Thursday, May 15, 2008

I LOVE Italy!!

May 15 blog

We left Nice, France this morning and started our trek towards Pisa and Florence. Mark decided we should drive through Monaco (the country) since we were so close and we’re very glad we did.

I didn’t realize that this part of these countries is so mountainous! There are huge, green mountains right up to the coast of the Mediterranean and I have no clue how they build houses and villages on the cliffs, but they somehow manage. The roads we’ve been driving on often go straight through the mountains and other times we’re going over very high bridges. It’s quite the experience to say the least. You know those video games you can race cars on? The roads are literally just like that! Constantly turning one way or another, up and down hills, through, around and between mountains. It’s amazing. And even more amazing is that these people have somehow managed to plant crops on the sides of these STEEP mountains. Seriously, one wrong step on those things are you’re toast! But they’ve built these terraces – like cut big steps in the side of the mountains and they’ve planted crops on them. There are also thousands of greenhouses spotting the sides of the mountains. Today was kind of a cloudy day so we couldn’t see the very tops of most of the mountains since the clouds were so low. That added to the awesomeness of the whole experience.

So we drove into Monaco, is probably one of the smallest and hilliest countries in the world. It’s where they have to Formula 1 races and where the Monte Carlo Casino is. This city is built completely on the cliffs right next to the sea. We pretty much got lost downtown Monaco right on the bay (where there again, were multi-million dollar yachts docked). We started seeing all these sets of bleachers everywhere and soon realized that we were actually ON the Formula One racetrack. It’s pretty neat. They have all the guardrails up, and little sets of bleachers everywhere and all the signs that go all the way over the roads. Not many people can say they’ve driven on a Formula One racetrack, but Mark did! I have no clue how they go around those SHARP curves as fast as they do. We eventually wound our way around and started the ascent up to get out of Monaco. These roads really are amazing. They’re VERY narrow and usually one side is just a rock wall, and there is absolutely no shoulder. If you cut the turns tight you’re taking off a side mirror for sure. We didn’t ever get out of the car, but it was a pretty neat experience, despite the fact that the boarder control stopped us as we were entering the country.

We made the 3 hr drive to Pisa to check out the cathedral and the leaning tower and to get some lunch. I love Italy. There is a romantic feeling to this country that you feel almost immediately. The houses are more colorful than they were in France and Spain and it seems to be pretty clean here too. I was expecting the tower to be larger than it was, but it was still pretty neat to see. There are all these guys running around trying to sell you fake designer purses, watches and belts. They get kind of annoying, and you try to use the excuse that you don’t speak Italian and they just start speaking English, which is even more annoying. It was funny to watch everyone do the typical pose of trying to hold the leaning tower up.

Now we’re in Florence. Our hotel is about 4 miles outside of Florence in one of the suburbs and it’s on this cute little town square. It was HELL trying to get to this place though. Pretty much it’s surrounded by one way roads going AWAY from the hotel. We were getting pretty frustrated so we eventually just parked the car and walked to the hotel and asked where to park the car. Tomorrow we plan on spending the day in Florence, which I’m pretty excited about.

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