The rest of our Italian journey

Day 8 – June 17

Today, we explored Florence and went to the Academia. There was a pretty long line, but it was worth it to see David. The statue of David was much bigger than I imagined he would be! We saw a lot of other amazing statues and paintings there, so that was great. For the rest of the afternoon, Zehra and I went to the market and shopped at the street market. Zehra was a great haggler and got an Italia sweatshirt and expensive leather purse for half off, while I got a mere 1 euro off of the necklace I bought and 2 euro off of the posters… pathetic!

We ate at a really great, local, outside restaurant for lunch where everyone spoke Italian and there were no other tourists except us, which was rare. The food was AMAZING.  Grilled veal, roasted potatoes, crusty bread… incredible!

During the late afternoon, we went to a bridge over the Arno River which was composed of a ton of jewelry shops… it was beautiful. We walked along the river until we reached a hill with many, many steps, which we climbed to the top. There was a beautiful view of Florence from where we were, but unfortunately we forgot out food, so we had no pic-nic to eat like everyone else. We ate dinner at a place near a big-screen TV and watched the Italy/France soccer match, which was a lot of fun! Our waiter had a Sonic the Hedgehog hair-do, it was really funny.

Day 9 – June 18

We woke up early, packed up our things, left them at our hostel, and went to climb the treacherous 463 steps of the Duomo. Luckily, we went in the morning, when there were no lines and it was cool outside. We had a great morning workout that way, and spent some time looking over the beautiful view of Florence and listening to the bells around Florence chime for 9:00. We went back to our apartment/hostel for some toast and coffee, then headed to the train station for Pisa. We met a really nice Italian engineer on the train, and he showed us on the map where his favorite places in Italy were. He even gave us his business card and said if we had an emergency or got into trouble, we could call him, so nice! We got to Pisa knowing that we only had a small window of opportunity to see the tower, eat lunch, and leave, but we ended up relaxing a little too much. When we realized what time it was, it dawned on us that we had about 15-20 minutes to take a bus to the train station, figure out which platform our train was on, pick up our baggage at the storage place, and get on the train… AHH!! By a miracle, our train was 5 minutes late, and we got on with only 2 minutes to spare. Incredible!

Zehra and I didn’t fully comprehend how serious it was to make our train from Pisa to Florence on time until we switched to our train from Florence to Venice right afterwards. It required resevations, which we had gotten only for this train at only this time. Everyone else who didn’t get reservations or who missed their previous trains were sitting on the ground in the corridor for hours!! It could have been us…

We met a very nice French couple on the train from Pisa back to Florence, and I got to talk to them in French for an hour and a half! They also gave us their e-mail in case we wanted to visit them in Bordeaux, very cool!

Once we got to Venice, it was about 7:30 p.m. and we started looking for our next hostel using the map and directions the landlady sent us. No luck. We asked several locals to help us, but the map didn’t lead to anywhere!! She didn’t list a street address, and her directions were very wrong. We couldn’t get in touch with her because something was wrong with the phone, so finally Zehra’s mom was able to look up some other directions a previous guest had posted, so we followed those and found it… 2 and a half hours later! We were ready to get mad at this lady for totally misleading us, but she didn’t speak English… and our room was beautiful and perfect and had a view of the water and a bridge, so we couldn’t be mad at her, arghhh!

Day 10 – June 19

Today, we wandered around Venice all day, without looking at a map, because hey, you can’t get that lost because it’s an ISLAND! Perfect for two directionally-challenged girls such as Zehra and me! We looked at the market, mask shops, glass shops, and of course, the beautiful views. We had heard that Venice wasn’t that great, but we really love it and had such a great time looking around at everything. When we had been walking away from the touristy things for awhile, we found a small restaurant with a handwritten menu in Italian only and decided that was the perfect place to stop by for lunch. We had a three course meal for 10 Euro and it was amazing! The tiramisu and gelato… words just can’t describe. I’m not a big tiramisu person, but I could have eaten that one for the rest of my life. On our way home, we bought front row student tickets to a Concerto/Opera for that night. It was so much fun. The musicians and singers were all dressed in 18th century outfits with wigs and everything! They sang songs we knew from classical stations or cartoons, like Vivaldi and the one with “Fiiiiigarrroooo!!” so it was great.

Day 11 – June 20

This morning we checked into our other hostel (we had to stay an extra night in Venice because of our overnight train fiasco) across the island, which was pretty hard to get to in the hot sun with all of our luggage over several bridges… But when we were all settled, we hopped on a water bus to Murano to see some glass. It was very beautiful! Back in Venice, we went to another glass factory and got to have a free tour of the museum and a private viewing of glass making all because we showed them our Rick Steves travel book! It was very cool to watch, and it inspired Zehra and me to buy some cheaper versions of the glass necklaces at the market. For dinner, Zehra and I dressed up, wandered for a bit and found a small, less touristy restaurant where I got the best seafood pasta EVER! We sat at a table with a couple from the U.S./Egypt during dinner (there weren’t anymore 2 person tables and that’s where the waiter put us). They talked to us for awhile, then gave us their card in case we ever wanted to stay at their resort in Egypt! Pretty awesome!

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