If you didn't fill in the blanks from my story about going to Como and Lugano, Diana and I rented a car for our trip to Italy. Pau did the hook-up for us and got us this sweet Fiat 500 for a fairly low price:
Yeah, look again at that photo. There are two 500s. Those things are like the Toyota Corolla/Honda Civic of Italy. They're everywhere. It was a fun car to drive around but I can't imagine ever owning one. I'll leave it at that.
We stayed in Bergamo for three nights before taking off on a little bit of a road trip. Our plan was to head south for a few hours to see the tower in Pisa, head even farther south and check out the medieval town of Siena, and end up at our next digs in Florence. All in all, it would be like eight or more hours of driving but we figured that it'd be worth it as we wanted to be able to stay in Florence for the remainder of the trip. I'd love to say that the drive was uneventful but it rained hard. Actually, really hard for most of the trip. The car handled it well even if I got a bit tired. Oh, and it ended up more like ten hours of driving...
Some Germans doing a road trip and a coffee break the right way (as if they don't do everything the "right" way). These two vehicles are some serious hardware (especially that RV-camper thingy) but what I love most are the coffee cups on saucers sitting on the Land Rover's hood.
We got into Pisa about 1pm on a cold and blustery day. There's really nothing there, except the tower obviously, and it's a place I probably wouldn't have ever gone to if I wasn't already "in the area". If you know Old Town in San Diego, the whole thing is about that big. There's a church (of course) and a baptismal building (domed building to the left of the church) just across from the famous tower and all around the area are the required knick-knack stands selling everything you can imagine.
Interior shot of the surprisingly nice church at the leaning tower complex:
But, of course, the highlight is the leaning tower itself, which is smaller than you might expect but a lot cleaner. It really reminded me, though, of some crazy wedding cake or something.
Diana said that the last time she was there many years ago that the tower was supported by cables to help keep it upright. It seems that they've managed to stabilize the lean as the cables are no more. Think about that. How does one stabilize a building that's leaning so that it keeps leaning (and generating tourist dollars) but doesn't lean more thus threatening said source of money???
Whatever. Just like seeing the pyramids in Egypt, it was cool to see the tower in person. I still wouldn't recommend making a trip to Italy to see it but, if you're in the hood...
Diana and I walked around the not-too-exciting town for about 45 minutes or so stopping to check out a small church located on the side of the river that runs through town.
You may or may not know, but I take lots of photos of street art, aka graffiti. I particularly like stencil art of which I probably have about 500 different photo samples. What grabbed my attention on this trip was all the political graffiti I saw. In case you didn't know, places like Spain, Greece, and Italy aren't doing too well financially right now and I guess that young people are expressing their frustrations through their art. These two samples are a good taste of what I found:
After 1 hour and 59 minutes, according to our parking pass, we jumped in the car and drove another couple of hours farther south to the town of Siena, which is located just about one hour south of Florence. Like Bergamo, Mont Sant-Michel, and Carcassone, the town of Siena's built on top of rock outcropping and is surrounded by a fortified wall. What I didn't expect was that you could take escalators up from the lower parking lots.
If you've been on the Palm Springs tram in California, you know that when you arrive at the top of the mountain you find completely different scenery. This was the same. We left a normal parking area, took the escalators up, and exited on the curvy streets of a medieval village:
Siena's lovely but, again, not something to plan a whole trip to Italy for. I think it most reminded me of Toledo in Spain but with a church decorated with white and greenish-black marble at its center:
There is a main plaza too but what's cool about this one is that twice a year they do a crazy horse race event where the horses run around the outside edge of the plaza. We didn't get to see it but the photos of the event make it seem very surreal and something that I wished we could have gotten to check out. Oh well, you'll just have to imagine the whole plaza stuffed with people and horses with riders running full out around the gray cobblestones that surround the plaza:
Okay, but the best is saved for last. Just as in Barcelona you can find lots of Sant Jordi (Saint George) imagery, for some reason, the whole town of Siena was full of sculptures of wolves with children nursing from them. I immediately recognized this image from back when my mom asked me during my entire childhood and beyond if I had been raised by wolves. It wasn't until seeing these statues and writing this story that I ever connected it with the Romulus and Remus story. Turns out that Romulus supposedly founded Rome and his brother, Remus, founded Siena. What a small world.
Oh, and one final note, or, actually, a bit of *a rant*. If I read again on facebook from someone in the United States complaining about gas costing like 25 cents more, take a trip over to the other side of the pond where it costs just under $90 U.S. to fill Fiat 500 and you'll feel better right away! *Rant over.* Carry on...