torrie's travels


The Last Supper and The Leaning Tower of Pisa November 9, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 2:39 pm

Yesterday saw me leaving my hotel in Venice in my awesome rain boots again…the street outside the hotel had flooded again and I had to step over a tall metal shield that places put in front of their doors to prevent the water from coming in. But some water was inside anyway. After I turned the corner away from the canal it got better and I thought I was in the clear. Then I turned another corner. At the deepest part of that street was almost mid-calf. Crazy. So thankful for those crazy boots! (Sorry, folks not on FB…I posted the pic there.)

I took the water taxi to the train station and grabbed a slice of pizza on my way to Milan. I got to Milan at 2:30 and my ticket to see the Last Supper was at 4:30. No problem, I can get lunch and then see it. But before leaving the train station, I needed to drop my bags in a locker and get my seat reservation to Florence for that evening. Welp, they don’t have lockers. It’s a service. That was ungodly expensive. 12 euro. Crazy. But I had no choice. So I made my way to the ticket counter and saw a mass of people waiting. Awesome. I got my number handed to me. B181. They were currently on B128. You have got to be kidding me. I have to wait for 54 people. Or, rather, 54 Bs (there were also I numbers). Thankfully it actually didn’t take as long as I had expected and was out of there shortly after 3. But while I was waiting I reread my ticket voucher for the Last Supper. You must be there 20 mins early to pick up your ticket or you don’t get one. You snooze, you lose.

So I went to the Metro not remembering which line and which stop to take. So I bought a ticket and asked a worker. He seemed to understand me, but he clearly did not. On the subway I remembered I had an Italy app that works offline. I was on the totally wrong line. Thankfully I realized it right before a stop that I could change to the correct line. Phew. So I get out at one of the two stops recommended in the app and have no idea which way to go. Then I find a map sign. And due to the configuration of this weird half-circle-ish roundabout thing, I couldn’t tell which of the 12 roads branching off that I was supposed to take. Ok, maybe there weren’t 12, but there might as well have been. Finally, I find the right place, but am beginning to panic that I am going to be late. Not to mention I am starving by this time, as it’s almost 4pm. I find the cross street I need and second guess which way I was supposed to turn, so I asked in a café. They were super nice and helpful. I made it. And then they wouldn’t give me the ticket and said I only needed to come 10 mins early. Nice. So I went across the street to a café and had a muffin.

The Last Supper was magnificent. It’s so weird to sit there and gaze upon something so famous. I think because of its size and lack of crowd that it was more impactful than, say, the Mona Lisa. Also, I met two Minnesotans waiting for our turn. The couple was born and raised in MN and has a cabin in Alexandria, but currently live in Seattle. Small world! But I digress. Leonardo worked on TLS from about 1495-1498. Apparently he wasn’t in a hurry and the people in charge kept getting frustrated with how long it was taking him. He used a new method for painting a fresco (this is actually not considered a fresco because of it), but it did not hold up well and in 1517 there is documentation that it was already starting to flake and was considered “ruined”. There have been numerous restoration attempts, some more popular than others, but, due to that and environmental issues (it was actually in the open air for some years), apparently little of the original work remains. It was still very powerful to be sitting and standing before a work like that. I wish that people hadn’t cut a door in the wall, and therefore, into the bottom of the painting, removing Jesus’ feet. I also wish that Napoleon’s soldiers who used the building as an armory hadn’t thrown stones at it and tried to deface it, but what are ya gonna do? Apparently the building was bombed, on August 15, 1943, during WWII and the only wall still standing was that one. That’s pretty freaking incredible. (Yes, it had been reinforced, with planks and sandbags only, but still.)

I left TLS at 4:50 (you only get 15 mins inside…and there are absolutely no photos allowed…this time everyone followed the rules!), so I thought I had time to check out the Duomo. My train to Florence was at 6:15 and now I knew where I was going!! So I took the metro to the Duomo and it was incredible. There is a large square in front of it and tons of shopping all around it. Kind of a clash of worlds, actually. It was mobbed of people when I first arrived. I knew I didn’t have time to go inside, which made me sad because it is Gothic and it’s the 5th largest Cathedral in the whole world. I believe it. It was massive. And gorgeous. I hope the phoots turn out. It was dusk and the light-colored stone looked cool against the sky. I was definitely regretting not taking the 7:15 train to Florence at that point because I really wanted to go inside. But I have already decided that I will be coming back to Italy someday, so I will see it then!

I got back on the metro and (thankfully) immediately realized I was on the wrong line. I thought all three metro lines went to the train station, but they didn’t. So I had to get off at the first stop, take it back to the Duomo stop and get on a different line. I had to wait 5-6 mins, which was really putting me in a time crunch. I was getting hungry again, but no time. Thankfully I made it to pick up my bags and get to the train on time. (PS. The Milan train station? Beautiful! If I had had more time I would’ve taken photos. Loved it!)

Made it to Florence and was going to eat somewhere quick in the train station, but there really wasn’t anywhere, so I set out for the hostel. I had two sets of directions, or rather, a set of directions and a map, but it was a lot further than I thought it was/looked. I was definitely tired by the time I got here. It took a long time to check-in, but that was because they were merging my two reservations (one for last night and one for the next three…I booked separately because I had originally intended on staying in Milan a night). But he was able to work it so I didn’t need to change rooms today, which was amazing. I dropped my stuff and went for food! I had a prosciutto calzone. It was good, but I could’ve done with less ham. The crust, though? Holy yum!

I got back to my room and started laundry, even though it was super expensive here. I was getting settling in a bit when one of the roommates just shut the lights off on me. Everyone but me was in bed, but I thought they were reading or on their phones. It wasn’t even 10:30pm. On a Saturday. Annoying. And of course, they started getting up around 7:15am today. Not cool. But I was able to fall back asleep and slept til my alarm went off at 9. And I realized I had the place to myself, which made the wake-up at 7:15 totally worth it.

I have been obsessively checking the weather on this trip and it looked like today might be the only good day in Florence, so I took advantage and did my day trip to Pisa. I wanted to see the Tower in the sunshine, not gray skies and rain. The train there was awesome: nonstop in 49 mins. I got the bus to the Tower, had lunch, and then explored. It was very surreal to see the Tower. First, because it’s SO iconic. To think that I am standing in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa is just bizarre. And second, because it defies the laws of gravity and should NOT be standing! (yes, yes, I know they’ve reinforced it now, but for centuries that thing should have fallen over!!)

I had a lot of time on my hands because I wasn’t leaving until the 5:12 train. I knew it was longer than I needed there, but it was the soonest train going to my train station in Florence. So I took it easy, wandered, shopped in a cute shop. Eventually I made my way to the ticket office and saw that it was 18 euro to climb to the top of the tower. Um, no thanks. I’m good outside I guess. So I just got my free ticket to the Cathedral. I was trying my hand at selfies with my phone (too hard to do with my camera because I can’t see it). An Australian girl saw me trying and offered to take it for me, so I got out my camera. She persuaded me to stand on the grass. There are low, metal fences and signs saying to stay off the grass. I was all, won’t I get in trouble? She said she’s done it before and that I should just do it. So I did. And she commented how ugly the fence looks in the photo. She did a great job! She got down on one knee to get the shot and everything. She took two and wanted to see what I thought before she walked away. They were great! I was so thankful for her that as I was walking away I saw another girl trying to do the selfie thing, so I paid it forward!

Soon it was my turn to tour the Cathedral. The inside was nice, but it wasn’t Gothic! Haha! There were some great artworks inside and I really loved the altar. As I was trying to take a photo, some guy was hogging the middle spot. So I stepped behind him a bit and was centering and zooming my shot when he decided to turn his camera the other way and stuck his elbow in my shot. I was so annoyed. After he was done, he still kept standing there. I was getting hot. What little patience I possessed for people before this trip quickly ran out. I am so sick of inconsiderate, oblivious, and sometimes downright tude tourists! So his wife saw that he was hogging and tried to get him to move and pointed that I was waiting. He refused to move, but his elbow was down, so I got my shots. As I walked away, I touched the wife on the arm to say thank you and she gave me a look like, no problem…stupid husband. It was priceless!

I decided that this day wasn’t costing too much money, so I paid the 5 euro to see the Baptistery. Which was definitely overpriced. It was something to do, but wasn’t that big of a deal. It was very tall and very round. As I came down from the upper gallery, though, I saw a nun walk in. I saw her on the side of the altar and was taking a selfie on her iphone. It was awesome. And also jarring. Like, did I really just see that? And it’s not like she was taking it of the Tower even! I almost considered asking her if she wanted me to take it, but she was quick about it. So I left it alone.

I then sat in the grass that you could walk on and read for a while. Eventually, I decided to take the bus back to the station because I didn’t believe that there was only the 5:12 train to Florence. And I was right. It was 4:11 and there was a train at 4:20. So I hopped on. I realized quickly that it was a local train, making stops. OK, I thought. Sort of like in France. It’ll take longer than 49 mins, but I’ve left 50 mins earlier, so it’s no big deal. Um, it took 2 hours to get to Florence. I was annoyed, but I had nowhere to be, so it wasn’t too bad. And my tablet didn’t run out of juice until the stop before mine, so that was good!

On my way back to the hostel, I found a restaurant that looked good. And I decided to branch out. I got bruschetta (which at first I thought I should’ve waited until Mallory gets here so we could share…though it’s not like I can only have bruschetta once) and gnocchi. I had tried gnocchi once, I think. And the dish looked ok, so I thought I would try something new. The bruschetta was good. There were three pieces and I ate two. Then the gnocchi came. It was in a cream sauce, sort of. I swear it said something about tomatoes, so I was expecting a red sauce. I think maybe there were tomatoes in it, but they were white as well. Is that possible? And there were walnuts. Just, no. Walnuts do not belong in pasta. It was pretty rich and I didn’t love it. I ate enough to make sure, but I didn’t even eat half. And then I was glad I had the bruschetta and ate the last piece!

I’m disappointed for the next two days. Tomorrow is supposed to be quite wet and of course it’s Monday, so the museums I want to see are closed and I will be doing outside things. And Tuesday looks sunnier, but I will be in museums. Boo. Hoping for as little rain as possible tomorrow!


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