are house hold names that the average person will know almost immediately. And listing all these glorious and wonderful individuals, it brings me to my favorite city in Italy, Florence, which consequentially is the birth place of the Renaissance and for that matter the birthplace of modern thought.
I will start by saying that it is things like this that still give me hope in mankind. The idea that the brightest minds in the world can gather in one place to create new things, artwork, and simply just to share ideas is something that warms the heart and speaks volumes to the human spirit. It was certainly neat and gave me goose bumps being in the city where such famous and brilliant men once walked the streets even if it was over 500 years ago. I will also say that while this is really neat these scientists and artist did not do it for free, which is understandable, a person has to eat ya’ know. This whole thing was financed by the Medici family, which if you remember from your history class was a wealthy banking family from Florence, they single handedly brought humanity out of the Dark Ages, and that is pretty cool. I think this is one of the reasons this was my favorite city. To me this is the place where real true western thought, art, and logic began. And being in that same city where this all took place was a remarkable feeling.
On this trip there were only two things that I thought were truly spectacular, unfathomable, and near impossible to comprehend and one was the Duomo or the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. This building is one of the most spectacular I have ever seen with my own two eyes. As I have said it is almost beyond comprehension and you have to see it for yourself to completely understand. There were times when we were walking down the city streets toward the Duomo and because of the light and shadows and its massiveness, it seriously looked like it was a CGI background on a movie screen. I stared at it as we continued to walk toward it and even though we got closer it still did not look real, only when you get right up on it do you think it is real. IT was one of the most bizarre things I have seen, but that is not the reason I was impressed with it. It is massive, I think the third largest church in the world and to think it was built over 600 years ago, which again is mind boggling. The stone work on the building is absolutely amazing, how these people built this with such precision over 600 years ago is extremely impressive.
San Croce is also a very cool place to visit. This is the cathedral that houses the burials of Galileo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Enrico Fermi among so many other famous Italians. It was certainly something to be in a building where so many of the most famous brilliant minds are buried. These were not just great individuals they were pioneers of their time, names that are synonyms with genius and helping mankind. If you think I am blowing smoke up their asses, you’re damn right I am. Galileo invented modern astronomy by inventing a telescope and pointing it at the sky, confirming that we were not the center of the universe as we had thought. It cost him his life, but he was right and forever changed science and our place in the cosmos. I also got to see the actual telescope that he invited, which is pretty cool. Hearing about these things in school is one thing, but actually seeing that they are real and exist is way cooler. It brings history to life so to speak.
One of the people that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle is Machiavelli who wrote the famous novel The Prince. I read this book a while back and what is interesting about the book is that even though it is about 500 years old it is still used today for a variety of reasons and is considered by most to be the first work in political science. The book is basically about how princes, or leaders, should act while they are in power. While that may sound sill there are many aspects of the book that are still relevant today which is why this book is still in print over 500 years after it was written. So again it was very cool to see where he was buried at San Croce in Florence.
The other giant tourist attraction in Florence is the Academia which is where the most famous stature in the world resided, Michelangelo’s David. The first thing that I did not realize was the size of the statue, it is over 17 feet tall. For some reason I just assumed this statue was just slightly taller than a person, but it is quite big. While I thought it was impressive in and of itself I honestly thought that the coolest thing in the Academia were the “Prisoners” by Michelangelo. I thought these 8 or so statues were really awesome and don’t get the credit or definition they deserve. Apparently Michelangelo died before he could complete them so they look like people are stuck in the marble or are trying to escape, hence the name “Prisoners,” as they are permanently stuck in the stone.
Lastly there is the Palazzo della Singnoria which I think was where the ruling body of Florence was housed. In front of the building there is a replica of David, as well as the famous bronze statue of Perseus with the head of Medusa and a statue of Hercules defeating the centaur Nessus which are both pretty impressive. There is also a giant golden turtle in the Palazzo as well, and I have no idea why. It is just a massive turtle with a man riding on the back of it, pretty strange.
Florence is also one of the best places in the world to buy handmade leather goods. We visited the leather school there and it was cool so seem them making purses, belts, and wallets. But these were all quality hand made goods made from the highest quality Italian calfskin, so you can imagine that this stuff was very expensive. I did my research beforehand and knew that I wanted to buy a built because my old one was looking rather rough, the piece of rope that I usually use is not very professional. So I decided to upgrade and bought a handmade one in Florence with my initials on the inside.
If you do not care what you are buying there are plenty of fakes and things that are not real leather, ladies I am talking about purses. We saw hundreds maybe thousands of fake purses on the streets for sale, not only the high end designer purses but fake leather ones that were selling for a fraction of the price of a real handmade leather ones. Many tourist think that are getting a real leather purse for 30 or 40 Euro, that is simply not the case, I mean if you think that I have some beach front property in Arizona to sell you as well. As with most things in life you pay for what you get. If you want a real handmade leather purse from Florence you are going to pay for it somewhere in the vicinity of 200 euros, but if you do not care about the quality or real leather then by all means buy one off the streets for a fraction of that price, just know beforehand what you want and what you are getting into. Do your research.
Another thing Florence is famous for is the Florentine Steak! Which is basically just a giant hunk of meat, about 2 pound of meat to be exact. I am not sure what the cut was but it looked like a T-bone, regardless it was pretty good, not my favorite meal on the trip but when in Rome, or Florence for that matter.
But yes Florence is awesome and my favorite city in Italy.
We visited the Piti Palace which was just crazy, over the top with décor and artwork. This is just a random room, now imagine that everyone you walk into was more extravagant than the next. It was pretty nuts. I have been to a few palaces (Montel Carlo, Versailles, Doge’s Palace) and to some extent they all kind of look the same. With that being said they are still just extraordinarily extravagant, so while they all have that in common they are still all something to see, as there is nothing like this in the States. There is nothing that compares to the royalty and the extravagance that comes along with it, so seeing how royalty lived in other countries is really cool.
Pics from the Academia, and I have to be honest that I was kind of disappointed with the Academia as a whole. I felt that they just put the statue of David in there so more people would come and visit. Basically it was a way to get tourists to spend more money. There are some very famous paintings and other sculptures in the museum, but to me I am not impressed with famous religious paintings. For some reason they just don’t do it for me, I would rather see famous paintings by famous artists like Monet or van Ghogh. That is what I find interesting, but that is just my opinion. Just something to keep in mind before heading to the Academia.
Next I we will talk about Venice, stay tuned…
Check out my other Posts on Italy