Pisa and Florence, Italy

June 22, 1990


We took the night train to Florence, Italy which I was super excited about. However, it was the train from hell! Small uncomfortable seats that 4 of us had to scrunch into. But the worst was making a 3am connecting train in Pisa - what a pain!!! After shaking off the cobwebs and getting off the train, we wondered through the streets of Pisa with our backpacks to the leaning tower of Pisa. What a freakishly cool architectural wonder. The tower really leans A LOT! It looks like its going to topple at any minute. It was neat, but I was still in a daze.

As if the whole 3am connecting train business was not enough, we were attacked by BATS on the walk back to the train! Yes bats. It was something out of horror movie. They flew every which way and almost crashed into us many times. We had to run with our lead-weighted, heavy, dirty-clothed, uncomfortable, backpacks through the streets to dodge them. My back was killing me! It all added to the experience. Now I could tell my kids one day that I was chased by bats in Italy in the deep of the night. Boy could I elaborate on that one.

We finally arrived in Florence at 5:30am and we hiked though the city to our Hotel Columba. The lady was so nice to let us in at 6am and give us rooms (check-in is almost always much later). I've never wanted a room so bad in my entire life. Exhausted from the craziest night of travel, I collapsed in a heap. Starring at the ceiling before closing my eyes, I noticed the extremely tall ceilings, adorned with ornate trim. The room was large and clean...ahhh I love Italy.


3 hours later, woke up and toured Florence. Now THIS is a city! The weather was stupendous! Clear sky, 75 degrees and cool breeze! We saw the Academia museum where the original David lives. What a sight. It's hard to believe a statue can be so spectacular, bu this is an exception. Almost 20 feet tall, it cast an ominous prescience, but it was truly perfect. IT's supposedly the perfect creation of a human body. Studying Michaelangeo in school, it was said that he was one of the most talented and prolific sculpture, artist and architect of his time, and just one look at this sculpture you knew in an instant it was true.


We wondered to the Palazzo Pont Vecchio where a single bridge housed many Italian folks and plenty of the city's leather and jewelry. Shops, shops and shops! They were all amazing - nothing cheesy like the tourist shops in NYC.

It was here in this city that I saw a greater density of beautiful women than in any other city. Gorgeous dark hair, green eyes, cool dresses. I don't know what people were thinking when they said Paris was the fashion capitol - the Italians KNOW style! The women and men were very good-looking compared to other cities, especially Paris.


On our way back to the room, we went to the Doumo Cathedral - the 4th longest in the all the world. The exterior design was intricate and magnificent. The interior was open and airy and very large and tall. Stained glass throughout. Still, the most breath-taking cathedral was Notre Dame. Nothing can touch it, except the Vatican in Rome which I keep hearing so much about it, but we'll see.

HDR photo by Trey Ratcliff, Stuck In Customs



Then I saw the Baptistery De Giovanni - the ceiling was unbelievable.Every inch of the dome was layered in gold and ornately decorated with religious figures and situations. The art of religion was life and it was so interesting to see how it ruled the world and was documented at the time. It's also so inspiring to see these ancient structures still intact and so well-maintained. History man - I love it!

I then took a separate private tour of the leather market - all I wanted to do was buy, buy, buy! O.K., until tomorrow... oh wait a second, I forgot to tell you - I witnessed a purse snatching right before my eyes! A shady-looking character cruised by on a scooter and swiped this lady's purse right off her arm - but the strap broke and he took off unsuccessful. Now I'm going to be extra careful with my things - especially during the World Cup. It's madness here in Italy!


Photo by Gary Vidson

June 23, 1990
This morning we went to the Firenze Jewish Synagogue. It was claimed to be the most beautiful and magnificently decorated Synagogue in all of Europe. I was can certainly agree. It was really spectacular. Every inch of the Synagogue was painted by hand and the Moorish-inspired architecture was built by 3 famous Italian architects in 1882. It survived a flood and bombs by the Nazis and still looks well-maintained, thanks to donations from around the world. I was able to appreciate sitting down so much more than other Cathedrals. Feeling comfortable and at peace gazing up at the Torah surrounded by ancient oil lamps keeping the "Eternal Flame" burning.

We then rushed over to the Palazzo Pitti Palace which was anything but petty. It was the grandest Italian Renaissance museum I had seen yet. It was half the size of the Louvre, but it was twice as ornate. Every single room, wall, ceiling, painting and frame was incredibly detailed. The works were fascinating and the ceilings were painted like the heavens. Every room had a different color and was ridiculously overdecorated...wow. Once outside the Medici, I walked through a massive Boboli Gardens filled with Renaissance sculptures scattered throughout. The gardens had mazes similar to "The Shining". It was a wonder to walk through and very fulfilling experience. This museum was up there at the top for me and must have taken decades to create.

You really feel like your in an ancient city because the Cathedral bells "ring" all day long - very cool! The weather is really sublime, nothing but clear blue sky - and makes your impression of a city 10 times better.

This afternoon, we witnessed the most bizarre sport - barbaric football. It was a grand ceremony with elaborate costumes and horses and swords. I twas transported back tot he Medieval days! When the game began, every man attacked each other - it was brutal! From my perspective, it was just "kill the man with the ball. The back story here is that the game has history dating back hundreds of years and is the original version of ruby. By the end of the game, they were carrying men off the dirt field due to the beatings they received trying to score a goal. This was definitely a fascinating pit-stop in in Florence. We were lucky to be walking through the area of the city to catch it . It was a once in a lifetime spectacle. I love Florence!

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