Saturday, May 17, 2008

Lean on me / He ain't heavy, he's my brother

This morning I opened the curtains in the hope that the Tuscan sun would be smiling back at me. I was very sad to see the rain and dark clouds above as my brother-in-law and his wife had just arrived from Australia to visit us and we were hoping to take them to Cinque Terre. We quickly changed our plans and decided to go to visit La Torre di Pisa (The Leaning Tower of Pisa).

Jason had been wanting to see this famous tower for so long but for some reason I wasn't as excited as him. My feelings changed and my mouth dropped open as soon as I saw it. It looked so unreal and unlike anything I have ever seen before. I simply couldn't help but wonder why it doesn't fall over which is really not the best thought to have when you are just about to climb it.

After buying our tickets, we proceeded to climb the 294 steps to the top. I was proud of my pregnant sister-in-law who seemed to have more energy than the rest of us.

Being scared of heights coupled with the angle of the tower making making me feel like I was walking half-drunk, my legs started to shake and I felt sick. But the view from the top was spectacular and we were disappointed that our alloted viewing time was over so quickly.

I was interested to learn that from 1990 to 2004 the tower was actually closed to the public due to safety concerns. But now you can walk up there just as soon as you get past the hundreds of market sellers asking you to buy a half tilted coffee mug or a random poster of Bart Simpson leaning on the tower.

When we were driving home, the GPS took us the wrong way around Florence and we accidentally stumbled across the Piazzale Michelangiolo with a huge (replica) statue of David overlooking the whole of Florence. This was a sweet accident as we quickly realised that we were looking at the best view of Florence one can ever hope to see. Once we got our bearings of where we actually were, we realised that our new apartment is only a short walk from this beautiful spot and we can walk up to this view every day for our exercise. It was a beautiful surprise.

I imagine the lookout is usually full of tourists and locals serenly looking at the breathtaking view. But on Sunday the lookout hosted what looked like a huge street party. It started when we drove towards the lookout and all we could hear were beeping horns. It was so loud and constant that we couldn't hear the GPS telling us where to drive next.

We are still slightly nervous driving around Italy so we immediately thought we had cut someone off. But then a car completely draped in purple drove by and from there all we could see were scooters waving purple flags, people screaming and banners flying in the air. We found out the Florence soccer team Fiorentina, had made it into the next round of championships. It was fun to see not only Italian youth but old grandmothers loudly and frantically cheering in support of their beloved soccer team.

The weekend with our first lot of visitors was wonderful as we got to spend time with our family and experience sights which none of us had ever seen before. However for me, it was also exciting as I purchased my first two pairs of shoes in Italy. Beautiful high wedges to wear in the daytime when that sun returns. Hey, I didn't say they were practical, but they are very karina (cute).

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