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My Adventures Touring Europe in 1982 (20) Florence, Leaning Tower of Pisa
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Monday, July 19
We arrived in Florence late afternoon. The scenery along the way reminded me of California’s Napa Valley.
Once there, we were given a tour of churches. One of them, the Baptistery Church, had gold leaf over its front doors! That left me awestruck. Sure it was only a light dusting, but I was surprised people hadn’t scraped it all off long ago!
We visited the Piazza della Signoria with all its statues, and Michelangelo’s tomb, which was exquisitely beautiful. Since his tomb was inside a church, I couldn’t take any pictures.
Evening, we went to Michelangelo’s Stairs to watch the sunset. Lots of street artists were there, and I bought a chunky silver and white necklace and some silver earrings from one. The place was swarming with tourists and local people; most of the locals spoke either English or French. I hung out with a few; the women were quite friendly, and the men respectful. One French-speaking woman gave me a silver charm of the Virgin Mary!
There wasn’t enough light for me to take pictures, but the scene will remain imprinted in my memory forever. We watched as the lights came on in Florence, below us. After dark, the city is even more beautiful! This is the sort of experience everyone should have at least once in their lifetime.
Tuesday, July 20
This morning, we took things easy. We had free for shopping, and exploring the city on our own. I had heard a lot about getting good prices for leather in Florence, and had saved my money for it. However, I discovered the inexpensive part of our tour was over. There were plenty of great leather products, but they were all out of my price range! Shucks! I did buy a purse for 25000 Lira, which added up to about $20 US. I could not find any leather skirts or tops; I decided once I got back home, I would buy some chamois cloths and make an outfit to my taste.
The city was well-organized, so I had no problems exploring it and not getting lost. After walking around for a few hours, I bought a sandwich for lunch with ice cream from a cart for dessert. Everywhere I looked, I saw ice cream carts. They looked rather tacky, but they serve excellent ice cream!
I sat in a park near the hotel, enjoying my lunch and writing in my diary. The warm sunny day grew overcast, then it began to rain. Wait – didn’t it rain yesterday? Coming from California, I was totally unused to rain in the summertime.
I headed back to the hotel. When I reached the lobby, I saw that Johannes and Lakis were engaging in a furious argument. I quietly went through the door to the hallway, then hid there listening.
JOHANNES: “Where’s the bus?!”
LAKIS: “I – I don’t know – I parked it down the street, but it’s not there now…”
JOHANNES: “I know it’s not there now! They towed it away! Parking on the street is illegal here!”
LAKIS: “But I couldn’t find a parking lot! It was only going to be for a little while!”
JOHANNAS: “You should have looked harder! It’s no joke! Now we have to pay all this money and find out where they towed it! How are we going to do that when we have to leave in an hour?!”
I went upstairs to my room. Gayla was there, and I told her what was happening. “Yeah, they’re both totally incompetent, aren’t they?” she said.
“Well – I know we’re supposed to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa this afternoon. I’d hate to miss it, but I admit, I wouldn’t mind spending more time here in Florence,” I told her.
“I’ll be so glad when this tour is done!” she exclaimed.
“Did you go shopping here?”
“No, I haven’t gone out.”
I was horrified. “How awful! You’re missing out on Florence!”
“I don’t care! I just want to get this over with. Did you go shopping?”
“Yes,” I answered, showing her the purse I’d bought.
“Yes. Everything else was too expensive.”
She rolled her eyes. “You poor thing!”
“Actually, I’m really enjoying myself, in spite of not being able to buy much.”
She gave me a strange look.
A knock on the door sounded. I answered; it was Donna. “We’ll be leaving in about half an hour,” she told us.
“Uh – did you hear about the bus?” I asked.
“Yes. They got it back.”
Leaning Tower of Pisa
We loaded up and set off. Johannes and Lakis acted as if nothing had happened. As we drove along, the rain stopped and the sky cleared. A few minutes later, the ground was dry, and you never would have guessed it had rained.
We arrived at the Leaning Tower of Pisa site. The tower looks even more imposing in real life. I couldn’t believe it can actually be climbed to the top; it seems to me past a certain height, people would fall out! But we were here, and lots of people were ascending it, so I was going to climb it too; no way was I going to pass up this opportunity! At least it wasn’t as crazy as going into East Berlin alone!
Only a few of my fellow tour members joined me in the ascent, and they all stopped midway. I’m the only one who made it to the top; I counted 296 stairs.
Because I tend to be slow going uphill, I was concerned that the group would be impatient when I returned. However, we stayed for quite awhile afterwards; I was glad. Johannes complimented me on completing the climb. Eric, one of the guys who hadn’t even attempted, thought I was crazy.
We went on to the village of Lucca, where we were to spend the night in a genuine Italian country villa. They were private homes, just as we had stayed in at Hydra. We divided up into two villas, the larger one mixed men and women. I wound up in the smaller one, with Gayla as a single roommate. I wanted to explore the home, but it was already dark, so I figured I’d do it tomorrow morning. I went straight to bed, so I could get an early start the next day. Gayla didn’t come in; I wondered why.
I lay in bed, with just the sheet covering me. It was too hot to sleep. After awhile, I overheard Gayla talking with Eric. “This whole European trip has been an absolute nightmare, hasn’t it?” Gayla said, and Eric agreed wholeheartedly. So that’s why Gayla was staying up; she’d found a fellow commiserator.
I got up and took a shower. There was no hot water available, but I didn’t mind. When I returned to bed, I had no trouble falling asleep.
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© 2013 Yoleen Lucas