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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Italian Day-Trips

While staying in Florence, Braden and I took 3 day trips: Pisa, Siena and Torino (Turin).  These were each fun in the own different ways.  First, Pisa.

We walked lazily over to Firenze Santa Novella (the main train station) and when we got there we noticed that the train to Pisa was to leave in 5 minutes!  What luck, we wouldn't have to wait.  We even got 2 seats next to each other.  It was a nice train ride, but I had forgotten my iPod, so I had to just read the travel guide book, which I have done on more than one occasion.  I feel like I could get around fairly well in Athens though I have not done any further research than this one guide...many times over.

When we got to Pisa, I knew we had a long walk ahead of us to the tower so I bought some orange gatorade, it tasted like tooth paste.  I still drank it, though.  When we got to the leaning tower we wanted to go up to the top because it was such a pretty day and I thought maybe we could see the sea and there were also some mountains in the distance that looked nice.  So, we went to the ticket office and were immediately appauled.  They wanted to charge us 15 Euro each for a trip up to the top...are you kidding me?  This is when the old saying "If the Vatican was free..." came into play.  They also were charging to get into the church that is right by the tower.  I just think that some things should be free or at least cheap, and this should be one of them.  Lord knows they get enough tourists to make money, I'm sure they could stand to reduce the price.  But, the thing is...people pay it.  Namely, the Asian tour groups, but if people pay at that price, it just means the rest of us can't afford to do it.  Too bad for us.

We walked alond the kitchy shops and I got a cute leaning shot glass to add to my collection.  We also took some pictures of it (the tower)!

On the walk back, I decided that I wanted a book to read.   Listening to all the books on my iPod was getting old and I had forgotten that in any case.  But before we could look for a book, I needed to eat one more time at my favorite pizzeria in Italy.After that, we stopped by the chain book store il Fraternelli or something like that and I looked at the English section.  They had classics for 3.50, so I bought "The Odyssey".  We walked to the train station and got there just in time for the train once again. That was lucky for trains 2 times in one day...we knew we would pay for that later (and we did).   <- that is foreshadowing.

The train ride back was fine, I was reading my book.  I was ULTRA sad that I had forgotten my iPod when the most obnoxious woman came in snapping her gum while she chewed.  I honestly almost decked her in the face.  However, Braden started clicking his ipod clip and that pissed her off, so we were about even.  Don't mess with us. :)

 Arriving back in Florence, we went to bed.

The next morning was supposed to be early, but I'm glad it wasn't.  We decided to just sleep in and make the day fold out how it wanted to.  We got up and walked lazily to the train station and got breakfast (doughnut and OJ) at McDonald's.  We took that with us to the train and went to Siena!  I had not been there before, so I was interested to see what was there. I hadn't even really done too much research on the town.  I was nervous to find everything, though, because when I had quickly Google Mapped the walk from the train station to the city center was a 1/2 hour walk.

When we got there, I wasn't really in the  mood to site see or walk a half hour (it turns out uphill the whole way), but Braden made me do it. It wasn't very fun, but when we got into the town it was pretty cute.  The main Piazza was cool, it was on a slope which was really interesting.

After seeing that for a while, we went up to the church.  The facade was VERY pretty, but when we looked at the entry price we were again shocked.  I think it was 8 Euro per person just to enter the church.  They claim there are valuable artworks inside (which I'm sure there are), but that was just not reason enough for us to pay.  I would have liked to have gone up the bell tower because it was on a hill and probably had a gorgeous view of the Tuscan countryside, but it was cloudy, so I don't think it would have been worth it.

With that disappointment behind us, we went back to the Piazza for my postcard and some gelato.  On the way back to the train station we realized that we were going to just miss the next train and have to wait for an hour, so we drastically slowed our pace and stopped in about every shop window for a few seconds.  We still were there early, but we did catch a cool view we hadn't seen on the way up the hill while we were hurrying.

That night, we had dinner with a friend from Concordia.  It was so nice to get to see someone from home and we were able to switch up the conversation a little bit!  Her name is Becca Hovland and she is going to be an Orientation Leader with Braden and me and is also best friends and roommates with Yvonne, who is in Jena with me this year.  She was on her way to Paris on a night train after dinner and we had to pack to leave for our own night train the next morning.

After packing up we went to bed.  When we woke up and checked out we walked to the train station and I said my goodbyes to Florence.  It was sad to know I wasn't coming back for a while.  We boarded the train to Torino and settled in for the ride.  It was odd because we didn't have seats next to each other, but facing one another across the aisle.  It was fine, though, because we were just going to read anyway.  I'm in the middle of 3 books, one I'm reading, one on Braden's Nook and one from my iPod...I keep switching back and forth.  While I was resting, Braden got a phone call from April.  Her and Maria were in Edinburgh and would be leaving for London the next day.  We were excited to hear from them and it made us look forward to Lisbon and seeing them again even more.

We knew that we needed to leave that night from Torino Porta Susa, but the train was ending in Porta Nuovo after stopping in Susa, so, we decided it would just be easier to get off at Susa and leave our stuff there and travel Torino from there.  BAD IDEA.  It was under construction and there was hardly a station at all.  Because of this, we had to wait for the next train (about an hour) to take us to Nuovo.  WHOOPS.

We got there eventually and were able to leave our bags.  We walked around for a while and ate a quick snack.  We then decided the only things we needed to see (and even had heard of) were the Olympic 2006 stuff.  So, we figured out the metro system and bought a ticked.  ANOTHER WRONG STEP.  The metro to the olympic stuff was also under construction.  So, we just used our ticket for a bus.  The bus was not direct, but it took us to a bridge and from there we walked about a half hour to the Olympic Stadium and park.  We were also able to see Olympic Villiage and a cool foot bridge they had built for the occasion.

The place where the torch was!


The footbridge led to a mall where we spent the rest of our time people watching and window shopping.  There was a theatre playing movied that I really wanted to see, but all in Italian.  Sad.  I am going to have a lot of movie catching up to do when I get back home.  From there we went back to the station (Nuovo) and ate some dinner.  We got our packs back and went to look for the next train to Susa.  That was when we first noticed that something was very wrong.  The delays were all about an hour and nothing was going in or out of the station.  We had a lot of time, though, so we didn't panic.  After standing and waiting on a train for a while, we chose to just take the metro to Susa, that line was not under construction.

We did so, and when we got there it was much the same.  I started to get nervous.  I was sure our train was just going to skip us because it was on an international schedule.  I asked the customer service rep and he told me "Track 3, 9:18".  O.K.  So we sat for a half hour and still nothing moved.  9:18 came and went and still nothing moved.  10:18 came and went and still nothing moved.  11:18 cam and went and still nothing moved.  Finally, around 11:30 they started up slowly again.  The delays were crazy.

By midnight, our train still hadn't come.  We were the only ones left in the station (us and those also going to Barcelona).  All of the waiting angry people had gotten on the trains they needed and ours just was not coming.  I, of course, was convinced it had skipped us, but still we waited for it to appear on the sign, signalling its approach.  Around 12:15 a train showed up.  It didn't say on its side what train it was and nothing was on the overhead signs.  When we asked, though, we found it was the VERY late night train.  We got into our cabin (after getting stuck in the tiny hallways and our backpacks not fitting through the door) and went directly to sleep.

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