Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Gentleman in Verona

Juliet's Balcony

"Pleasant Verona! With its beautiful old palaces, and charming country in the distance, seen from terrace walks, and stately, balustraded galleries. With its Roman gates, still spanning the fair street, and casting, on the sunlight of today, the shade of fifteen hundred years ago." ~ Charles Dickens

Our plan today was to head to Verona for a few hours and then head to Peschiera del Garda, a town on 15 minutes away by train. Mike hadn't been to Verona before, and I thought he'd enjoy seeing it as it's quite different from most of the other towns we've visited, and Peschiera is a beautiful town on the south shore of Lake Garda. A friend recommended we visit it.

"What's the weather forecast for Verona?" I asked as I was getting ready this morning.

"Well," he hesitated, "it's going to be 91, 94% humidity, and no rain."  I groaned.  No, I whined. We still went.

When we arrived in Verona, the temperature really wasn't too bad. Of course, we walked in the shade most of the way from the train station to the city center, and there was a slight breeze blowing.  I thought that maybe, just maybe, the Weather Channel had it wrong.

The train without shock absorbers
As we walked through Piazza Bra, the main square in town, I saw a tourist train.  Since I wasn't keen on doing another HOHO in Verona this year, I suggested we take it so Mike could get an overview of the place.  Let me give you a little advice:  Take the bus.  Walk. Avoid the train.

I say that simply because I have never been on a more uncomfortable ride in my life.  The streets in Verona are mostly cobblestone, pitted, and very bumpy, and the train has no shocks.  I'm afraid to look at my back tonight for fear I have one big black and blue mark where my spine kept hitting the wooden seat back as we pounded along for almost 30 minutes.

I love the apartment balconies in Verona.

Still, we got to see some things I didn't see when taking the HOHO bus the last few times I was in Verona.  The train, because it's smaller, can get through the more narrow streets, and I love the architecture of the older homes.  So many apartments have balconies, and this time of year, flowers and greenery flow from them.

At different points in history, Verona was actually part of France and part of Austria, but in 1805, Napolean took it back and held it until the Austrians defeated him in 1814 and took Verona back.  In 1866, the city permanently became part of the Kingdom of Italy.

Wurstel pizza
I bring up this history because you can still see the Germanic influence in Verona today.  Note the "wurstel" pizza above. Every restaurant sells some kind of "wurstel" which, if you didn't know, is a kind of Vienna sausage...or hot dog.  (Please note: We did NOT try the wurstel pizza.)  Many of the Veronese have lighter skin, blonder hair, and blue eyes.  In addition, the dialect is quite different from what I'm used to hearing. I had a hard time understanding the Italian in Verona because of how they pronounce many words.  As an example, the number "three" in Italian is "tre," and it's pronounced almost like the word "tray" in English.  A lady who waited on us said our bill was "try euro."  The German word for three is "drei," pronounced  almost like "dry" in English.

The Adige River

 Because of its location in the country, Verona has been important to the differing regimes.  Mussolini had a headquarters here, and the Nazis staged trials and executed Italian officers—including il Duce's son-in-law—on the banks of the Adige River.

One more bit of history, and this one concerns Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers about whom William Shakespeare wrote.  They didn't exist.  They did exist. They were English. They were Italian. They were Spanish. This much is true: Shakespeare did not write the original literary piece about the two lovers. He based his play on an Italian tale that a British poet translated in 1562 and a piece of prose written by another British writer in 1567.  Yes, Shakespeare "borrowed" heavily from both of those pieces in writing his own play.

The balcony that thousands of tourists visit daily is, indeed, part of a house that belonged to the dell Capella family. While the house itself dates to the 13th century, the balcony is only 95 years old.  I don't want to ruin anyone's visions of what the courtyard looks like, but it is anything but romantic. To get to the balcony, you have to walk through a short alley which is covered, and I do mean covered, with graffiti and love notes.  (Last year, the walls were filled with bandaids on which people had written love notes.  Apparently the city cleaned that up.) The courtyard itself has one wall on which people have stuck chewed gum and written their initials.  Not too romantic.

By the time we had taken the train ride, walked to Juliet's House, and walked through a few streets and alleys, the temperature was on the rise, and we could feel the humidity.

"Maybe we should just have lunch and head back," Mike said.  As much as I wanted to see Lake Garda, I was ready to head back to Bologna.  Heat, humidity, and crowds just do not mix.

Mike tries to lead a tour group.
As we headed to Piazza Bra, we noticed a few tour groups heading our way.  The tour guides were all holding things up so that their particular group could keep track of them.  One held an umbrella, and another held an expandable pointer topped with ribbons. My two favorites were a gal holding a blue water bottle upside down (I swear she had small holes in it so she could sprinkle water on herself.), and a guy waving his hat.

"I wonder if I can get anyone to follow me if I wave my hat around," Mike asked me.

"You should try it," I urged him.  "Let's see what happens."  Never one to shy away, he walked ahead of me a bit, got in front of a group, raised his hat, and started walking towards me.  As I lifted the camera to take the photo (above), everyone stopped about 10 feet behind him to let me take his photo (except, of course, for the guy in the blue shirt who wondered why I was laughing).

"They all stopped to give you room," I told him.

"People just can't follow directions," Mike replied.  "I'll find another group."

One little girl actually paid attention.

 There was one older gentleman walking ahead of us.  "Go in front of that guy," I said to Mike. "You can lead him down the street."  He wasn't too excited about that prospect.

"He's one guy," he replied, "and he's walking with a cane.  What if he hits me with it?"  Mike walked about 20 feet ahead of me.  He walked in front of a crowd of people who were headed my way, took off his hat, and waved them on.  "This way," he said.  I took the photo (above), and noted that only one little girl even noticed him.  "I guess no one wants to go on a tour with me," he added.

"They're probably all German and didn't understand you," I comforted him. 

We arrived at Piazza Bra and had lunch at an outdoor cafe where we could sit and where he could wave to people.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Wasted Days & Wasted Nights

Mike and his frullati
"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~ e. e. cummings

We were supposed to go to Venice today, but our plans got derailed in the most revolting manner last night.  Allow me to explain that first.

Our apartment is in a nice, four-story building that has 10 apartments in it. Giovanni, our landlord, owns eight of the apartments, and one of the two he doesn't own is above our flat.  Last year, my flat was on the ground floor, and except for the French family whose kids cried when they went to bed, everyone was quiet. I can't say the same thing about the idiots people who live above our third-story this year.  They like to watch television, listen to music, talk, and argue until early in the morning...as early as 2:00 am.

I don't fall asleep easily, and the little bit of noise disturbs me greatly. When said residents started playing loud music last night, I put up with it as long as I could. At midnight, I finally gave in and took a sleeping pill.  Mike, who had been asleep but woke up when he heard me get up, got up, grabbed the broom, and stood on the chair.   BAMBAMBAM.  Nothing.  BAMBAMBAM.  Nothing.  BAMBAMBAM.  Nothing.  BAMBAMBAM.  Nothing.  BAMBAMBAM.  Nothing.  BAMBAMBAM.

After Mike pounded the ceiling the sixth time, someone up there finally got a clue and turned the music down.  By that time, it was almost 1:30, and it probably took me another 30 minutes to fall asleep.  The alarm at 6:00 shocked me out of sleep.

"We don't have to go today, you know," Mike said to me as I started to get ready.

"I'll be okay," I lied and took out the blow dryer. I looked at myself in the mirror.  "No, I won't. If you're really okay with it, I'd rather not go today."

And we didn't.

Fries and mayonnaise

 Instead, I went back to bed and slept until almost 11:00, and we headed to lunch.

"I have to tell you that it will be five or ten minuti," our waiter Eugenio told us after we place our order.  We were outside on the terrace in front of the restaurant.

"It's okay," Mike replied, "but we think you should entertain us while we wait.  Do you sing?"

"I sing," Eugenio laughed, "but I only know Beatle songs."

"That's great," Mike exclaimed.  "Which one do you want to sing?"

"I like to sing," Eugenio told us, "but everyone know Beatle songs, and they sing with me. I can't sing with other people."  He walked into the restaurant.
 Eugenio came back out to bring us bread and found Mike sitting with the leather table marker on his head.  He looked at me.
Mike with the table marker on his head

"Lui é un po pazzo," I told Eugenio who looked at me in shock.  What I'd said was, He's a little crazy, but it also can mean You're a little crazy, which is how Eugenio took it at first. "Lui.  Lui." I pointed at Mike. Eugenio broke into a smile. 

"Oh, he's a little crazy," he said to me.

"Help me," I said to our laughing waiter.

"I help you," he replied.  "Run. Run. I will distract him."


As the five-to-ten minutes turned to 15, Mike started getting bored again.  "I wonder if Italians will wave to me," he said to me.

"All you can do is try."  He started waving to people who rode by on bikes, and most of them ignored him.  After a bit, he started waving at people walking by.

"I'm not waving at that guy," Mike said as a huge, tattooed guy walked toward us. "He might beat the crap out of me."  Eugenio brought a table near us their coffee.  "No one is waving to me," Mike complained.  "Aren't they friendly?"

"Italians don't look up," Eugenio said. "They always look down. They don't see you."

"They don't see the sky?" Mike asked him.

"No," Eugenio replied.  "They see the ground, the dirt. They no see you."


"That's not nice," Mike told him.  "I'm a friendly guy."  He waved at a guy riding by, and the guy said, "Ciao."

"Did he just say hello to you?" I laughed.

"He thinks I'm a nice guy," Mike told me.

"He thinks you're nuts," I told him as he waved at a woman riding by.

"She just stared right at me," Mike complained.

"You probably scared her," I replied.

At this point, our five-to-ten minute wait had hit about 30 minutes, and we hadn't seen the waiter in some time.

"Can you see Eugenio?" I asked. 

Mike shook his head. "I think he's helping them rebuild the kitchen," he said to me and waved to someone else who ignored him.  He was quiet for a few minutes.  "Maybe I should hold my hat out," Mike said. "Maybe I can get some donations to pay for lunch."

"Go ahead," I told him.  "I dare you."

"I bet some guy would ride by and grab it," he replied.  "Then I'd be out of luck since I couldn't chase him. 'Thanks for the hat and the money, Dude.'"


 The entire time we were doing this, the other patrons in the restaurant would look at us and then away if I looked at them.  They all spoke English—British or American—so I knew they understood us. I couldn't tell if they were afraid, amused, or confused as to why I was laughing so hard.

Eugenio never returned, and a waitress finally brought our lunch—two panini and an order of fries.

"Why would they give us butter with fries?" Mike asked me looking at the bowl of creamy stuff sitting next to the fries.

"It's mayonnaise," I told him. "For some reason, they eat fries with mayonnaise here. UGH."

"Have you ever tried it? It might be good."  My husband is so trusting at times.

"I don't like mayonnaise in the first place," I gagged back.  "I'm sure not going to try it with fries."

As we went into the restaurant to pay, Eugenio miraculously appeared again.

"How was everything?" he asked.  We assured him it was, and he went outside to again wait on customers.

"Do you think he disappeared because of us?" Mike asked me.

"Us? " I retorted. "Do I think he disappeared because of *us*? I don't think it was *us* at all."

Parting note: As I finish this up, it's 9:45 pm.  Mike just turned to me and said, "Well, I don't want to jinx anything, but...."

"Don't say it," I snapped back.  "Don't jinx it.... but keep that broom handy."

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Do As I Say...

A regional train

 “Everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is to not make the same mistake twice.”
― Stephanie Perkins

"I wish," I said to Mike yesterday, "that we had trains like this in the US."  We were sitting on a fast train to Rome. "I'd love to have even the plain, ol' regional trains.  If we did, I'd go to Pahrump or Laughlin or St. George."  He nodded and proceeded to fall asleep.

That's the great thing about trains. You choose a place to go, buy a ticket, get on the train, and take off. While you're in the middle of the journey, you just sit back and let them do the driving.  Your only other job is to make sure you get off at the right station.

Train station

Actually, that's not right. Once you buy the ticket and before you get on the train, you have to validate your ticket. Validation is most important on the regional trains because you can buy tickets at automated machines, and the tickets are good for a route only.  The regional trains run certain routes a lot, and tickets don't specify time, date, or seat.  Validation shows that the ticket is good for six hours on a certain day for a certain route.

 Conductors walk the trains and check tickets regularly.  In the past two years, I've only been on maybe three trains where I didn't see a conductor, and two of those were fast trains. Tickets for the fast trains are for specific days, times, and seats, so while conductors do check tickets on those routes, they sometimes spot check certain cars.

So, ticket validation is quite important, and there are machines all over the stations, so it's not hard to remember to validate tickets. I constantly tell people this in person and on travel boards.

And, you probably know where this is going, don't you? 

A conductor and passenger conversing over a ticket

Just before the first group left for home in late May, I went to Ravenna with one of the gals, Deb.  The others decided they wanted to stay in Bologna and go to other museums.  I bought the tickets, and we headed to the platform and the train.  We were about 20 minutes into the trip when the conductor came into our car.  I took the tickets out of my bag.

"Holy crap," I exclaimed.  At that exact moment, it dawned on me that I had forgotten to validate the tickets. "I didn't validate the tickets."

"What's going to happen?" Deb asked me as the conductor reached our seat.

I handed him our tickets and started talking fast.  "I'm so sorry. I forgot to validate them. I'm so tired today. I didn't mean to forget."  I hoped I was saying all that correctly.

"Signora," he said and shook his head as he turned the tickets over looking for the stamping.  "Signorna."

I repeated, "'I'm so  sorry and so tired today. Really.  It's my fault, I know. I didn't mean to forget.

He wagged his finger at me and wrote on both of the tickets, in essence validating them manually.  

One of the rogue tickets

"It's a 65 euro fine per ticket," he told me as he wrote it on the face of one of them.  Since  each ticket cost only 7.50 euro, that fine was a zinger.  Adding to the fun was the fact that I had neither my credit card nor 130 euro with me. He finally smiled at me.  "I'll let it go today."  He underlined the 65 euro twice for emphasis. "Don't do it again."  He handed the tickets back to me and went on.

"Grazie.  Grazie. I won't. I never forget. Just today.  Never. Never." 

And, believe me, I won't.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

How Many Things Can You Cram Into Five Hours In Rome?

 "You look exhausted." ~ Mike Cutler

No lie.  We left the apartment at 6:45 this morning to catch the 7:35 fast train to Rome. (Above)

 We then caught the "B" line subway (Above) to get to the Colosseum.

 Luckily, we had tickets to the Colosseum (Above...built between 72-80 AD) already, so we didn't have to wait in line. Because we were there somewhat early, there were only about 50,000 people there. Later in the day, there were be closer to 150,000.

 We walked by the Roman Forum. Too many of the 150,000 people already in line.

And we saw the Arch of Constantine (Above... built in 315).

 Trajan's Market (Above) was the first shopping center and master-planned community.  :-)

 Our favorite building is the Vittorio Emmanuele II Monument (Above) aka The Altar of the Fatherland...Memorial to Victor Emmanuel & WWI Soldiers

 This was the first time we made it to Campo d'Fiori (Above). The market was a mix of goods and foods.

 We found time for lunch (Above) so I could sit and not pass out.

 This was also our first time at Piazza Navonna (Above).

 From there we hit another first, the Pantheon (Above), where we visited Raphael's tomb.

And, we walked to the Trevi Fountain (being restored) before heading back to Termini Station (above) and our fast train back to Bologna.

So, the story of the day will have to wait.  I'm going to bed.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Food Friday: PIzza

Pizza Capriciossa
 “Those pizzas I ate were for medicinal purposes.”  ― Amy Neftzger

 It's Friday. I'm tired (not lazy as if I were lazy, I would not be writing this at all). I need to get up early to catch the train to Rome in the morning (You may remember someone in this place wants to hit the Eternal City tomorrow. Being ever so accommodating, I agreed even though I swore I wasn't going back this trip.  Yes. Yes. I know you've heard that before.)

At any rate, since I'm tired, it's Friday, and i haven't done food in a few weeks, I thought I'd show you some of the pizzas I've had this trip.  I had them all at different places, and they were all very good. I can't name a favorite among them, but I can tell you I've found a new kind to order—capricciosa.

I've had capricciosa twice this trip, and they were a little different each time.  Capricciosa usually has mozzarella cheese, baked ham, mushrooms, artichokes and tomato.  Some places put olives on theirs (above), while others don't (last photo below). I prefer the ones with olives, but they're both good.

Pizza Margherita

Mike ordered pizza margherita the other day, and unlike the pizza margherita we know in the States—olive oil, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella (or provolone), and basil, magherita pizza in Italy is tomato sauce and cheese (above).  The one we had in Ravenna had a lot of cheese on it, so Mike was happy.

Pizza Quattro Stagioni
 Supposedly, quattro stagioni (above) is the most popular pizza in Italy. Translated, quattro stagioni means "four seasons," and the toppings represent the four seasons of the year: artichokes for spring, olives for summer, mushrooms for autumn, and prosciutto for winter. When I ordered the quattro stagioni in Verona a few weeks ago, they were out of olives, so they doubled on the mushrooms. 

You probably noticed that quattro stagioni and capricciosa are have almost identical ingredients. The difference is in the presentation in that the ingredients all cover the capricciosa pizza while each ingredient covers a quarter of the quattro stagioni pizza.

Pizza bianca
 I grew up having pizza bianca (white pizza) quite often as my mother and grandmother liked it.  If you've never heard of it, pizza bianca is simply pizza without tomato sauce.  My mom used to brush it with olive oil and sprinkle salt, pepper, and grated cheese on it.  That's exactly how the pizza bianca (above) was at Pino, one of my favorite Bologna haunts.

 I've seen dozens of takes on pizza bianca here. Some places offer it with exactly the same toppings as regular pizza sans the tomatoes and/or tomato sauce.  Others offer it with a white cream sauce on it.  I've even seen it with roasted potatoes and ham on it. (Carb alert)
Pizza Capricciosa (front) and Pizza Napoletana (left rear)
One kind of pizza I have not tried is pizza napoletana (above). Real pizza napoletana (Neapolitan pizza) consists of a dough made with a certain wheat flour and Neapolitan yeast, San Marzano tomatoes, and fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese. That's it.  There is an actual association that promotes and protects true pizza napoletana.  According to Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, of all the restaurants that serve pizza napoletana worldwide, only 535 are certified in producing it correctly.  Pizza napoletana is a protected product by the European Union (meaning that the product is made in accordance with international regulations.  If you want to read the regulations, click here.

Just as an aside, I've never had pizza with thick crust in Italy, and I've never been in a restaurant certified by the AVPN. 

I'll be on the lookout in Rome (hot, crowded, dirty) tomorrow.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

I See-a IKEA

IKEA dressers

 “You know what it’s like when you go to IKEA and ... before you know it you've dropped five hundred bucks, not because you needed any of this crap, but because it was so damn cheap?” ― Maria Semple

"What do you want to do tomorrow?" Mike asked me yesterday about 15 minutes after we returned from Ravenna.
"I don't know. Let's just stay here, maybe." I was a little tired from traveling three days in a row.  When I'm by myself, I usually space out my visits to places so I have a little time to breathe. "We can maybe go to Rome on Saturday if you want."  Rome. Saturday. Crowds. Heat. Oh, joy.

Inside the IKEA bus

"So, what do you want to do here tomorrow?" Mike wondered.

"We can get the train tickets and then spend the day in a cafe if you want," I told him. "Or, we could go to IKEA."  Every apartment we stay in here has IKEA everything. My Bologna flat has IKEA furniture, cabinets, bed, dishes, flatware, and pots and pans.  Everyone I know loves IKEA, and I thought I'd liked to see the place. Mike preferred the cafe idea and wasn't wild about the IKEA idea, so I let it drop.

ODDA wardrobe I liked
This morning, we headed to the train station.  While we waited for the light to change to cross the street to the train station, I noticed a sign for the IKEA bus.  EUREAKA!! Since IKEA is in a Bolognese suburb, they have a bus come into the historic center every hour all day so the masses can get to IKEA easily.  Long story short: We bought the train tickets and caught the bus to IKEA.

Never having been to IKEA, we weren't sure what to expect, but as we entered the behemoth of a building, I told Mike that Charlene had mentioned it when we were in Rome.

Paper plates, napkins, cups

"We were in the Vatican Museum where you have to walk through three thousand rooms to get to anywhere you want to go," I explained.  "Charlene said it was like IKEA. You walk keep on going and going and going and going."

If you've been to IKEA, you know how true that is.  We entered and immediately had to walk upstairs to the entrance.  You can't get anywhere in that store without walking through the entire place. You want to look at plates? First you have to walk through storage, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, studies, furniture, and heaven knows what else before you even get to take the stairs down to the first floor where you walk through textiles, rugs, business, and toilet paper just to get to kitchenware.

Outdoor furniture (and flooring)

Yes, I said toilet paper. They have grey, lilac, bright green, and bright orange toilet paper.... Six rolls for 1.99 euro. What a deal. They also have purple and green paper towels. I was tempted.

 I admit it. I love the place and saw a zillion things I need want. I love things that help organize.  I love them, and I buy them. I never use them. I try, but organizing is like exercising to me. I like the tools, but I hate the actual activity.

Outdoor flooring I need want

I want the Odda closet wardrobe (3 photos above) because my closet is crap, and for $299, I could fix it easily.  I also liked the outdoor flooring (above and below). All you have to do is lock the pieces together, and you change the look of plain, old concrete patios. By the way, if you don't have any outdoor furniture to put on that outdoor flooring, IKEA can sell you tables, chairs, lounges, umbrellas, hammocks, summer plates and cups and towels and grills.

Flooring on display
IKEA is currently building a store in Las Vegas, and the darn thing is going to be about a mile from our house. I'm in trouble.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

Giardina Margherita near our apartment

 “Walking would teach people the quality that youngsters find so hard to learn —patience."  ~ Edward P. Weston

"I wonder, how far we've walked" Mike said to me when we were in Barcelona last year. "I'd sure like to know how many miles we've put in."

"A lot."  I was a bit cranky since my feet were swollen from the crappy shoes I was wearing.  At that point, he dropped the subject, but at home a few weeks later, he brought it up again.

"I walk Riley twice a day. I'd sure like to figure out how many miles we walk."

"Get a Fitbit." I knew he wouldn't, so I starting researching Fitbits, Jawbones, Fuel Bands, and more. I really couldn't figure out what the big difference was between the plethora of activity trackers on the market. I thought I'd buy both of us one so maybe I could motivate myself to get out and do something.

Let me be perfectly clear about it, though. I do not exercise. My doctor once asked me if I exercised regularly.
Santo Stefano di Sessanio

"Well, I try....sometimes....not a lot...."

"You too busy?" he wanted to know.

"No, I'm lazy,"  Why lie?  I hate exercising.  Besides, the minute I get on some stupid machine, I have a thought of something else I want to  should do.

One thing I do like to do is walk, but that enjoyment is limited to walking in big cities.  Mike and I have walked end-to-end in Manhattan, San Francisco, and Chicago in the States, and any European city we've ever visited.  Walking is a way of life in all of those places.  Ask me to walk in Las Vegas—a city that I love, mind you—and I either get out the keys to my Mini or I put myself in that La-Z-Boy and close my eyes.

 At any rate, for Christmas, I bought both of us Misfits. I chose it merely on the strength of its name since I figured that Misfit suited me better than Fitbit or Jawbone.  Besides, the things come in a variety of colors, and I happened to like the "Topaz" which is actually more of an aquamarine color than orange.

 I've worn the thing on my wrist every single day since Christmas, and I rarely hit the 10,000 step mark until my feet hit Italian soil. As of Sunday, May 17, I've walked way over the 10,000 steps almost every day.  The days I didn't hit the mark were travel days. 

 (Let me step out a minute and interject that one of the reasons I love walking here is that it is such a part of the culture and life. I feel as though I'm really part of it. I love seeing new things every time I go out...things that I've walked by a million times but missed somehow. Italians do not rush. They walk at a leisurely pace, so walking here calms me down a bit. If you haven't guessed, I'm so Type-A and hyper, and walking in Italy slows me down.)

Since Mike started using his Misfit, he's been a fanatic about checking it to see how far he's walked.  He started at five miles a day and has worked up to seven, although I think the Las Vegas heat has slowed him (and Riley) down a bit.  The weather has been pretty nice since he arrived here, so he's been wanting to walk a lot.


 And, we have.  We walk to and from the train station if we go somewhere, and we walk around the historic center if we don't.  We compared how many steps we both had on our Misfits Saturday after we'd walked around town.

"I have 11,352," he told me.

"I have 8,566," I shot back. "How can that be?  I walked to the salon while you slept."  I told him that mine wasn't syncing right with Doreen's Fitbit while we were in Rome, either.

"Something's not right."  DUH.

I thought about it a lot, and I decided that the difference might be that I wear mine on my left wrist while he keeps his in his pocket.  Because of the shoulder problem, I move my arm very little, so I figured that might be part of the difference.  On Sunday, we went to Ferrara, and I put my Misfit in my pocket.  When we checked, we were within a few steps of each other.  I've been keeping mine in my pocket since, and we're pretty close in steps and mileage now... We're averaging about six-and-a-half miles per day.

So, the way I figure it, by the time I get back to the States, I'll be up on my yearly allotment of walking exercise. When Dr. Emery asks me for the zillionth time if I'm exercising, I can tell him I'm all caught up.

Please excuse me now.  We're heading out for gelato (350 steps both ways).

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Something in the Stars

Mike started the day in Florence by waving to the guys setting up the leather stalls.

 “In America, Walt Disney opened an amusement park.  And in Florence, someone was savaging the remnants of a Tuscan nobleman’s family.”  ― Chris Bohjalian

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Let me be honest. Of course, I am always honest with you, so let me just get to it and tell you that I am not a big fan of Florence. To tell the truth, I took both groups there for a day earlier this trip, and I could not wait to get out of there. It was hot. It was humid. It was crowded. It was dirty. It was a zoo.

"Disney needs to come in here and show them hot to run things the right way," Ed said to me after he and the other four of Group 2 returned from time at the Accademia.  "These people have no idea how to handle crowds."

The leather stalls

Unfortunately, that's true. Sixteen million (16,000,000) people traipse through the city every year, and while they bring some money into the local economy, it's not as much as you would think it is.  Prince Ottaviano de’Medici di Toscana (Yes, he is one of *those* de Medicis) has started a campaign—Save Florence—to clean up the city and protect it from tourists who deface the historic buildings and art, urinate in the street (Yes, it does happen), sleep in public squares, and generally act like a bunch of bulls in china shops.

I don't want to go into it in this blog, but if you're interested,  you can read about the Prince's initiative here.  I applaud his efforts and hope they work because, as Steve from Group 1 said, most of the tourists are more interested in shopping than experiencing the culture.

At any rate, after the hot, miserable day we had two weeks ago, I told Group 2 that I was not going back to Florence again this year.  "I'm telling Mike it's off the list," I said.  "It's second only to Modena." HA.  What I forgot was that I had purchased train tickets for Florence before I left the States, and we weren't going to let them go to waste. So, we hopped on the train and headed out at 8 this morning.

World Map, ca. 1452
We waited to have coffee until we got to Florence, and we sat outside a cafe and watched vendors set up their stalls for the day.  Mike, of course, waved to people who walked by, but they mostly ignored him.

"I think word got out that the crazy American guy is back," I told him.  He just waved at someone else.

At any rate, we had decided last night that we weren't going to spend a lot of time in the markets or on the Ponte Vecchio.  Of course, we did have to walk by them as Mike hadn't been in Florence for five years, and I wanted to show him a few new
things.  We went into the Duomo for Mass, but we just missed it, so we sat and prayed for a bit before we headed out to the one big thing on our list, the Galileo Museum.

Michelangelo's compass, ca. 16th century
Charlene and Deb from Group 1 went into it last month and enjoyed it a lot, so I told Mike that maybe we should check it out.  Galileo (1564-1648) was, as you might remember, an astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, and mathematician. In addition, he worked on improving the telescope, invented an improved compass, and worked in science and technology.  He is widely known as the father of modern physics, modern astronomy, and modern science.

 So, I don't want to go into a big history lesson because, quite frankly, who cares?  (I'm being honest here, folks.)  Mike and I were stunned at what those men accomplished in the 15 and 16 centuries.  While we were looking at astronomical charts, I overheard one guy say, "How did they do this, do  you suppose?"  He was looking at an map of the stars from the 16th century.

"One man probably had to stand in the same spot every single night of the year until he had the map done," said his colleague.  He was probably not so far off.

Odometer, ca. 1750
Science never interested me enough to make me want to study physics or medicine (as my father tried to force me to do), but I find this stuff pretty interesting because I wonder how the hell those guys did what they did 400+ years ago with the little knowledge that they had then.  They guy who mentioned making the astronomy map had a point.  Did some guy stand in the same spot for one year and mark things down?  How did he know he had this star or that one?  Think about it.

How did they make that world map in 1452?  How could they determine land shape, form, and mass simply by sailing around it?  They couldn't fly above it to see if they were right.  It boggles my mind.
Meteorological map, ca 16th Century
Mike found the most interesting things in the museum, though.

"Would you look at these?" he said to me as I walked by one case that held what looked like moldy hot dogs in two glass containers.

"What are those?" I asked him.
"Galileo's fingers."

Galileo's index finger

After he picked me up from the floor and revived me, I got out of that room as fast as I could.