A Travellerspoint blog

Florence and friends

Tours to pisa and the chianti vineyards

sunny 22 °C

ke up late this morning and I had a train to catch. I also slept in and had to pay the fine for not checking out on time but made it barely. I went into the bar and ordered the energizer dish which is granola and yogurt with fruit. It was pretty good but I was in a hurry to finish quick. Soon I left to the train station which took me towards the made train station and I waited in line for a ticket. So in this train station there's so many people wanting a train ticket that you have to take a number. My number was 554.....currently 442 was being called. So I had a long time to wait for my number and I started people watching. I saw alot of travelers all in a rush and alot of locals walking nonchalantly. I then noticed them. The gypsies that I've been hearing so much about. They travel in pack 2 or 3 in a group. They didn't really notice me as a distressed traveler so they didn't bug me, but the poeple they did see stressed they asked them in english first. "You need ticket" form there they are either shood away or asked for help. If your hooked they lead to a self service booth and they help you translate the language towards a ticket to your destination. After they help you they ask for a small donation or from what I saw scam you into buying one too many tickets and keeping one saying it's a receipt or trash. From there they try and now sell that ticket for a cheaper fee. The local police guards are usually busy with tourist asking for assistance and can't really get to the gypsies in time. They shoo them away from the terminal and try and scare them out of the station. The girls put red lipstick on their cheeks to give them a rosy appearance while the boys go through the phone machines for change. The groups communicate irregularly to talk about weer the cops are and.how much money they have. For the unsuspecting traveler they may look like kind girls trying to help but they have a crazy character on them when you tell them to go away. Soon my numbered had been called and i went to the ticket e'er i showed him i had a eurail pass and he helped me stamp it for activation and told me when my train was. My train was 2 hours later, so I sat on the second level with my back on a wall and ate 1 of the 3 sandwiches I made the day before. I then filled my journal for about an hour.
I tried to get wifi buy the signal was weak. I started people watching 1 more time and started towards my train terminal. It was at the very end of the station because it was a local 2nd class train. It was going to Take 3 hours so I slept. When we arrived it took me a long time to figured out where I was and where the hostel was but I found it within the hour. My room had 4 beds and this hostel boasted a pool, terrace bar and sauna. The pool was insanely dirty so no swimming. The sauna was full of little kids cause they had an international choir competition and the hostel pretty much hosted the world. And the terrace bar was open because it was in season. Overall pretty much cap other than the room which had a decent wifi connection and the en suite bathroom. My roommates where a guy form the UK with horrible people skills and a guy from Turkey who was very friendly. I dropped my stuff off and headed into the city. The area that I was in was the south part of florence and was dying down because it was late. So I grabbed a pizza to go and headed back to the hostel to look up tours. I paid for the leaning tower of pisa tour and went to bed. The next day I woke up early to not miss the tour departure. I grabbed my day pack and went towards rhe train station where the tour was going to meet. I was the first one there and had to wait for the rest of the group. The other people in the group were Portuguese. The tour guide was a very bubbly blonde italian lady with a very crazy haircut. She introduced us to each other and I met another amercian on the tour his name was Crawford and he was from New York. it's always good to meet someone that speaks english because not hearing it for a while makes you feel like a mute. So we went on the bus and the tour guide was giving us the history of florence and the countryside until we got to pisa. From there we had strict guidelines on when we had to be back at certain times and what we were going to do. I tried to buy the going up the tower ticket but didn't have enough euro in hand at the time. So I asked if I could buy my ticket later on and to she said unfortunately the tickets had already been issued and if I wanted I could reschedule or try and wait in line and go up the tower before we left. So I didn't mind not going up. The tour to us first to the church and explained it's origins and that it was shaped like a cross and alot of other cool facts. Then the time came for the people climbing to go up and for the non climbers to roam around. By luck a lady didn't want to go up the tower because she was tired and wanted to give me her ticket. I graciously accepted the ticket and waited to go up. Inside the tower ground level you feel a weird sense of vertigo because the ground isn't level and the tour guide tells us how much the tower weighs and how much it is leaning by. We then all start heading up to the top and it feels like forever but not wands long as the dome on the vatican. Crawford was behind me and send I could hear him struggling but he made it up just find. Just when we thing we reach the top and take pictures we found out that it isn't the top and have one more flight. Finally at the very top the bells are a great sight to see along with the highest view in pisa. We stay up for about 10 minutes and start our decent. A cool thing about the tower is that at a certain angle climbing up feels like walking in a straight patch but on the other end the steps or so steep and hard to climb. We make it down and I hang out with Crawford for a while. The local merchants try and sell us a all the same swag everyone else is selling but I decline. Crawford buys buys a sweater and nd haggles the seller down to an ok amount. Somehow along the whole tour out bubbly tour guide dubs us the trouble makers and tries to have us separated 1 in the front of the tour pack and did the other in the back. When we get on the bus Crawford suggest I try end get on the Chianti wine tasting tour and I accept. I get off and pay the next tour guide for the tour. We set off into into the Tuscan country side to 2 chianti vineyards and a small town. The first vineyard was very informative about organic wines and how you should pick out your vinegar organically. We tried 3 different wines along with truffles in oil on bread. Chick peas, tomateos, and bell peppers in vinegar and even a ice cream tipped with vinegar. It was pretty good but the vinegar had been aged for 30 years years and had a caramel like consistency. After that vineyard we went to the next one and Crawford mentioned dinner. It was pretty late late and no one had eating. I heard if you are ever in florence you should have have the florence steak and he was talking about it too. He wanted too eat it the night before buy it had a 2 person minimum to try eat. As soon as we arrive at the next vineyard the glasses are already on display arrived we commence drinking. The wines here were more robust and full of flavor. The snacks we had were ok buy I was beginning to get tipsy. After the tour was over I bought my favorite chianti wine. Hopefully I save it till paris to drink in front of the Effeil Tower. By now I'm feeling pretty good and we are taken to the wine cellars. Before we head down we are greeted by the vineyards dog who Is very kind and easy to pet. He looked a bit shaggy and had a violent stride but really kind. We go down into the cellars and are schooled on the wine making process. Something which I already knew because patty and I went on a tour in Paso robles California. After we leave the cellars we get back on the bus and head towards the small town. The tour guide tells us to check out the local Butcher shop which was to my surprise very classy and had....more wine! So we drank more there. We head back to the bus shortly thereafter and head back to florence by now I had worked up and appetite and this magical sounding steak sounded pretty good by now. So I help Crawford go back to his hotel to drop his wine off. And we head to Gobbi 13. The restaurant is pretty packed and has a very nostalgic 80s theme. The servers are super busy running around everywhere and we sit by the bar drinking free house wine. The wine was pretty bad but it was free. When we finally get seated we order the florentine steak and some sides. Crawford has a pretty dark past but like all major people that have great lives turned his life around after a very serious surgery and decides to change his life and live it to the fullest. No looking back and to look ahead in life. While he gave me alot of inspirational advice I tell him all about my travels and how to travel very frugally and in hostels and how I want to keep on travelling. Finally the steak arrives and WOW it was big now I know why you need 2 people. It probably weighed more than 2 pounds and had been cooked medium rare. It had a charred apprrance and very rare appearance inside. I ate my half as if I hadn't eating in a while. I mean I had not eating real food in over a week. We talked alot more about life and how poeple back in the states don't want to think about travelling or the idea of leaving home. After we eat we say our farewells and head opposite way. I'm glad I meet so many cool people on my journey with so much wisdom. Sometimes we are so quick to judge everyone and to think the ones we judge have so much to tell and learn from. I went opposite because I believe my hostel was on the same road. I ended up wandering the streets of florence at night for 2 hours and it's something magical about walking and not knowing were you are going in a foreign place.
Somehow I guide myself to one of the main squares and walk back to the hostel.

"I wandered everywhere, through cities and countries wide. And everywhere I went, the world was on my side."-Roman Payne

Posted by egarciafreites 12:41 Archived in Italy Tagged tower leaning pisa new friends steak chianti Comments (0)

The vatican and last night in Rome

Last night at the yellow, and they have burlesque?

sunny 21 °C

I had a mission today to buy a pendant from the vatican. I went to the bar to get the usual breakfast with irish coffee and saw the girl from france their. Her name is Salomé. She was a sweet girl from Nancy france and had alot of peronality. Their was a language barrier but for whatever she could not say in english she said in French and I translated bit by bit. After breakfast she told me she was headed to the vatican and I told her I was too because the tattoo parlor was near the vatican. She then said we should go together, so I agreed. I walked out of the bar thinking metro times and locations and she walked the opposite way. Confused I asked her where she was headed and she told me it was faster to walk to the vatican. First off fench people walk fast and they also know how to read maps on the run. I thought I was fairly proficient and guiding and finding my way but she made boys outs look bad. We talked alot along the way about culture and how nice italy was. I also asked her about fench culture. Soon we made it close eye ought to were she could go to the vatican and I could go to the parlor. So we said we would meet up again in the bar later on and said goodbye. Last time I went I bought everybody in my family something but myself. So today no matter what I had to buy. Also today I had a tattoo appointment today at Lucky Signs Tattoo with Stefano. About 8 or 9 months ago when we were in italy I emailed a tattoo artist and told him I wanted a tattoo on my leg of an old sailor jerry tattoo called homeward bound. The original lacked color and I didn't want sea gulls. So I had him modify it and I told him to color it which ever way would look good. After paying the deposit and getting there he worked on my leg for 6 hours. The finished product was nothing less that flawless. I could not have asked for a great piece of art. I told him after I would come back to europe soon and he should get another tattoo ready. I emailed him about a week ago and he told me he could get me whenever I wanted on monday. So when I showed up it was like seeing an old friend from long ago. We talked a bit and discussed the design and the font. I also mentioned that I had been over weight and I had stretch marks on my shoulders and it would be hard to tattoo on skin Like that. He said any skin is fine as long as your professional and know how to work on it. After much deliberation he got down to business. Midway his assistant had showed up and I greeted him because I remember him from last time. He told me he did not remember me until I showed him my leg and his eyes grew wide. Apparently my beard makes me look very different. After half and hour, Stefano said for the same price he could shade it red. By now any suggestion a tattoo artist makes is always a great one. I accepted and he Finished shortly. I turned out great and is now healing. In europe tipping is not really weird but different. So when I tipped Stefano he suggested we all go eat lunch. So we walked to the local pizzeria and ate pretty well. After we ate he paid for the whole meal and said that it was fine. He even offered a small cafe but I had to run to the vatican to get the pendant. We said out goodbyes and I told him I would be back....... When I got to the vatican I got my pendant and was set for the day, but I realized I have never been inside the basilica itself. So I had made my mind to wait the hour long line. When I got inside the mood was calm and almost soothing. I took looks of great pictures and let me tell you this place is big. I mean like REALLY big. It took me a good hour to walk the whole thing and pay my respects. I was then off to climb the cupola, which is the dome. You can pay 7 euro wait in line for the elevator. Or pay 5 and walk the insane amount of steps. So I pay my 5 euro and start running like it's a wod. I'm not gonna lie the pizza and biera were all slowing me down now and I got a little out of breath but felt fine after 2 minutes into the climb. Finally I reached the top and had an amazing view of St Pietro square. The air felt great because I worked up a sweat and after a good bit of pictures and breathing I decided to head back down. So me being me, I start to run down. I even recorded some footage of me running down the winding steps. If I was gonna fall, now would be the time. I didn't fall but made it down in record time. I also embarrassed my self because at the exit of the club the stair lead you right back into the basilica in the middle. I quickly headed for the door and started for the tram. When I got to the hostel I took all my laundry and had it done down the road. While waiting I was in my room Un packing and repacking my bag and talking to my roommates. We had a new addition today from the UK. This guy had been traveling for a while and was backpacking very on a whim. After talking for a while I heard my name being called in the window and investigated it was the girl from Ireland. Her name was Laura for Galway. He was also packing up ish because she was leaving tommorow back to ireland. She told me the group from last night was going to eat dinner and I had to go. She even invited my roommates, what a sweetheart. Soon my laundry dry had been done and I changed and packed quickly. The group gathered downstairs and we went someplace local for pasta and wine. It was a great dinner but after too many glasses of wine it was hard to count all the money together to pay the check. We all went to the bar and started drinking. My drink for the night was a Moscow Mule. A very limey bitter drink with a sweet taste for sugar. Tonight the event for the bar was burlesque and we didn't know what was in store for us. So a couple hours went by and the show was about to start. The show started off with the speaker telling us the performer was a shy fairy from a far away land and we should be nice. To my horror a scantily clad italian man step out with a hoot a hoop and started to dance. Luckily another pale but long arm stretched from behind the curtain for the hoop and out emerged a beautiful tall red head. She did her performance and was actually very tasteful and not vulgar at all. The show ended and the stage turned into a dance scene. We all danced for a whole but called it a night soon. I had a great time in rome the yellow and will probably got back just to party. The friends I made were all so wonderful and made rome awesome. Tommorow I travel to Florence.

"We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls."-Anaïs Nin

Posted by egarciafreites 09:14 Archived in Italy Tagged rome tattoo bars vatican goodbyes burlesque Comments (0)

Chuck Norris shot and partying.

9 am is never too early to start drinking

sunny 20 °C

I woke up starving and walked into the Yellow bar for breakfast. The breakfast here is the best bang for your buck and Irish coffee is great to wake up too. While eating I overheard a guy talking about dress blues and I asked him if he was name. He said he was a corpsman and he was stationed in Italy. He then gifted me with a Chuck Norris shot. The drink is not for the faint of heart and if you cringe or make a face you down another one. The concoction consists of half Zambuca, quarter Jaegher, quarter absinthe and a shot of Tabasco sauce. Somehow I powered through it and suffered after. I ended up sitting there drinking alot more and got a more shots. Today I was supposed to try the tour again but half inebriated I noticed I had stayed too long. I had 10 Minutes to get for the Castro Pietro station to Circo Maximo station. Running in subways in a foreign country while under the influence is fun...but I don't recommend it. I made it to the tour spot and once again no body showed up. So I asked the tour guide which way to the vatican. He showed me the right direction and 8 ended up walking all of the alcohol off. Got some good pictures and walked back towards the city. I wandered around and walked into Campo de Fiori. Which is another open air market but since it was already afternoon most of the shops had closed so I walked back towards the Vatican to catch the tram back to the hostel seeing as how the day was kinda slow because it was Sunday. I walked into the bar and met 2 girls from Ireland that I had met earlier taking the chuck Norris shots. They were all drinking and somehow I got stuck drinking aswell. Soon the group had turned into the girls from Ireland (which are really fun to drunk with) a girl from Chile who had lived in the hostel for w long time and had come back to visit. A french girl from who was very ladylike when it had come to drinking and overall apprrance, and a guy from Oregon who had a few to many already but was good to hang around with. We all drank and shared stories and told jokes, having the best of times. Tonight at the bar the event was some band from the stars was playing folk music. They were called Red Rooster and we're actually really good. The mood was being made better by our drunk friend from Oregon. Apparently the music was signing to his vibes and he had a hoot just yelling and dancing along. It got late and I was exhausted from drinking pretty much all day long. I saw the girls leave one by one and left with Oregon. We said our goodbyes and all went to bed.

"We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls."-Anaïs Nin

Posted by egarciafreites 04:15 Archived in Italy Tagged and drinking shot chuck norris Comments (0)

Rome and star wars

May the 4th be with you

overcast 18 °C

Today was supposed to be a sightseeing day but the tour didn't have enough people to start. So I ended wandering I the palentino and the Roman forum. To think that hundreds of years ago people lived in such a magnificent city and had such technology to sustain running free water and to move such big stones is so unbelievable. After taking many pictures and videos I walked into a market and bought ham, cheese, bread. I love walking into a random city ans just experiencing everyday life and the culture. Sometimes it can be a bit annoying not understanding people but to me I think not knowing is a challenge. The open air markets are alot of fun with the colors and aromas, and the merchants yelling out prices and free samples. Alot of the locals come here to do their weekly shopping and alot of the shop keepers know usually what they want. Then there's me asking in english/spanish how much stuff costs and telling them how much I want to buy. I really want to buy the oils and spices and bring them home to cook but I have but one backpack and weight and space is always an issue. So after buying sandwich items I went on to the Spanish steps. After walking alot any moment you can take a break I'd always appreciated. Sitting on the steps and watching everyday life happen is like watching a foreign movie. From the taxi drivers lounging around and some smoking in groups to locals walking in a fast paced to to get to their next destination. After a good break I walked towards the colloseum. Last time I went the side had scaffolding equipment and the side was being washed with hot water and soap to pull out the dirt and show the white behind it all. This time a little bit more had been cleaned and looked fantastic. Walking along side it and walking towards the merchants who try and sell you scarves, tripods, armor, glass memorabilia and a lot other miscellaneous. On the right side by the entrance was a small hill and a great picture spot, but this spot was being occupied by what looked like cinema gear. I investigated and found out that a select few loyal locals had made a May the 4th be with you event. They had a big space fences off and had a Tie Fighter covered up. Now I was interested. I asked the crew and staff what the plan was and they said they were going to show a movie along the side of the colloseum and there was going to be a parade of the 501st rebel regiment. I noticed the weather was becoming chilly. So I took the tram to the hostel to fetch my coat. I was so excited to find such an event and for free. I got to the hostel grabbed my coat, put away the sandwich supplies and headed back out. It was already getting late and the time was around 8pm. I waited for a long time until they turned out the lighting for the Tie Fighter. After a bit longer the parade had arrived alot of the characters from all the movies were all marching in formation towards the display and the staff went ahead and played the imperial March for their welcoming. The group even had a fight scene in front of the whole event and all cheered. After a while longer the staff had to tell everyone that the equipment was malfunctioning and that the movie would not be playing. I didn't mind it was already 1pm and I still had a tram.to catch.

"You have to get lost before you can be found."-Jeff Rasley

Posted by egarciafreites 03:46 Archived in Italy Tagged star colloseum wars wander Comments (0)

All roads lead to Rome

Back it italy to see what I didn't get to see

rain 16 °C

I woke up this morning n a rush becausw i hadnt really checked what time the trains were leaving from brugge to amsterdams. I had to catch a flight from Schipol to italy the day after. I bid adieu to Bauhaus and walked with all my gear to The bus stop which was only 2 minutes away. I will miss all of brugge and it's mysticism, but the show must Go On! I made it to the train station and bought a pass that was only 24 euro to amsterdam. It had 3 connections and i made the first connection but had missed the second one in Antwerpen. Due to the change in platforms. Lucky for me though I was hungry and wanted to sit down and eat plus the train station in Antwerpen is very nice. I ate yam yam which is a really fancy and expensive noodle stand. I made the next train and scored a very nice seat. The next station was in rotterdam centraal, and I finally arrived at amsterdam centraal. The hostel that I was staying in for the night had sent me directions on how to get to them and which tram to take. As soon as I made it there I really wish I could've stayed in that hostel the first 3 nights. The hostel was called Coco Mama and was very humble and way different. It had 5 floors and each had its one them per floor. The lowest area was g he lounge/kitchen with its Free pasta,free rice,free noodles,and an honesty fridge. Along with the really mellow decor and the local hostel cat Joop. This place Was awesome the receptionist Moe told me what was going on for the night and what all I had missed last time I was in amsterdam. Unfortunately it was already late and dinner sounded like the best idea. I ate at smullers which was the really cheap vending machine eatery. When I walked back I went down to the lounge and talked to very one there for what had seemed like hours. A parisian, 2 Canadians, 1 aussie, one from UK and a guy from Oregon. All talking about our travels and sharing in the same beliefs that lead us to travel. It's almost like a certain way of thinking just wanting to stay in a hostel and travel. We had shared tales and adventures and at one point it felt like you were speaking to family just all understanding. The coolest things to hear from was from the aussie she had also been backpacking and decided to stay in amsterdam. Her wardrobe consisted of shorts some flash dance leggings and a very short shirt just covering enough of her torso. She had been living in amsterdam for 8 months and never wants to leave. She works at coco mama as a receptionist/tour guide and has her own room in the attic.we all talked for quite another bit and all headed to catch some sleep. Also before I forget the rooms in this hostel are themed mine ironically enough is Brothel themed so the beds had red sheets and the wall full of what looked like 90's nude ladies on the wall. Waking up I felt a small rush to just hurry and leave but just decided to calm down and mellow out otherwise I would stress over nothing. Catching a flight from another country is fun but I have this horrible fear of losing my luggage and just living of my one back pack. Going through security could not be any easier. I boarded Vueling airlines and had a window seat which I was super excited for because I wanted to get some footage for a future project. When the stewardess arrived with snacks and drinks she had a card swipe and was charging for everything. I pretended to sleep so that I would not get pestered into buying a drink or chips for 4 euro. I made it safe and sound in rome and caught the train from the airport to the termini station. 2-3 block away was the next Hostel called The Yellow apparently the #1 party hostel in rome and I figured out why soon enough. The mood in the bar was friendly and people from all over go to drink and be merry. The bar also has events to break the ice and get people to mingle the last night it was karaoke. This night it was a scavenger hunt and it had thinks like win at beer pon, make a trick shot at beer pon, for each thing you do and a chive you ear a free shot on the house and so on. Unfortunately my teammate was not really the party kind of guy and had never played beer pon. Instead of lobbing the ball he proceeded many times to try and baseball throw it. I was keeping the team in a pretty good state but the other lads we were playing had just graduated and we're frat daddys. I was screwed. After losing that game and giving it my all I tried again and lost that one for just being too drunk. Upon noticing how gone I was I decided it was enough and went to the room. Took a long shower and crashed hard. The following morning was a spin but slowly and surely got up and got ready to see rome. I signed up for a tour and soon gained my heading for what I wanted to accomplish today. I made the metro towards circo maximo and waited for the tour and tour guide to show up. Shortly a bearded fellow asked if I was there for a tour and introduced himself as Ian from Liverpool who is an archeologist but being one doesn't get you paid too well do he tour guides for his main source of income. The time passed and I was the only one who I'm guessing sobered up enough to get up and go. He told me to try again tommorow because a 1on1 guided tour is the most awkward situation you can get your self into. I got my refund and decided to go walk the Roman forum. After a good 2 hours of wandering around I walked by the colloseum and saw them setting up some kind of film equipment. I asked the event staff what they were doing and they replied tommorow is May the 4th be with you so they were playing a star wars movie on the side of the colloseum followed by a costume parade. How lucky did I get yahaha (man im a nerd). A bit later I noticed it getting chilly and I left my jacket in the hostel so I took the metro back to get it. As soon as I arrived it started to rain pretty hard so now I'm catching up on the whole blog hahahahaa.

"Travel far enough, you meet yourself."-David Mitchell

Posted by egarciafreites 09:21 Archived in Italy Tagged rome tour star colloseum wars Comments (0)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 17) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 »