Sunday, March 25, 2007

a kiss is just a kiss (the girl's guide to bartering in italy)

Our multiple trains to Venice (from Vernazza to La Spezia back to Florence to Venice) were somewhat complicated but uneventful. After our night in Termini the trains would never seem so bad again. I'm pretty sure we were starving the whole time but it didn't matter. This is me and Brie taking a nap. Part of the time I was sleeping directly on my folded-up glasses, so I had a really charming indentation across my cheek for like a day. It looked like I had gotten slashed in a bar fight.

We arrived in Venice when the sun was about to set, and our first view of the city leaving the train station was amazing. The light was really delicate, the sky just starting to turn pink, and there was a canal of beautiful blue water with boats zipping along. It seemed, and I used this word so many times in Venice, surreal.

Originally I wanted to take a water taxi, because the thought of the vaporetti, or water buses, was kind of intimidating. But the price they gave us was higher than I thought it should be so we decided to just try the bus. It ended up being a beautiful ride. The train station is at one end of Venice, and our place, near San Marco, was down the winding Grand Canal, so we got a full tour of Venice as we rode. It was really incredible. The sun was setting during the ride, so by the time we got to the dock near our bed and breakfast, it was night. The picture at right, of the church in the moonlight, is from the talented Yvette, as well as the two at the top. Sometimes she does take non-slanty pictures.

We got to the shore and managed to find our way through the little alleys to our place, which was another cool little personal apartment turned B&B. Riccardo, the very perky owner, showed us around and recommended a place for dinner, which we ignored, choosing instead to go to a weird little restaurant with flourescent lighting and a lot of fried foods. It was the only recommendation from the good book on the entire trip that we didn't really like. The waiter was Venetian, and had their particular accent, which is extremely clipped and kind of monotone. He sounded like an Italian android. After that we wandered around a bit, got some gelato, and headed back. One of us, I won't mention who, had basically been awake for a month at this point and needed her beauty sleep.

In the morning we got up and had breakfast, which Riccardo had prepared, and which included rolls with butter. I was so excited, I was just saying the day before that I missed butter. When we were all up and at the table, Riccardo came in to clean or something, and looked at Heidi and said, "WHOA, what happened to you?" Which you would think would be slightly offensive, but Heidi just took it in stride, and Riccardo fell in love to the depths of his little Venetian heart. (Brie and Yvette, I really apologize for this picture, I know I'm not in it and everything, but it was necessary for the story.)

After that we got ready and figured out the water bus situation and went to il cimitero San Michele, the Venetian island cemetery. In the late 1700s Napoleon's people declared that the Venetians could no longer bury their dead in the city center. (I'm not even exactly sure how or where they did this.) So they built this floating island cemetery. I have a thing for cemeteries so I was pretty excited about this one, although I didn't know it was walled all the way around. I had hoped that we would have a view of the water behind the headstones. Near the entrance we saw a film shoot with monks and men in knickers running around. I was jealous. The whole cemetery was filled with a kind of smoky haze, which we finally realized was due to pollen from the cypress trees. On the right is a row of crosses for Italian soldiers, some killed in World War I.

After a bit of confusion, and several vaporetti, we headed back to San Marco, where we had lunch at a place with a pushy host. "For you, no cover charge. If you come in right now. If you wait, I can't promise anything." Whereas in other places it wasn't too difficult to get away from tourists and touristy restaurants, Venice was full of them.

After lunch we split up, Yvette and Brie heading off to get lost and Heidi and I to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, where my friend Maggie interned for a year. We did see all the interns standing around, leaning, as they are allowed to do, and not sitting, as they are not allowed to do. (I remember Maggie telling me this.) The collection included Magritte's Empire of Light, which was fun. Heidi's Italy journal had this painting on the cover. I was struck by the space itself. It was Peggy Guggenheim's former home, so I expected it to seem like paintings in a home. Instead it seemed, from the space and from the pictures from that period, that she lived in a museum.

On the way to and from the museum we took a traghetto, which made me feel very local. It's like a gondola ride, only it's just across the Grand Canal, and no one sings to you, and it's fifty cents instead of ninety euros. They're necessary because there are few bridges and a waterbus just to cross the canal can be impractical. On our way back, the gondolier... the traghetier, I guess... leaned down to Heidi as we were leaving and said, "Hello..." in this low voice. The guy across from us laughed and said, "Oh, the old 'hello' trick."

After our little tour we went to meet Yvette and Brie, but they had gotten lost and were a bit late, so we went into Harry's American Bar (we weren't being cheesy, apparently this is a famous Venetian bar and you're supposed to go there when you're in Venice) and had Bellinis (named after a Venetian painter, and made from... I think... champagne and grapefruit juice) which were overpriced but delicious.

Then we met Yvette and Brie. I didn't feel like we had seen enough of Venice yet but when someone said maybe we should go rest before dinner, it seemed like a great idea to us all. We came back, rested a little and then went back out for dinner. Heidi picked a place from the good book but we couldn't find it, so we ended up going to a place that was in a little piazza near our hotel. I'm not sure what the others thought of it, but I had really amazing gnocchi, baked with mozzerella and onions. I don't know why I keep describing my food. I think I'm hungry. Yvette and I balanced our books with our handy dandy little notebooks. We were very proud of ourselves.

After dinner I'm pretty sure we got some gelato, walked around, and headed back fairly early. It was Yvette's last night in Italy, she would leave early the next morning and fly home, business class. Lucky. In honor of Snow Pea, this is a showcase of some of her lovely Venice photographs:

And one of the four of us. I know the background isn't very interesting, ok? I had to set my camera on a bridge and hope it didn't fall into a canal. You want interesting pictures, you come to Venice and take some pictures of me so I don't have to use the self-timer function on a bridge. Around this time we had to keep taking random pictures of ourselves near canals because this weird guy was following us, and we thought that by stopping to take pictures he would walk past, but he didn't, he just stood there and watched us and made comments and offered to take the picture for us. Finally we lost him by wandering into a weird little alley where we kind of thought he would trap us and kill us.

We had free internet at the B&B, which was nice, because I had gotten so far behind on this thing, and when we got back I tried to catch up a little and Heidi slept and Yvette and Brie talked. And then the next morning... Snow Pea was gone, the first of my merry band to desert me. The next morning we got up and had breakfast and Riccardo put the moves on Heidi, who did manage to get us ten euros off the room through unknown means. (Later, our roommate in Rome would get a plumber to come fix the shower drain in exchange for a kiss. Had I known this was official currency in Italy, I would have taken a much cheaper trip.)

Friday, March 23, 2007

me, i call it "one land"

We arrived in Florence about 8:30. Yvette had called while we were on the train and was relieved to learn that we hadn’t actually had an inordinate amount of fun the night before without her. Heidi, bless her six days without sleep heart, was raring to go, so Yvette took her on a tour. This is a picture from Heidi and Yvette’s day in Florence:

This is a picture of Brie’s and my day in Florence:

They came back in the mid-afternoon and we got all of our stuff together (it was mostly already packed by Snow Pea) and left for Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre means “Five Lands” in Italian, and it’s five towns along the coast, linked by the train and a hiking trail. We took a train to Monterosso, the first of the five towns, and then a local train to Vernazza, where we were staying. We were so happy to be safely in Monterosso, leaning over the balcony at the train station and listening to the sea and eating bruschettini from the vending machine. This is frozen Brie, who liked to pretend we were vacationing in July, wearing a T-shirt and a scarf at the station.

At the Vernazza station, I asked for a map of the town so I could find where we were staying. The guy just kind of looked at me blankly. Once we headed into town, I could see why. The town was basically a street. It was like asking for a map of Upland.

And also, it was completely dead. I knew it was a more of a summer location, but I don’t think we saw a soul after we left the train station, and all the doors and windows were closed. We stopped halfway down the street because I noticed the name “Rosa” on one of the apartment doorbells we passed, and then I heard, “Michelle?” floating down from somewhere. I just had to call out “Sì” since I didn’t know where the voice was coming from. And then we looked up, and a woman was leaning out a window four stories above us.

Rosa welcomed us and led us up the four flights to get settled into our little apartment (complete with a little kitchen… now from Rome I am so jealous of our Cinque Terre selves with a kitchen). And then we decided to head out and see the nightlife… meaning find anything with food that was open. I don’t even know if I had eaten yet that day.

We walked down to the beautiful picturesque harbor and found, to my joy, a restaurant that was open. We went in and had fantastic salads and pasta. My pasta was penne and prawns, and even though it skeeved me out a little to have the little shrimp faces staring at me and Yvette had to show me how to eat them, it was the best thing I ate in Italy.

The next morning we got up and had breakfast at the Blue Marlin Bar, which I was excited about because they had eggs made in the American style, and Heidi was excited about because they had a waiter made in the underwear model style. Unfortunately, the underwear model style waiter told us, the grill wasn’t working and I couldn’t have my eggs, but we should come back that night and maybe Heidi could have the waiter. Or some paraphrase of the above.

After breakfast we were supposed to go on a hike through the five towns, one of the highlights of seeing Cinque Terre, but it was getting kind of drizzly and I was just having a rough day, for various reasons that have nothing to do with our story, and wasn’t up for it. Really I should have a guest blogger at this point, but I will just try to satisfy your insatiable Cinque Terre curiosity by showing you some pictures from the others, who hiked from Vernazza to Monterosso, or vice versa, or something.

This is a view of Vernazza from the trail:

This is Yvette having nightmarish flashbacks to the steps of St. Peter’s:

This is Heidi, wearing the famous "pantalones":

When they got back I wanted to walk up and look for this bakery that was supposed to have a sweet ricotta pastry called panzerotta, so Brie went with me. I was disappointed because the bakery was closed, but we did find a little trail that led up to a cemetery above town. I brought my camera with me but left the camera card in the room, so I don’t have any photographs, which is too bad, because it was really lovely. The cemetery was on a cliff overlooking the waves crashing against the harbor below. Brie and I pondered beauty and mortality and panzerotta.

After we got back we got ready and I hinted really subtly that it would be just really great if we could go to the same restaurant again that night so I could order the exact same thing. And I did, and it was wonderful again, although the waitress kept giving us the evil eye for an unknown reason. Perhaps she thought it was lame to get penne and prawns two nights in a row.

After that, we stopped at the Blue Marlin, but the underwear model was strangely not in attendance. No matter, Heidi soon drew the attention of the other cute Italian waiter. He made plans to meet us after. Due to my aforementioned blue funk, I decided to just write off my Vernazza experience as a loss (except for the prawns) and go back, but the others met the guy, Guiliano, at the harbor.

And here’s where I really, really should have a guest blogger, but you’ll just have to ask the ragazze what happened yourself.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

i see danger

In addition to all my Italian language learning, I have also picked up a few handy signs and gestures for getting by in the world. For example, and I have demonstrated for your education as well, the army sign for "I see" is fingers pointing to one's eyes, and the sign for "danger" a downward slashing motion. This comes in handy when you are leading infantry over a hill and you see the enemy approaching, or you are about to pass men who think it's fine to clap at you or suck their teeth at you, or if you see a really good gelato place. Or if you plan to sleep on the ground outside of Rome's central train station.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Heidi's original schedule called for her to get into Rome early in the morning and then catch a train to meet us in Florence. But stupid American Airlines canceled her flight and put her on a much later one that would get her into Rome fairly late the next night. So, since we had received an invitation from th ex-spies to come down to Rome, Brie and I decided to go down there, hang out with them in Rome, and ride a late night train back to Florence with Heidi, so she wouldn't be dealing with that stuff alone late at night. Yvette stayed in Florence since she was kind of tired of us anyway.

The time in Rome was fun. I finally made it to the Colosseum (photo courtesy of Coma's camera with a polarizing filter), after three trips with Yvette where I only looked at the outside, as well as Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. But I didn't have the good book with me, and basically my sightseeing is useless without the good book. It was interesting to look at cool ruins but we didn't really know what we were looking at. After that we did a lot of walking around. Brie and I took them for lunch at our favorite place, which we call Santa Monica Pier, but which is really called Cafe Strega, or Witch Cafe, don't ask me why. I only know this because of reading Harry Potter.

When it was close to time for Heidi's train, we went to a gelato place near the Termini Station. Places near Termini station are not really the nicest places to eat. This one was interesting because we were drinking rancid wine (Brie and I were not drinking it, they were drinking it, maybe the Army makes you immune to it) and then an African man came up to us to sell belts, and Coma offered him some of the wine, which upset the gelateria owner, who started yelling at him, and then he started screaming back that we had given him the wine, and then everybody was yelling at everybody. So basically we started a riot.

Then we moved inside the Station to wait for a while, and finally I got a call from Heidi, and I checked the times to make sure we were still with the trains, and it seemed that we were. So then she got there, all safe and blonde, and we bought our tickets to Florence. And then as I was looking for the train number on the track schedule, I realized that I had somehow managed to buy tickets from a different Rome station to Florence, and that there was no way that we had enough time to get to Rome Tiburtina in time to catch the train.

But we looked on the schedule and there was a midnight train to Florence, so we decided to just take that and plead ignorance if the conductor checked. So we got on that train, said good-bye to the ex-spies again, and waited to leave. One of the ex-spies gestured through the window, very animatedly and specifically, that they were going to wait for the train to leave, but they didn't. And I know they didn't because we just sat there. For about twenty minutes, with nothing happening. And then I got off the train to check the track number and they turned off the lights inside the train. Because that train wasn't leaving for Florence, it was arriving from Florence. But I would like to point out that everyone looked at the board and we all thought it was leaving for Florence.

So then we got off the train. (In retrospect, maybe we should have just hid on it and waited until morning.) No ex-spies, no trains to Florence, nowhere to stay. I talked to a taxi driver about cab fare to Florence (just on the off chance that it wouldn't be hundreds of euros, which of course it was) and he said there was a train to Florence, still that night, from Tiburtina, and I said there wasn't and he said there was, and we got into a whole thing about it, (in Italian, which was by far my best example of speaking Italian this entire trip, it was like being stuck in Rome in the middle of the night woke my brain up, I think for a while there Heidi thought I could actually speak Italian) and finally he said if there's not a train to Florence that night we didn't have to pay for the fare to Tiburtina station. No treno, no paga.

So we went to Tiburtina station, in this unlicensed cab (I could feel the spirit of Yvette cringing), and when we get there the guy goes into the station with me, while Brie and Heidi stayed in the cab with the doors locked, which I'm sure they just loved. And we're looking at the schedule together, me and the unlicensed cabbie, still arguing, because THERE IS NO TRAIN TO FLORENCE. And he's trying to tell me that I should take the train to Milan because he's sure, he's just sure, that it stops in Florence, even though Florence is not listed as one of the stops.

So then I really don't know what to do, so I have him take us to the hotel where the ex-spies were staying so we could see if they have another room. Which they didn't, apparently, even though it was like, a Monday night and I didn't see anyone within miles of it. And the ex-spies weren't there. So I asked to use the internet, which I know they have because I'm looking at it behind the guy, and he won't let me use it, even though it's just a pay internet computer for guests. I almost killed him, but instead I let him live and left a note for the guys.

Heidi, by this time, is over it, in Heidispeak, and doesn't want to get a hotel room, but wants to walk across Rome with her duffel bag and camp out at the station until it's time to catch the first train. And, even though Heidi has never been to Rome before, and she hasn't really slept in five days, I say, yes, let's walk across Rome in the middle of the night and hang out at Termini, adjacent from Rape Alley, that sounds good to me.

Somewhere near the beginning of our trip we stopped at an arcade to use their bathroom. Brie and I went down to the basement, into this weird empty blue room that looked wet but wasn't, to find the bathroom, and Heidi stayed upstairs, where apparently the arcade clerk guy and some other guy got into a fistfight.

While we were in the basement, Coma, who had gotten my note from the clerk, called (surprisingly, since I think I may have called the clerk something not nice in Italian) and said they would meet us. So they did, us dragging Heidi's busting-open duffel bag along. And we took a taxi to the station, Steve McCann following in another cab since the driver wouldn't take five.

And so we get there... and the station is closed. Until morning. It's probably, I don't know, 1 at this point? I asked our cabbie if there was somewhere nearby that was open all night, and he said he thought there was a place on Cavour, so we walked to Cavour, and wandered around and didn't find anywhere, and finally we saw a "Pizza Kebab" place that was still open, and so we went in there and tried to thaw out. We all bought pizza (no kebabs unfortunately) and then the guy gave us all free baklava. Then he was closing, so I asked him if he knew somewhere that was open all night, and he said something like, he would normally close now but he would stay open. And then we waited for a while, maybe 45 minutes, and he was really just going to stay up all night with us, but then after a while we felt bad and said we would go, so he could close up, and he closed up as soon as we left. I was really kind of touched.

Then we were just really out of options. So we went and sat outside Termini. And I was so glad we had the ex-spies with us, because that is not a cool place to hang out. And we were freezing. This is a picture of me and Heidi huddling for warmth.

Finally at about 4:30 they opened the station so we could at least sit on the floor inside, and then we said good-bye to Coma and Steve McCann for the third time, and left for Florence at about 6:30. Without getting murdered or freezing to death or anything.

Monday, March 19, 2007

they got soul but they're not soldiers, or: how we visited florence and didn't see the david

I'm taking some time to catch up a bit on here as Brie proofreads my 30-page arbitration statement that I could not be more sick of. (If she were proofing this I would change it to, 'of which I could not be more sick.') Hopefully they'll think this first draft is outstanding and I will spend no more of my time in Italy working. I will spend it blogging, instead.

We arrived in Florence fairly late in the evening. I had reserved a room in an apartment by email earlier that week, and I called
to say we were going to be late. The woman who answered, Marcella, spoke only Italian, with a little smattering of English, and didn't have my reservation. So that was a fun little test of my Italian. We got it worked out (she said, "oh, Rick Steves!" at one point) and we arrived around nine. The room was nice, a little suite. It had been her daughter's room. After a little while Marcella came in with the phone. She was talking to an American who she couldn't understand and wanted me to translate for her. So that was interesting. Her Italianglish was really cute, but I don't know if I can get across how she talked without being there to imitate her. She kept asking me if I had called my mamma.

Brie and I went for a walk that night but didn't find much since we didn't take a map and didn't really know where we were going. The next day, we decided to take it a little easy, especially considering we had so long in Florence, and just relax and take care of some things. We bought food at the Central Market, where I was rudely clapped at, and then we went to do some laundry. We walked to the laundromat in the neighbhorhood, and then Brie and I went to get some coffee. There were three guys and an older man already in the cafe, who apparently were interested in the fact that Brie couldn't tell what the white substance (shown in the picture at left) was, and I had to taste it before she would put it in her coffee. We have since put "indentifying condiments" on her list of bottom five skills. If you're playing along at home, the answer was... sugar. Sugar, folks.

Brie, utilizing her effortless ability to attract older Italian men, eventually lured the man over. It was his birthday, he told us. This is his line with women. Would we come over and join him? He took Brie's hand so she couldn't really say no. We had been trying to figure out if the guys with him were Italian or not (they looked American but then one of them started speaking perfect Italian to Antonio) and so we had that answered. They were American, but one of them, Dexter, had been living in Italy off and on for years. We talked to them for a while, and after Antonio asked Brie why she was wearing snow boots and asked me why I was covering myself up with a scarf, we decided to rejoin Yvette. But we made plans to meet the Americans, sans Antonio, that night at the Tavern Jock, the Scottish Pub where Dexter worked. Because the guys just finished being special Black Ops spies in the army, I am not allowed to reveal their full names. I will call them only "Coma" and "Steve McCann."

The next day, despite the best efforts of the Tavern Jock, Brie and I were able to make it to Lucca, a little town about an hour away by train. Yvette stayed to explore Florence. There was an incident at the train station which involved me yelling, "Six minutes, Brie, you have six minutes! Go, go, go!" I feel like I should mention it, because it happened, but I don't want to talk about it.

Lucca was lovely. The whole town is encircled by a wall, built during the Middle Ages and fortified during the Renaissance. It's so wide that there's a little paved road along the top of the wall, with trees. We rented bikes for 2.50€ and rode around the top of the wall for an hour. It was so great, a gorgeous day. Definitely one of my favorite things of the whole trip.

We came back that evening and met Yvette and the two ex-spies for dinner at a place called, I think, Marone's, where I had amazing steak, and I don't even like steak that much normally, but it had just been a trip of too much pasta and pizza. But Coma and S.M. wouldn't shut up about the lunch place they ate at every day, Mario's, the best restaurant ever, blah blah blah, they laughed, they cried, it was better than the David.

So the next day we went with them to Mario's. And I have to admit, it was pretty fun, even though by this point in the trip I could have happily fasted for a week. Brie ate from a communal plate of beans, I'm not even kidding with you, so that was exciting in and of itself. It's one of those really Italian places where you don't know what you're ordering and the waitstaff kisses people on the cheek and someone always is filling your wine glass. Antonio got the whole table to sing "Happy Birthday A Te" to me. Maybe he thought I wanted to pick up women.

After lunch I was determined to see some sort of Renaissance Florentine art, so I went to the Bargello Museum by myself. Yvette said she would go but apparently when I said "art" she thought I said "shopping" and managed to lose me somewhere near San Lorenzo's Market. The Bargello's most famous piece is Donatello's David, you know, the kind of froofy one where he looks like he's playing dress up in his Grandmother's Easter hat. It was nice to be in the nearly-empty museum in the cool and quiet. I sat in the courtyard for a while and listened to distant Italian voices bouncing off the cobblestones.

After bidding farewell to the Tavern Jock and Coma and Steve McCann that night, we were up bright and late the next morning, ready to greet the new member of our party and see all that Renaissance stuff we hadn't been doing. But it was not to be.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

isle of sand and fog

The morning we had to leave the South, it had become sunny outside, so we decided to go to Capri on our way to Florence. I was nervous about all the connections we would have to make that day in order to get to Florence in time to check in that night, but we thought it was worth it. We checked our bags at our B&B and walked down to the ferry landing at 8. After trying to get on a boat to Naples (it just seemed like the direction everyone was heading in) we found the right landing and boarded our little boat to the island. I took a picture of this man fishing in the harbor because he was just so Driftwood.

We arrived on the island, which I thought looked like a kind of older, Italian version of Catalina, and found the boats for the Grotta Azzurra... the Blue Grotto. We boarded a boat with a group of high schoolers from a Swiss boarding school for children of diplomats, and a Japanese tour group, and rode around to the other side of the island. Then we climbed off the boat into little canoes in groups of four or five, and a rower took us into the grotto.

We were fortunate that the grotto was even open that day, because it's closed often due to high tides or choppy waves. This actually was a high tide day, though apparently not too high for the rowers to work. We sat on the floor of the canoe, and as we approached the cave entrance, the rower told us to lie down. I couldn't really tell from the larger boat just how small the entrance was, and I had a sudden vision of not being able to get my head down enough and being decapitated. Or worse, just de-faced. I was in the far back and lying down basically meant just leaning back against the end of the canoe, not really getting below head level that much. It was such a weird feeling going through so quickly with the roof of the opening an inch or two from my face, but we got through with no defacements. (I had a little rougher time on the way out.)

Rowing around inside the grotto was really kind of amazing. The limestone on the sea floor reflects sunlight as a brilliant, almost unearthly blue color. The rower sang O Sole Mio and another Italian song that I didn't recognize, and the acoustics made it beautiful and haunting. Apparently after 4:00 in the afternoon, the rowers stop working and you can just go into the grotto and swim. It would be freezing to do it in February but swimming there in the summer is going on my list of Things To Do Before I Die. This is the video Brie took in the grotto, courtesy of my wonderful and talented brother, who sized it down for us. (Ryan, I will buy you a gelato. And by "you" I mean "me".)

On the way out, we had to lie down again, and there must have been a chain attached to the cave wall to let the rowers pull the canoes through, because suddenly I felt a really heavy chain being dragged quickly across my face. It startled me more than it hurt me (I was still worried about losing my nose) but I did have a red welty streak across my forehead and cheek for the rest of the day.

Back on the island, we found a little beach, and saw the sun, the for-real sun, for what seemed like the first time since I got here. It was still pretty chilly so we refrained from stripping down and running around yelling with giddiness. Brie skipped some rocks. I tried to skip some rocks. I think I made one skip once. After a while I started to worry we would miss our bus to Anacapri, one of the two little towns on the island, so I walked up the hill to check. Our bus was just pulling up, so I yelled for Brie and Yvette to run to where I was, and also to bring the coat and camera and bag that I had left on the beach. They thought this was deliberate on my part but I promise it just worked out that way.

We took the little bus up to near the top of the island, with some great views of the town and the water. Brie and I stood up when an older couple got on the bus, but this was nothing doing for Yvette. She did say she thought it was kind of cute and old world of us.

In Anacapri, which was really cute, we walked around for a while looking for the chairlift to Mt. Solare (recommended by the GB), gave up, and then found it. It was a twelve minute ride up to the top of the mountain, and it was supposed to be the best view of the island. We got on these little individual seats and rode to the top. It was fun even just going up, really quiet. We passed houses and some vineyards, and it got slowly colder as we crept up into the clouds. This is Brienne's Mary Poppins picture from the way down, possibly my favorite photograph so far.

As you may have guessed from that photograph, the views of the island from the top of the mountain were not exactly spectacular. I would say they were more... white. It was actually kind of cool, though. It had a very distant and lonely feel, something I haven't seen much of this trip, and it was kind cool to look down and see nothing but clouds. It reminded me of that scene in Magician's Nephew when Jill looks off the edge of the cliff and sees Eustace falling through the clouds. So I pushed Brie off.

After Brie was spirited away by Aslan, Yvette and I went out to eat at a place called American Bar, where the waiter was wearing a sweatshirt that said "Hot Buttered", which I wish we had gotten a picture of. Yvette makes fun of me, but sometimes I get tired of Italian food. So I got a "hamburgher", ok? So sue me. It was delicious. OK, so it wasn't delicious, but it seemed like it was because it was a freaking hamburger.

After that, we waited at the bus stop to go back down to the marina, which involved me yelling frantically for Yvette, who was shopping, when the bus came, and Yvette yelling "Coming!" and grabbing the little limoncello shot glasses she was buying out of the shopkeeper's hands and racing for the bus, and us boarding the bus at the last second, only to find it was the wrong bus. And then we got on the right bus, and then the right ferry, and then the right train to Florence, which seemed even then like an unbelievably lucky string of events... and that is the end of our time in Southern Italy.