Day 17 – 20: Pisa, Florence & Rome, or life without the Internet.

Well its been a while since I was able to do some blogging so this post is going to cover a lot. Which is alright cause not a whole lot really happened over the past 4 days.

IMGP0213 I arrived in Florence after a quick stop in Pisa to have a look at the leaning tower, and had a nice walk around the place exploring the streets and trying to find and see things that I didn’t last time. There was some familiarity with a lot of Florence from my last trip which was kind of comforting in a way. Florence is very easy going so its a good place to just relax. When I say relax I mean as much as you can with the millions of other people walking around here. This place is busy.

There was only one thing that I actually wanted to see when I came back to Florence. That was the real statue of David. After walking around for a bit I went back to the hostel to look up the details. The museum was closed for the day and didn’t open on Mondays. So no statue for me.

So I decided to head to Rome earlier than I intended on Monday morning. I booked the Eurostar fast train. Florence to Rome in 90min! First class all the way. It was a really nice ride but when they came past handing out snacks and drinks they ignored me for some reason. Nuts to them. My in flight entertainment was better anyway.IMGP0250

The hostel that I was staying at in Rome was conveniently located about a block away from the main train station. Unfortunately it wasn’t one that lived up to its advertisement and I couldn’t shake the feeling that the building may have been condemned. The free ‘Internet Access’ was not actually within the hostel. It was located at a Laundromat around the corner where they had managed to coax to life some of the slowest PCs I’ve ever used.

IMGP0325 Italy is pretty paranoid about people using the internet anonymously. The WiFi is still free at McDonalds you just need to have an italian mobile number to register with so they can send you a password. Want to use the internet at an internet cafe? You have to hand over your passport. This made planning the next few days pretty difficult. The PCs at the laundromat were practically useless and I could access anything secure so that made banking and booking hostels a no go. I ended up buying a prepaid sim to get myself a number and register at McDonalds. I had the bills paid, and the next week all booked and ready to go in less than an hour after doing that.

So anyway Rome. After checking into the hostel I went out for a walk around I was planning on seeing what I wanted to see the next day but thought I walk around a see the free sights. Not long out of the hostel it started to pour rain. I waited for around 10 min under cover while the flies were trying to sell me an umbrella and then headed out again.

I finally got to walk into the Pantheon after arriving just as they were closing the doors last time. This was a pagan temple which has since been turned into a church. Its pretty frikkin huge on the inside and must be the only church where you guilt can’t corner you. Cause its completely round! 😀

I walked over to the Piazza Navona. I had been dying for some Spag Bol and after walking around every single restaurant finally found the cheapest one and sat down. 🙂 It was really good too.

I took a long walk through other plazas and along the river. Up to the vatican where it started to pour rain again as I made my way back. The metro system is pretty non existent in Rome. With Only two lines and I wasn’t anywhere near any of them plus I had no idea of the bus or tram routes.

So I walked in the rain pretty much all the way back to the hostel.

IMGP0370 The following day was sunny, clear, and warm! I headed to the Colosseum and found there to be a really long line. About 45min. After standing there a bit I got jack of it and remembered hearing something that if you bought your ticket at the audio guide  counter when buying an audio guide you could skip the queue. 2 min later I was walking around the inside of the Colosseum with my audio guide that I was going to get anyway. 4.50 euro to skip the queue is worth it. The guides out front trying to sell you their tour were charging an extra 8!

The Colosseum is awesome and is probably one of my favourite sights to see. Its complete enough that you can still get a sense of what it was like all those years ago and you get to wonder if you’re blood thirsty enough to have been one of the spectators. Yeah I’m not dumb enough to have been in the ring.

I followed the Colosseum up with Palantine Hill where the ruins of palaces still offer some of the best views in town. These ruins aren’t so complete but they are still cool to look at. They tower over you in many cases. All you can really do is wonder what they were like. I then wandered down into the Roman Forum. I’d been through here before but it was good to take a slower walk through. There are still some complete arches here and some columns standing around. It looks like a junk yard for temples really but the other thing you have to remember is that this was all once under ground. When the romans decide to rebuild they just fill it in and build on top. They have excavated numerous levels around this area.

IMGP0386 Much of these buildings were cannibalised for building materials for other buildings that still stand today. While listening to the audio guide in the Colosseum they said much of the marble went into St Peter’s Basilica. Put it back I reckon.

So the next day I made my way down to Pompeii. I didn’t want to spring for the Eurostar each way as that would have been a pretty costly day so I just took a regional train. All up it only took an hour longer. I had a quick stop in Naples (filthy dirty place) and then arrived in Pompeii. Its very different to what I expected and not overrun by tourists. Maybe its a little early.

The actual ruins are a short walk from the town centre which is also a short walk from the train station.I picked up a calzone for lunch (which was essentially a deep fried doughnut with lots of mozzarella cheese in it) and went and bought my ticket.

IMGP0465 They have a number of different walking tours that you can do depending on how long you have to look around. I decided to do the 4 hour tour. Pompeii (the ruined city) is like nothing I expected it to be. Its hard to say if I was disappointed or awed. Really there is not a lot left here which I think adds to some of the disappointment. You see a lot of documentaries about the place but most of the artefacts that they show have been taken away so the place is even more empty and ghostly than when they found it.

It is a wonder to see though. The place is a complete city with streets and neighbourhoods still intact. Some of the houses are pretty amazing and there are still frescoes on some of the walls.  There are also stores with kitchens along some of the streets.

I think one of the most profound discoveries they have made is that of a surprisingly intact and still operational cafeteria and pizza bar. Amazing.

IMGP0471 I finished the 4 hour tour in about 2 hours and headed back to the train station. I arrived just in time to catch the very slow train back to Naples where a vending machine ate my 2 euro coin and then took another even slower train back to Rome. Must be uphill or something.

And that was Rome pretty much. Its a pretty hectic place. Overrun with tourists, cars, and bikes. I can’t wait to get back home where people actually stop a pedestrian crossings. I don’t think I can take much more of this.

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