Sorry I've fallen behind but I did not have internet acess. We spent 10 days in Italy here's the recap.
We arrived in Milan without a problem. It was an 8 hour flight but it went pretty quickly. I think I even got a little sleep on the plane. We had to take a bus from the airport into central Milan to get to the railway station. At the station we bought our tickets with the fast ticket machine and settled into our train for the 2.5 hour ride to Vicenza. At Vicenza Daniela and I decided to take the bus to our grandmother's house. She live about 20 minutes walking from the train station. Unfortunately we couldn't figure out what bus to take so we decided to wing it and walk. So carrying 30 pound backpacks we set off into the city center to grandmother's house we go. So neither of us really knew the way. We sort of remembered what direction we were supposed to be going in and we did recognize some landmarks. A half hour later we realized that all the streets looked the same and we were lost. We did ask a nice lady for dirctions to the stadium (the one landmark we were sure lead to the house). She laughed at us becuase as it turned out we were on the other side of town and really far. I guess we did't know the direction of the house. Luckily Daniela recognized the street we were on and we got to the house about 20 minutes later all sweaty and tired from the walk. Needless to say after a shower and something to eat we both passed out at 3pm and were out for the night.
Today was a day of recuperation. I have a terrible time getting over jet lag. It is going to take me a week to get used to the time change in Australia. We didn't do very much during the day but we did go out for some baccala (the local fish dish) later that night in the next town with my parents, aunt, uncle and grandmother. Baccala is a type of white fish that is salted to preseve it and it is the regional dish in Northern Italy. I don't get it. It's OK but I prefer rissoto.
This morning my family and I went out on a road trip to Valdagno. Valdagno is a small town about 1.5 hours north west of Vicenza. It is the town where my father grew up and many relatives still live there. It is also the home of Marzotto. Marzotto is a textile factory that makes fabrics for designers including Versace. It is basically the major source of employment for the town. Our first stop was Pietre Vencato's house. He is the youngest of 5 children and one of my grandfather's brothers. He is 89 but is still living independently and even thought I couldn't understand a word he said appears to be as lucid as ever. Pietre's wife is 77 a volunteers at the local retirement home in town. That retirement home is where my grandfather's sister, the oldest of the 5 children, Teresina lives. She is 94 years old and still as vibrant as ever. You would have thought she was in her early 70's. The retirement home where she is was great. It sort of reminded me of a college dorm except the mean age of the residence was 85. Everyone was out in the hallway talking to friends and looked to be having a good time. We went into a common room to chat with Teresina. My grandmother and Teresina talk a lot so it was mostly trying to figure out what they were saying on my part. A resident of the home came in and walked through the room we were sitting in to have a cigarette on the adjoining balcony. On her way back out she exchanged a few pleasantries with Teresina. 15 minutes later she is back but wearing a completely different outfit (I think she got dressed up after realizing company was there) and was going out for another cigarette. My dad said to her "What you are going out for antoher one already?" With that she replied "I'm 90 years old, I'm no going to die young".
Later that night we went out for dinner back in Vicenza with my entire immediate family which included my dad's brother and sister, their spouses and my 3 cousins. The dinner was on the top of Mounte Berico, the largest hill in Vicenza and home to a very ornate church. The restaurant I think is also owned by the church. You get really great panoramic views from there.
Today was another quiet day. We went into the center of Vicenza to do a little window shopping. The central square is full of 16th century buildings designed by a famous architect and resident of Vicenza Palladio. His buildings are everywhere in Vicenza.
Today we left very early in the morning for Rome. My uncle lent my dad the car and it is about a 6 hour drive from Vicenza to Rome. On the way we stopped in San Marino and Perugia. San Marino is an independent republic within Italy on the east coast. They have their own laws, taxes and postal service. The main square is situated high atop this mountain and the easiest way to get there is by cable car. On a good day you could see all the way to the sea. On the day we went it was so foggy that we couldn't see the building in front of us. It was a shame, but the town was really nice. It was comprised of great midevil architecture.
Our second stop was Perugia. Perugia is just south of San Marino and was where Daniela spent 4 monthes studing abroad. It is a large city that is also nestled high atop a mountain. You have to take 3 escalators to get to the central square. It is also a midevil town with terrific architecture. The city was full of college kids strating their semester. It was really nice.
We finally ended up in Rome and made it to our hotel with some difficulty (my dad didn't print out the directions and we got lost). It was late so we just went to bed to be ready for siteseeing in Rome.
We hopped on a Metro early in the morning and headed for Vatican City (the other independent republic in Italy). Rome is still very crowded and tourists were everywhere. The line was too long to go into St. Peter's Basillica so we just took some pictures of the square and contined to walk into the city center. We walked all day and I was exhusted by the end of it. The places we saw included, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, and the colleseum. Rome has so many churches and fountains that it is hard to keep track of everything I saw. We also ate lunch at the number one McDonald's in the world. Rome has the nicest McDonald's I have ever seen. It's covered in marble and people actually seat you. It also has a great salad bar that I sampled. We also went into the Colloseum. That was amazing. The magnitude of that building was impressive. You could go to the second teir and look down at what used to be the maze of rooms under the colloseum floor. It was really amazing.
After an exhausting day we hopped back onto the Metro and headed back to our hotel. We had dinner at a little pizzeria and as it turned out the guy that owned the place used to live in Jersey City. It's a small world.
On our way back to Vicenza from Rome we stopped in Piza. This is the home of the famous leaning tower of Pisa. After taking the mandatory touristy pictures of us "holding up the tower" Daniela and I bought tickets to go up to the top. Since the tower is leaning they would only let people up in small groups. Daniela and I were in a group going up an hour and an half later so we decided to to into the Basillica and have a look around. The church was amazing completely guilded in gold with unbelievable artwork. Pisa is also the hometown of Galileo and observations of the large chandelier hanging from the center of the church contributed to his discovery that the world is round.
Daniela and I then climbed to the top of the leaning tower. The stairs going up are exteremely small and steep. I'm surprised some of the men got up there because I was having trouble fitting up the final staircase to the top. It was also weird to climb up becuase you were constantly leaning to one side. At the top nothing but a little hand rail separated you from the tower and certain death. Being afraid of heights it was a little unnerving. However, it was worth it. The veiw of Pisa was beautiful from up there. Also since the tower is sinking a centimeter every year, who know how long it will be open to the public. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Today we just recuperated from our whirlwind tour of Italy. Daniela and I did a little shopping in town and just hung around the house. Today in the main square there was the weekly outdoor market. My mother fell in love with the market becuase you can get anything you want under the sun wholesale. That night Daniela and I tried to watch Vanilla Sky in Italian. If you've ever seen the movie it consists of a lot of dialogue and was impossible to follow if you don't know Italian. Some questions that still need to be answered... Why was Tom Cruise talking to Kurt Russel? Why is Penelope Cruize so mad at Tom? Who the hell is Jason Lee supposed to be?
More the same today. My mother wanted to go into another part of town for another weekly market. After an hour of looking and some haggling she came out empty handed. Daniela and I vowed never to go to another market with her again. We also bought our train tickets to Vienna for Sunday. It turns out that flying would have been cheaper.
Did a little hiking in the mountains. I got so scared of the altitude. We were hiking on this narrow trail and I'm really scared of heights. I had to stop while everyone else made it to the top. My mom called me a chicken and I guess she's right.
Left for Vienna tonight.