One thing is for sure, Americans can be annoying when they are in other countries. No wonder people don’t like us overseas. I guess the good thing is that they all want our money, so here we are. I would rank tourists in levels of annoyance in the following order: 1) Chinese 2) Russians 3) Spaniards 4) Mexicans 5) Americans. The best tourists: 1) Norwegians 2) Swedes 3) Fins 4) French 5) English. That’s my ranking right now, but it is subject to change.
We arrived in Firenze (Florence) and walked down the cobblestone streets to our apartment. It felt like we were in a renaissance fair with everyone else on earth. There were tourists everywhere. It was quite the zoo. We found our place and met the guy who gave us the keys to the apartment. He was a shady looking dude, but oh well. We got up to the apartment and it smelled so bad of mold, that he instantly opened all the windows to try to air it out. But it stank. There was all kinds of mold on the ceiling, the bathroom, it was pretty gross. We thought maybe it would air out, so we stowed our stuff and headed out into the city to go to the Duomo.
The Duomo was enormous and quite spectacular. The marble they used really gave it an impressive color and the terracotta roof was spectacular. We went over to the entrance to the stairs and climbed up to the top with a school group from the Netherlands. That was one thing about this trip that was noticeable, every school age kid from Europe seemed to be in Italy for some sort of school trip. There were kids from everywhere, and they travelled in packs like wolves, only loud and full of zits. On our way up to the top, we stopped inside to see the dome paintings up close. They were disturbing to say the least. I don’t think the Middle Ages was very warm and fuzzy. The scenes of people in hell getting stabbed with pitchforks was disturbing, but then Lucifer eating the damned was a nice touch. Yikes! No wonder people were willing to buy indulgences to be forgiven of their sins. Who would want to be eaten by the devil or run through with a pitchfork? The view from the top of the dome was spectacular and Florence is unique in its appearance. I can see why people love Tuscany with its lush rolling hills, terracotta rooftops and quaint little inns. On our way down, there was a guy that was debilitated by the heights. He took courage from Madeline and survived the descent. After the hike up and down we went to the Lindt chocolate store and bought tasty chocolate. It’s so much better in Europe. Curse you waxy American chocolate!
From the Duomo, we walked over to the Old Bridge (the only bridge to not be destroyed by the Nazis in the war) and then walked over to the Piazza Michelangelo to watch the sunset. About ½ of all the college kids in Italy were there drinking and singing as the sun went down. It really is an iconic view, but the college kids were a bit much.
After watching the sun go down, we walked back down into Florence and had dinner at the Four Lions. Every restaurant seems to have some guy working hard to look like every Italian mafia stereotype known (gold chain, greased back partially bald head, track suit) sitting in the restaurant doing absolutely nothing other than barking orders at other people. This was a theme repeated throughout Florence and Rome. Dinner was pretty good and then we headed to get gelato at what Mike thought was the best gelato of the trip, La Carraia. The people were nice, the gelato creamy, and the cones fresh. Good heavens gelato here is good. Madeline would later say that she wanted to move our house to Italy. Mike asked her why and she said because our ice-cream is not any good. The other interesting thing about food here is that the girls had no issues with the cheese or milk at any point during the trip. In fact, everyone felt pretty good. The flight attendant on the way home noted that it’s because in America they use chemicals to age the cheese. He knew lots of people that can’t tolerate milk products in America but do fine in Italy. Fascinating.
After our delicious gelato, we headed back to our apartment which still smelled like mold. We tried to air it out, but there were bugs, the girls woke up with bug bites, the place smelled like old wet socks. We had to get out. The company gave us no love and were a bunch of turds, so we adjusted fire. Mike found a place to rent in La Spezia, it turned out to be a great blessing, but we had to wade through the misery first.