Nine Days In Italia

Nine Days in Italia – Parte Nove: Final Day, The Perfect Day To Sunburn

All good things come to an end and so my trip to Italia had to as well. The final day in Pisa consisted of sitting in the tiny amount of shade we could find in the Campo Dei Miracoli and huddling under the even smaller amount of shade in the market while Jo searched for a present for her nephews, who’d have thought there were so many fridge magnets of the same thing for sale? To be honest there isn’t a to to do in Pisa when you’ve seen the main sight the day before and your flight isn’t until 10pm.

The day began with me spending a good 15 minutes working out how to ask the lady who ran the pensione if we could leave our bags and if she could sort out a taxi to take us to the airport that evening, I felt really proud of myself for working out exactly what to say. We came down the stairs and the first thing the old lady said was “baggagli e taxi?”, completely bypassing my need to ask her, bah. After that we headed up to the Duomo and spent the afternoon lazing in the sunshine, the baking hot painfully sunburning sunshine, yes I managed to sunburn on the last damn day! In fact I managed to sunburn a hand print into my shoulder, much to Jo’s amusement, I obviously hadn’t put the sun-cream on properly, bah again. After that we took a wander around the market for the aforementioned fridge magnets and then spent the rest of the afternoon watching the carabinieri playing a fun game of cat and mouse with the illegal street sellers. They’d appear, the street sellers flogging their fake watches would disappear down an alleyway, the carabinieri would walk on, the traders would reappear, and then repeat over and over. Very entertaining. Finally we got back to the pensione to receive the strangest goodbye I’ve ever had from a hotel, no we couldn’t use the shower to freshen up but yes we could have an enthusiastic goodbye, kisses on both cheeks and an eccentric old lady waving out the window at us like we were leaving grandmother’s house.

Anyway this is the final set of photos taken from our nine days in Italia, I hope you’ve enjoyed them. As usual all these are taken on my Olympus OM-1 and today’s film stock was Agfa Vista 200.

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Nine Days in Italia – Parte Otto: Sweat Box Train Ride To Fawlty Towers

Perhaps the title of this is a little unfair, not the sweat box part good lord I’ve never been so warm in my life and I’ve been to Cyprus in the Summer. I mean the Fawlty Towers comment because although the pensione we stayed at in Pisa was basic it did the job, and the lady who met us there and ran it with her son was the nicest, although also most eccentric, old lady I have ever met (a far cry from Basil Fawlty of TV sitcom fame).

So welcome to the penultimate entry of my nine day photo journey through Italia, I’m sure you can’t wait for it to end. We left Firenze in the morning and caught a train to Pisa, a Regione train so not as swish as the Freccia train we took from Venezia to Firenze, in fact so little swish was had that we spent the whole hour or so journey sweating in uncomfortably close quarters to other passengers crushed into the doorway of one of the carriages. I’d say I’d take back what I said about TrenItalia being awesome but then I remembered that I’d be paying about £100 for this “pleasure” in the UK and the train would be late as well, grass being greener etc. We arrived in Pisa in the early afternoon and walked the 20 or so minutes from the station to the pensione (a sort of B&B/guesthouse) we were staying at, it was basic, the lady who met us spoke practically no English, she spelt my name wrong despite reading it from my Passport and she laughed when she saw my age (that cut deep) in comparison to Jo’s. For the record I had just turned 30 Jo is technically 3 and a bit years younger than me so not that much difference. But you know what? It was fine, she was friendly, the language barrier could’ve been a huge issue but my basic Italiano got by and she was infinitely patient, as all Italians I have met seem to be, with my grasp of the language. She was also hilarious in her own way, probably not intentionally but she insisted on showing me how to open and close several doors, I’m sure she was being thorough but come on I know how to unlock a door, and when we had gotten changed and ventured out we happened to find her merrily snoring away in a massive armchair, I burst out laughing and had to leave the room sharpish when I stumbled across her.

So Pisa itself? Lets just say there’s a reason it’s called Italy’s favourite day trip, because there’s very little there. Don’t get me wrong Il Campo Dei Miracoli is beautiful and you can see why its a world heritage sight, from its pristine lawns to it’s imposing Duomo and the famous tower that everyone comes to see, but there is not a lot else to see or do. The guidebook Jo had said that the population of the city is 100,000 and this drops to 40,000 when the students at the university go home, apparently if Pisa had no university or the leaning tower, no one would ever visit. Perhaps that’s harsh but I can see the point, venture away from the area around the Campo Dei Miracoli and it’s a very sleepy town rather than a bustling city like Firenze. Still, it was a lovely place but I think our day and a half there was perhaps a day too much. We didn’t go up the tower incidentally, 18 Euro to climb up a tower after queuing in the heat for a few hours doesn’t sound like value to money to me, especially considering the duomo itself is free and, in my opinion anyway, much more impressive.

Later in the evening we took a walk around the streets near where we were staying and stumbled across an unassuming trattoria that turned out to be perhaps the best place we had eaten all week, good food, nice atmosphere, a really helpful and friendly waiter who conversed with me in Italiano when I tried and English perfectly when I struggled. He made a recommendation when I finally got around to trying cafe corretto, try it with sambuca believe me it’s amazing despite how it sounds. All in all a great end to a really lovely day. As usual all photos taken hgere are from my Olympus OM1 and either 50mm F.Zuiko or 28mm Vivitar lenses, the film used today was FujiColor C200, enjoy.

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Nine Days in Italia – Parte Sette: Top Of The World & Mercato Centrale

Day seven and we finally climbed to the top of the Duomo itself, exciting for me, not so much for Jo who’s not keen on heights (although will always climb up to the top of cathedrals and buildings with me when I want to). As you can imagine the view was pretty spectacular, the inside of the building itself on the way up however was two things; Hot and Crowded, horribly so on both counts. I was glad to get to the top for a bit of breeze to dry the sweat I was drenched in, I can’t remember exactly the number of steps but it was in the high hundreds and went on forever. One thing I need to mention as it’s one of those things that really winds me up, the amount of graffiti on the way up to the top of the Duomo was shocking, despite the number of signs asking please not to write on the walls. I mean come on, its a historic monument, why would anybody think writing your name on it adds anything? Today we also took a walk up the Mercato Centrale, I bartered with a guy to buy a belt, Tuscan leather is one thing I wanted to buy before we left. I don’t think my poor Italiano was the reason for the supposed heavy discount I got but maybe it helped, I’d also question how much the belt was worth if the market stall guy was happy to drop the price from 42 Euro to 22 without much of a fight. The outside of the market was pretty much all leather goods, this being Tuscany, the inside was a different matter entirely, a huge food hall with street food stalls and food made to order in front of you, bars, the whole lot. The place was amazing, so good in fact that this is where we came for dinner that evening. The final thing we did this day was get some fancy gelato, because why would you not want to do that? I bought a Baci flavoured one, if you’ve never had Baci before then I suggest you try them, in gelato form it’s even better. Anyway these are the final images (well except one from the next morning) of Firenze as the next day we left early for Pisa, this film used this day was Agfa Vista 200 (you can probably tell from the fact the sky doesn’t look quite so vibrantly blue as it does with Fuji) and as usual all taken with my Olympus OM-1 and either 50mm or 28mm lenses.

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Nine Days in Italia – Parte Sei: Sunset Over Firenze

Day six of the Italia trip and we finally decided to actually check out the Duomo itself rather than just walk past/around/see it from every angle other than inside. The ticket felt a little pricey until we realised just what it got us, the cathedral itself is free, however the ticket includes the walk up to the dome, the baptistery opposite, the campanile next to it, the museum behind it and, a very nice and unexpected surprise, the archaeological excavation museum beneath it. All in all not that bad value when you add them all up, especially as it’s valid for 72 hours so you don’t have to cram everything in to one day. Firs off w waited in line for the free part, the cathedral itself, and after a few minutes of waiting was turned away at the door because Jo was wearing shorts deemed too short, good thing the apartment was a 5 minute walk away to get changed into something else. Second time around and in we go, the cathedral inside is “oddly bare” to paraphrase a guide book, I assume that means because of the lack of ostentatious gold that you usually find all over Catholic places of worship (the baptistery has all of that stuff). It was still though a bloody impressive building, especially when you consider how it was built without modern machinery and marvel at the grand scale of the place. One thing I noticed, and did in Venezia and later Pisa, was the lack of Holy Water, I don’t know if it was just me but usually when I’ve been to a place like this there’s tons of the stuff around, all the fonts were empty in every church/cathedral we went in to. Drought perhaps? Anyway in the floor was a small set of stairs leading to what looked like a gift shop of some kind, I’m not usually one to go into places like that but thought we’re here we might as well see what’s in it. To my surprise the stairs led down below the cathedral and into a museum underneath the building, an archaeological museum. Really interesting place with original Roman era mosaics on the floor, tombs of long dead knights and religious figures, relics of saints, ceremonial swords and exhibitions of how the cathedral looked throughout its life.

After we came out we discovered we were too late to climb up the to the top of the dome itself so decided to check out the Museo Della Opera behind the Duomo, again a pleasant surprise as the place was not only huge but filled with statues from the likes of Donatello, Michelangelo and just about every other Renaissance sculptor you can think of, bleeding great massive things they were as well and shockingly detailed, down to being able to see veins on the hands of the statues. We spent most of the afternoon here, although that may be more to do with the air conditioning than the artwork (I’ll pretend its because I’m cultured and not because I was a sweaty mess). The rest of the day was filled with me hunting down a birthday present for myself, I may not be as huge a football fan as I was when I was a kid but I did always have a soft spot for Fiorentina the football team from Firenze, probably because I always like Gabriel Batistuta their top goalscorer. So stumbling across not one but two official team shops made me want to buy something, I’d needed a new bag for work so that’s what I bought (a few people turned their heads confused when I did return to work with it).

In the evening we took a walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo with the idea of watching the sunset, along with what looked like all of Firenze and perhaps Toscana as well, to say it was busy would be an understatement. Not that this mattered as there’s plenty of room in the huge square and surrounding steps and pathway up the hill to watch the sun go down and plenty of stalls to buy a beer from to drink while you do. There’s only one word I can use to describe the view from there, that is stunning. The colours of the sky, the rolling Tuscan hills beyond the city, the River Arno snaking through the centre reflecting the light, yes it was very pretty. Only disappointment of the day was dinner, by the time we got back down the hill and over the river to the city centre it was pretty late, we’d seen loads of people over the last couple of days with boxes from “Mr Pizza” so decided to check it out. Lets just say it was OK, Mr Pizza is allowed to keep his title as the MR of pizza, but only just.

Anyway onto the photographs from giorno sei, as usual all taken with my Olympus OM1 and either 50mm F.Zuiko or 28mm Vivitar lens attached, today’s film stock used was FujiColor C200. Enjoy.

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Nine Days in Italia – Parte Quattro: The Questionable Window Seat

We left Venezia on the right day, it was absolutely hammering down although still very warm, and took the train to Firenze. Once again I am in love with Tren Italia, air conditioning, a reserved seat, a just under two hour journey that doesn’t cost a million pounds like in the UK, all great things. What wasn’t so great was the questionable “window seat”, sure there was a window and our seats were next t it, sadly the seats blocked most of the window so you didn’t get to see a huge amount. The photo’s taken of the countryside are mostly of Emilia Romanga, the regione that Bologna is the capital of, as we had to travel through this to get to Toscana, and also because of the hundred or so tunnels that we went through once we did get into Toscana, the Tuscan countryside with its rolling hills obviously weren’t designed with the ease of train travel in mind. what we did see out of the semi window was very pretty, it seems that the rain was only in Veneto as it gave way to blazing sunshine after only a half hour or so on the train. Once we got to Firenze we took a walk to the apartment we had rented, shouldn’t have been a problem as it was only around a twenty minute walk from the station, unfortunately we didn’t know that Florentine streets have two sets of house numbers, one set for businesses and one set for residences. Yes that’s a real thing, look it up because we had to. After standing outside a farmaccia for 10 minutes after ringing the person who was meant to meet us Jo decided to look up the street numbers on Google and that’s how we found out that the apartment was actually the other end of the street. Confusing huh? Anyway the apartment was basic but clean and perfectly fine for our purposes, the main reason I liked it though was the view and how close we were to the centre of the city, seriously for the price we paid I did not expect such a central location. One big issue however was the street cleaners that woke us up at 3/4am, the soundproofing, if there was any, was pretty atrocious in the apartment, luckily it only happened the first night as Jo refused to stay there if the second night was as bad. Again I suppose that’s the price you pay for a central location.Anyway onto the photographs from day four, this day was all taken on Fujifilm C200.

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Nine Days in Italia – Parte Tre: Palazzo Ducale & The Quest For Murano Glass

Day three of the Italia trip had a few major milestones, firstly the mosquitoes finally struck, my God the itchiness, and secondly we found a place that made a damn good sandwich. OK really what happened was we visited the Palazzo Ducale, or Doge’s Palace, a spectacular building both inside and out. Which you sort of would expect with it being the seat of government for a republic that lasted for over a thousand years, I mean that’s a long time to cover things in gold and carve out of marble. Also on this day Jo decided to desperately search for some Murano Glass to buy, the glass that she could’ve bought yesterday in a workshop where they make it, and by desperately search I mean go into every store and look at the same glass that was for sale in every single one. Perhaps it was my punishment for spending half the day looking at paintings the size of ballrooms.

Again all taken on my Olympus OM-1 with either 50mm F.Zuiko or 28mm Vivitar lenses, this time the film used is Agfa Vista 200.

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Nine Days in Italia – Parte Due: Unexpected Breakfast And Unexpected St Marks’

The second day of our trip to Italia and our first full day in Venezia, as before all images are taken on my Olympus OM-1 with either 50mm F.Zuiko or 28mm Vivitar lenses this day the film used was FujiColor C200.

This was our first full day in Venezia, not that we hadn’t spent a good few hours there the day before but this time we had the whole day and could make actual plans of what we wanted to do. This boiled down to two main things, Jo wanted to go on a boat trip to a few of the islands in the Venetian lagoon, specifically Burano since she’s been obsessed with visiting the place ever since she first saw photo’s of the multicoloured houses, and what I wanted to do which was see the Palazzo Ducale, as with every relationship the lady won so a boat trip it was. Actually that’s a little unfair as to get to where the boat trips were we had to go past the Palazzo Ducale anyway, not that we realised that as we sort of just stumbled our way through the maze of Venetian streets blindly attempting to get to St Marks’ Square where we knew you could get a boat.

Helpfully very few of the images here are actually of the boat trip itself as luck would have it I finished the roll of film at the first stop off point of Murano and a glass blowing factory. Oh well, at least Fuji captures blue’s excellently, which is good for a day of sea and cloudless sky. My God that cloudless, burning hot sky!

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Nine Days in Italia – Parte Una: Flight To The Non Existent Airport

As you may be aware from the photo’s appearing on here lately, not too long ago me and my girlfriend visited Italy. The plan was a pretty simple one, I was turning thirty years old and did not want to do that in the UK and not on a holiday and for the past year I’ve been taking evening classes in Italiano, so why not visit Italy? Jo had always wanted to visit Venezia and I’ve always wanted to visit Firenze, the two are pretty far apart (just get a map and take a look), however that wasn’t going to stop us. Through the magic of Air BnB, a huge recommendation I will give for anyone looking to travel on a budget, and the wonders of reasonably priced Tren Italia (yes that IS meant as a swipe at the awful train service and prices in the UK) we came up with an itinerary and at the end of July we set off.

I decided I was going to shoot a roll of film every single day of the trip and so over the next nine instalments I’ll be sharing the images I took and the story behind them. First up is the flight to the non existent airport, so called as when my Grandparents were talking to my Uncle about where we were flying to (Treviso as it was a cheaper flight and not too far away from Venezia), he was adamant that there is no airport in Treviso and that they must’ve misunderstood me. Not sure where he got that idea from as there most definitely is and it’s only a half hour bus ride to Venezia from there.

All images were taken on my Olympus OM-1 using either the F.Zuiko 50mm or Vivitar 28mm lenses, day one was shot on Agfa Vista 200 colour film.

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