So HostelBookers.com made our traveling decisions for us. Nowhere in Cinque Terra was open on Tuesday, so we decided to settle for Florence. Well I guess settling might be the wrong word....
Anyway, before we left we decided to go see the Duomo in Milan, one of the only free things that our handy travel books told us was worth seeing. And it was. It's absolutely massive and it's gothic architecture is breathtaking. It reminded me of one of those sandcastles that you build by dripping the wet sand in a pile. So many spires and gargoyles were all over it. You could walk inside (only if you were dressed appropriately...somehow my shorts and a collared shirt worked) and see how massive it really is. The ceiling seems miles above you and it had beautiful stained glass windows.
We left there and caught our train for Florence. We were dozing most of the way, which almost made the trip a disaster. Florence wasn't the last stop for the train, so we really had to pay attention. I happened to open my eyes one time when the train stopped only to see a sign for "Firenze" outside. We had to run over about 20 people to get off the train and barely made it before the doors closed. But make it we did.
The information for the hostel told us to take the 25 bus to Via Bolognese, which would stop right it front of it. Sounded simple. About 20 minutes later we're flying up some mountainside about 10 km outside of the city. I guess we missed our stop. But we did get to see some beautiful countryside. This area is really mountainous and has little towns and homes scattered all over the place. Pretty good area to get lost in.
On the way back down we finally found our hostel. The place looked interesting online, but with the price and amenities we couldn't pass it up. Free internet, free breakfast, free drinks (wine and gin and tonic) and free dinner every other day. Sign me up. When we go in, there are three people at the top of the stairs yelling "Hello!" at us. A little strange, but whatever. "Reception" was a little room with a couch and a small TV where a few random people were hanging out. Attached to it was a kitchen with some crazy Italian guy named Lorenzo cooking. Turns out he's the owner. We learn this as he offers us drinks and a heaping plate of delicious pasta. The people working were all in their 20s, two from England and one from Kosovo. Salih (Kosovo) has been here for about two years while the girls from England were only supposed to stay three nights and ended up working here for three months. An interesting group to say the least.
But everyone seemed genuinely nice, so our initial hesitation faded away. Then we found out where we would be sleeping. Apparently they overbooked, so for half the normal price we were given the pull out sofa in the reception room. The same place that everyone hangs out at and where breakfast is served. Oh well, I like cheap. It was only a little awkward when I slept in boxers and had to get up and get dressed in front of about five people eating breakfast....
We took some time today to enjoy the city. We walked past the Duomo, which was not as impressive as the one in Milan but nice nonetheless, and saw the golden Doors to Paradise (or something like that). Then we went to see Michaelangelo's David first. The line for it was terribly long and it cost 10 Euros, but I thought it was worth it. I don't know if I'll be in Florence again, so you have to splurge sometimes. The sculpture is larger than life. So detailed and perfectly crafted. It was just amazing to walk around it and look at it from all angles. They don't allow picture taking in the museum, but I snuck a couple of shots before finally getting caught. I figure if they made me pay 10 friggin' Euro I should at least get a picture!
After that we just ended up wandering around the city for a while. Parts of it are really touristy and crowded. Everyone and their mother has a scooter and they're not afraid to try and hit you. And the streets and sidewalks are really skinny and crowded. A little hectic, but overall a nice city.
We're back at the hostel resting up now before dinner. We wanted to take a wine tour, but they were all too expensive and too high class for us, so I think we're just going to wander around and see some more of the sights tomorrow and maybe enjoy some wine at a cafe before we head out.
Speaking of which, we should have all of our transportation figured out for the rest of the trip. We're taking a night train from Florence to Zurich on Thursday night, then catching a train from there to Munich, which should get us in Germany by sometime around 1 p.m. on Friday. It's a long train ride, but we had to avoid Austria because our Eurail isn't valid there and we'd have to pay for that part of the trip. We're staying in Munich for two nights, then moving to Frankfurt on Sunday to make sure we get our plane back to the States.
I can't believe it's almost over! I've had a great time, but I'm starting to get worn out. I look forward to some relaxing times. Oh, and I have a craving for sweet tea, Bojangles and barbeque. Mmmm.... I shouldn't be thinking about food though when I have delicious Italian all around me.
All right, I think that's all for now. I should have free internet in Munich, but I probably won't get to it until Friday night, so I'll let you know how things went then!