Our plunky drunkards get culture-jammed and find religion
23.08.2001 - 26.08.2001
Bill and Julie at the Duomo, Florence
Florence Day 1 - hellish! Got a double-decker (yes!) train to Firenze and trotted around the place in the scorching heat frantically looking for accommodation, eventually getting booked into what turned out to be a military boot camp style thing in the sticks with rigid breakfast, dinner and lights out times. OK though, given we almost stayed in a brothel that was advertised as a hostel and then we saw the brothel's owner's apartment, which looked like drug money had purchased the white leather sofa and other lavish fittings.
Met two Californians at the hostel - their Republican background and views were hilarious to us once we got merry on a 5l mini-keg of Firstenburg, which they greeted with dismay! One of them actually thought George W was a good President!
Had great fun dodging the curfew - a staff member allowed me to finish my cup of beer and cigarette out the front of the building as a special favour at 12.10am!! Sleep was hot, but comfortable enough. Getting up early to go sightseeing isn't too difficult because one can't sleep late in this fuckin' heat!
Breakfast of coffee and rock of bread with butter was more of a tease than a meal. Packed a lunch from stuff in the supermarket, and set off on the bus for a hectic day of sightseeing, involving queues, lots of paintings and lots of tourists, finishing up back in the hotel bang on time for our boarding school dinner at 6.30. Drank 66CLs with funny Australians and an Irish thirty-something, mid-life crisis couple; it all came to an abrupt end at midnight - lights out. Smoking outside after curfew made me feel like a bold schoolboy!
Beginning to get culture-jammed - saw so much in the last two weeks that cathedrals and paintings no longer have a fixed location in my head. Very impressed by Michelangelo's David though.
Bill and Ollie at the Roman Forum
Rome! Got a train at 1044 (had to stand/sit in the gangway for the whole 2.5 hours, but at least we weren't charged the IR£4 supplement that we should've been. We had a hostel booked, but we had to battle to get there by 2pm deadline. It turned out to be this cool, small, 22-bed place in an apartment block ten minutes from Cipro metro station.
We left for an afternoon of historical sightseeing - the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps (John Keats museum beside it turned out much more interesting), Trevi Fountain, Monumento a Vittorio Emmanuelle II (huge monument that looks like a building, but it's just a statue!) and the Colosseum (found also a huge bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius [old guy from Gladiator]), and then got a metro back to the hostel, where we cooked our own pasta in the kitchen, and settled into an evening of strange 66CL beers, chianti and multi-lingual conversations with Italians, an Australian, a Portuguese guy and a Brazilian who didn't look Brazilian.
The place was so homely that the co-owner was asking our opinion on what to wear out on the piss, and the other co-owner was drinking my beer!!
Not entirely sure why I look so grumpy in this picture.
I think the sun was in my eyes. Or maybe I was just hung over.
Got up a bit groggy at 8.45, later than planned, and went for a Vatican trip with just Julie, as Ollie wouldn't get out of bed! A queue three streets long to get into the Musei Vaticani moved swiftly as entry was free on the last Sunday of each month. We passed countless priceless artefacts on our way to the Sistine Chapel, which was fucking amazing. Walked around to Piazza San Pietro and heard music over the tannoy as we entered - magical! The inside of St Peter's Basilica is ornate, devout and massive - 60,000 can fit in! We saw a bit of a multi-lingual Mass, St Peter's tomb - the underground grotto where Popes are buried, but didn't see the Dome as the queue was too long.
Spent a second night chilling with hostellers and hostel staff alike, though the fun ended early as I was the only one with the foresight to buy beer, so it had to be split into three (albeit a big 'third' for me!) and Ollie had a headache, the poor devil!
Slept in until 11, though the checkout time was 10am (nice staff, again), and then toddled off to the train station to move on to Verona, a hitherto-unenvisaged stop that was easier train-wise than the planned stop, Rimini.