Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Black Bear Running in Italy (Part II)

Continuing on...I was able to run probably 3 x per week, I found a little route near the hotel - it was a little confusing the first few times because the street names are nothing like "Main" or "Second" and more like "Via Symposia Gardlianiase" or Via Dei Mille." After a week, I felt like I knew the city layout really well so I was able to run in different places. Unfortunately, my Garmin GPS got wiped out on the plane ride, so I don't have any data to show where I ran. Delta Airlines I hate you.

The weather was pretty good for the first week. High 70s and sunny.

This would change as soon as the weekend arrived and I went to
Milan click here for Milan info which is about 1 hour 45 minutes North of Bologna and a very wealthy city. I took the speed train, which was nice, there's a little dining car. Anyway, I was supposed to meet another student there, but I took the bus the wrong direction, got lost to the train station and ended up on a different train, so I walked around Milan in the pouring rain. Milan is really pretty and so different architecturally from other cities.

Even the train station in Milan is gorgeous.

I couldn't afford to buy anything in Milan because the dollar is just so weak, even McDonald's is about $10 for a meal.

I tooled around Milan and went to Florence the next day which was a Sunday (and an Italian Holiday weekend)...

click here for Florence info

So, yes, Italy is big on Food and Churches...
We went up into the Cupola which is like a bell tower next to the Duomo...The Duomo is the big dome on the left (This shot is taken from the cupola). I can't describe how incredible the view is.

Here's a picture of me infront of the Baptistry Doors - these are bronze doors by Ghiberti

It rained. A lot. Here's a picture from a pretty intense hailstorm that came through in the afternoon in Florence.

I felt pretty safe, given all the churches around though it was a pretty big storm even by Michigan standards. God was bowling, but had no intents on striking the Duomo. Fortunato,(heh heh slipping in some Italian I picked up....I'll tell a little story about why I know what Fortunato means later....) I was stuck for 2 hours during the hailstorm, with Olivia (one of my travel buddies) in a shoe store in Florence. I ended up trying on about 20 pairs of shoes and got these cool ones for 25Euro ($40)

So, we ran into some other school friends in Florence who told us if we didn't have a return trip to Bologna, we should go get one because they were all sold out until midnight. Sure enough, we ran over to the train station, and ended up on the last train out with all our friends - packed like sardines in a aisleway of the hottest train you can ever imagine but I'll get back to that ....

So after we got our tickets we headed back into the city but again the skies opened up again, so we were forced into a restaurant for cheese and wine while the storm subsided....

And it rained and rained, so we ate and drank more...

and got back for the late train with all our friends and waited an hour because it was delayed, then we got on like sardines standing in the aisleways on the stuffiest hottest train ever and it moved about 20 feet and then....sat there for another hour. Italy is not well-known for it's trains, and for good reason. They are the same trains that Mussolini himself built 60 years ago, I am certain. They ought to have hanged him for the trains alone. Toilets and Trains. Suck. Got back to Bologna at like 2:00 a.m.

Sometime that week I went to Pisa. It's about 2 hours west of Bologna by train so was able to go after class (which ended at noon). I went with a schoolmate Candice and we were both aware that it might be a big hokey Disney type touristy thing (like some tower standing in the middle of a park surrounded by vendors selling t-shirts). Instead, we got off the train, walked like madmen to the 2 miles or so to the tower so as to get back intime for our return train and stumbled on the coolest sight ever. DEFINITELY worth it. Had to do a lot of running to get up the tower because they only let a certain number of people up every 30 minutes (wondering now why it isn't the weight of the people they are concerned about but the number...like is it going to fall?). Anyway, it was pretty cool. So far, every sight I'd seen in Italy was even better than the last one.

Here's me eating on the train on the way back. Nice dining car. Nice airconditioning. This train was built by Capitalists. Three cheers for Capitalism and no sweating!!!!

It rained all week, we went on a wine tour at Cesari Vineyards click here for Cesari vineyards info which was pretty nice.

Then I went on Saturday to Venice on Saturday again with Olivia who is a sculpture artist. It was still raining since the prior Saturday, but whatever, you can't stop touring. We got to Venice and breezed through San Marco Square in the rain, and decided to take the water taxi to Murano (an island off Venice where they make hand-blown glass). Olivia is an artist and she and another guy on our trip who had been there said it was a 'must-see.' Apparently, they aren't giving tours anymore because the Chinese are taking pictures and copying the designs and manufacturing. I'm not sure if this is true or not, but it's the story everyone tells.

Anyway, it becomes really sunny out and beautiful and we go into a small glass store and there's one guy behind the counter. Long story, but the guy finds out we are from America and specifically that Olivia's from Los Angeles and he loves Los Angeles. He doesn't speak any English, but somehow he starts saying "fabricca" and points to his wedding ring and says, "wife", "5 minutes", "fabricca" "fortunato" "fortunato" and is making all kinds of hand motions. So out of this, Olivia deciphers, "Oh, he wants to take us on a tour of the glass factory." Meanwhile, I am thinking, "No, I think he is telling us that his wife is going to meet us all at the fabric store, and then they will proceed to kill us." So, we go, and sure enough we get a private tour of the factory, which was AWESOME!!!! Turns out Fabricca means "factory" not "fabric store" and we were fortunato to see it.... And Olivia makes some glass...

I am so glad I didn't try because I wouldn't have known that you can't suck in or your lungs will explode with glass. We saw a designer showroom of $20,000 chandeliers. Unreal.

Water taxi back to San Marco (the big square in Venice)...this is where I saw Rich Rod....I'll only post one picture of San Marco because it's just so unbelievable, a picture doesn't show anything.

On Sunday, Anna and I went to Ravenna and met our pal Don there. click here for Ravenna info This is when I realized that if you ever go to another country it is a much better trip when you know what you are looking at (duh) and especially if you are with someone who speaks Italian. Because we got a complete guided tour of Ravenna and the whole historical background on the Eastern Empire and Western Empire. I would've never even thought of going to a place like Ravenna if not for a side comment from one of our professors "if you want to see some pretty impressive mosaics, go to Ravenna..."

So we get in this church that looks pretty old on the outside, called Basilica San Vitale, and here is the inside....these are all little tiny 1/2 inch mosaic tiles....

I'm skipping the story about how Eli and I and a frenchwoman got trapped on a train in Ferrara, because the doors wouldn't open at our stop.

Later that week a group of us went to lunch at a place in Modena (about 30 minutes north of Bologna) called click here for La Hosteria Giusti info and pics Modena is the birthplace of Balsamic Vinegar). It turns out that this restaurant is the oldest deli in the world and only seats 15 people and dinner reservations are sold out through October. But, we got in for lunch! After sprinting 20 minutes to catch the train and sitting on the hot car, I had perhaps the best meal of my life. Ever.

These are puffy gnocchi (like a puffed pastry) with proscuito and salami and the white topping on the one is the fat from proscuitto on the top. Yumma!!!

This is duck with noodles.

Here's some gelato drizzled with 35 year old balsamic vinagrette.

Now I'm hungry.

After my final, I went to Riccionne which is a beach city on the Riviera (Adriatic Sea) click here for Riccionne info . It was gorgeous and relaxing. A nice way to end the trip, I thought.

Well, actually a nice way to end the trip was getting a stupid 5 Euro fine (about $8) because the first two normal train ticket machines were broken at the station and we had to buy some ticket from a machine from 1920 and then we didn't validate it because it didn't say you had to. Anyway, typical.

By then, I was just DYING TO GET HOME. So I got to the airport about 4 hours before my flight to make sure I didn't miss it. :)

Italy is just plain unbelievable to visit, but I am very thankful to live in the U.S.

P.S. I have about 280 other pictures and stories but I will spare the boredom for Jim. :)

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I felt the same about Italy: beautiful scenery, wonderful food but OMG the chaos!!

    Glad you had a good time and got some running in. I loved running in Rome but it was like playing Frogger all the time, not so much fun!