Day 28: Tuscany

Well I survived Friday the 13th with no bad luck haha. The room I had was over priced if you ask me, the location was ok, close to the historical district and the train but the room itself wasn’t worth the price at all.

Today’s plan was to stop at Pisa for a few hours before continuing on to Florence for the afternoon and evening. I’m hoping that I can have time to see everything I want to see in Florence today/tonight, but if not I’m ok with spending an extra day, especially if there is internet. I could use a day of doing little, and its got to be cheaper than Rome… The hotel prices here in Italy this time of year are killing me, its almost as bad as Paris!

The train ride to Pisa was fairly uneventful, though I was lucky to find an IC train leaving from Genoa 20 minutes from when I arrived at the station, which makes the trip pretty quick. I was able to find a seat, reservations not needed but recommended. I was however bumped from my seat near the end, but with 15 minutes left until the destination I wasn’t particularly bothered.

Pisa is a tourist trap the size of a city.. or maybe its just that the whole city is a tourist trap? Either is accurate. Walking from the train station all roads lead to the tower, and they all are lined with high end shops and street peddlers. The roads are too choked with tourists to be walked on hardly, let alone driven on. I think part of this is that Disney Cruise Lines and I’m sure a number of others make stops at Pisa since its close to the ocean and iconographic of Italy.

The tower itself I expect to dominate the sky line leaving the station, but it was no where in sight. I made sure Pisa Central was the station I was aiming for, and it was. I was instructed to just follow the road leaving the station. This feels more to me like when you go to some museum and when you exit they have you exit through the gift shop. I tried to get off the main road, but damn it if there weren’t shops all along the little side roads too! All this tourism somewhat spoils the fun for me(yes I know the irony, I am a tourist myself).

Finally reaching the tower I’m surprised how small it is. For some reason I expected it to be some enormous thing, and my first thought was that it was some mock up. Ok it really isn’t tiny or anything, its several stories tall. I was actually fairly impressed with the rest of the architecture around it. I can’t help but think of the poor person designing and building this time. You spend all this time and effort to build a tower for the rulers, and you end up fucking up the foundation and having the thing lean over, one corner sinking 1 mm/year, and thats your legacy.. A tower that wasn’t built right. If you look at it objectively its actually funny. Million of people a year flock to see a mistake. Still though, it is a integral part of the Italian image, and its amazing it hasn’t fallen over yet. Supposedly it was to fall over by 1990 according to computer simulations, but lucky for us it defied those estimates, and by 1998 was sured up.

One thing I found even more amusing than the fact I had traveled all this way wanting to see a mistake, was the huge number of people gathered, most of them all trying to take that picture where it looks like you’re holding up the tower. So again, take a step back and imagine hundreds of people all standing around with their arms out, hands flat, trying to look strained, and more people trying to line up a camera just right aimed and these very strangely posed people.

On my way out I managed to find a place selling more traditional style pizza and I figured this would be the time to have a bite to eat for lunch and say I’ve had traditional Italian pizza cooked next to a wood fire at a pizzeria in Tuscany. It was pretty good, not a whole lot to write home about, other than the fact that it cost me only $4.

The nice thing about Pisa being so close to Florence is that there are trains that take 1 hour and 15 minutes leaving 4 times an hour, which makes it quite easy to get to Florence without a long wait.

Florence is much like Pisa… it has the feel of one big tourist trap. Its hard to get away from the masses of tourists that flood the streets lined by expensive shops. I want to get away to Greece, but I know Santorini, Athens, and Mykenos will both me flooded too… I’m looking forward to a small quiet town with a nice beach.

I went to the Duoma which is this famous piece of architecture in Florence from the start of the Renaissance. Its a Renaissance style cathedral(I’m getting tired of the Gothic ones), with this interesting brick dome. I’ve seen an entire program on the history channel dedicated to it, so it was nice to see. For once the lines weren’t unbearable either.

I then moved on to see the Uffizi Museum which is the premier gallery in Florence holding works from many famous artists in both sculpture and painting. However here it was too packed. I had to wait 20 min to just get in, then the entire time it was like being moved along in a current of people, it was hard to stop and really appreciate some of the art. Whats worse is the groups, which in my analogy are like big rocks in the middle of the river. They just stand there listening to their guide and make no attempt to not block doorways or passage ways, which makes it really hard to get by, plus you can forget about reading the description under a photo. I found it strange that there were often some of these really quite famous pieces of art like the image of Venus on a giant clam shell(I have it in my high res images if you don’t know which one I’m referring to) which were getting hardly any attention at all. This leads me to a new theory about life.

People who go to museums don’t really think about the art they’re looking at. They just pass by and think “oh that looks nice” and if someone somewhere has said a piece is really amazing (like the Mona Lisa) then they flock around it like pigeons, but do they really look at it and ask themselves what it is about it that they’re drawn to? Am I alone in thinking that some of these works, though impressive are taken in amongst so many other great works perhaps not as impressive as they are made out to be or the crowds think? Some of the most amazing paintings I’ve seen are walked right past by so many people without really looking at it.

Speaking of theories, I have a corollary to my theory on the entropy of money. Its simply that the growth of types of money is a linear function. The CS majors will get it hehe.

I left the museum and headed towards this famous bridge that crosses the river. Apparently it used to house meat markets, but the Medici family didn’t like the smell so they had them moved them out and had goldsmiths put in so they could look at pretty things. Its still like that today, the bridge is lined by jewelers.

I had really seen everything I was interested in, and the city itself doesn’t interest me much because of its tourist overload, so instead I went back to my hotel and did the laundry.

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