Firenze!!! (This is coming a bit late, as it's been days since I've had Internet access.) #florence #italy #travel

Part One with my travel in Venice is here.

I did not fall in love with Florence. I can’t fully explain why, but it was kind of dirty and crowded (also unexpectedly high levels of tourists for the season), which contributed to the feeling, I suppose. I also feel that Italy in general is a place to travel with someone, someone to linger over leisurely meals and share a bottle of wine. Ultimately, I guess I just didn’t resonate on some fundamental level or I wasn’t in the right headset (I actually think I love Mexico City far more, based on my experience of both cities this year).

I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are ridiculous amounts of stunning art and architecture throughout the city, so much in fact that its’ actually really overwhelming. I remember walking around a street corner and all of a sudden seeing El Duomo (the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore) and just being momentarily stunned, because it stands out so clearly from any other building in the entire city with green, white, and pink marble. It really is gorgeous, and an amazing feat of architecture. Construction was started in the 1200s, the dome with first of its kind engineering techniques was completed during the Renaissance in the 1400s, and work was ongoing until the facade was finally completed in the 1800s. El Duomo is definitely worth braving the crowds to see, and you can climb to the top of both the bell tower (which I did) and the dome.

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Flore, aka El Duomo. (I climbed that tower. There were lots of stairs.) #florence #italy #travel

El Duomo from the bell tower. #florence #italy #travel

View from the Duomo bell tower. #florence #italy #travel

There were some really fantastic moments — I loved seeing Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” and “Spring” paintings, as well as other masters, at the Uffizzi Gallery (also ridiculously crowded), seeing Michelangelo’s David, and exploring the archeological museum and both of the Medici family palaces.

Plus, I bought myself a gorgeous black Italian leather jacket. I wasn’t going to, at first. I knew I wanted one, but was put off by the cost as I’ve been trying to save money. But I was walking through a market in Florence with stall after stall of gorgeous leather jackets and bags, I made eye contact with the little old Italian lady, who ushered me around the corner to their small family shop.

The man in side had me try on the jacket, adjusting the sleeves and collar so that I can see how it fits perfectly — and oh, how it fit perfectly. “Fire proof and water proof,” he said, taking a lighter to the cuff to prove it, while my arm was in the sleeve (according to my brother-in-law, this proves it’s genuine leather since fake leather is made with polyester and will go up in flames).

“And the man who made it is right here,” the shop owner said, pointing to a man on a small couch in the corner, who gave me a little smile and a wave.

After the shop owner said he would give me a good deal, dropping the price from 440 Euros to 250 Euros, well, I couldn’t refuse. It was just too perfect. I handed over the money and haven’t once regretted it.

As I was leaving and walking back through the market, the little old Italian lady again. She saw me in the jacket and her face lit up in delight. She came running over, shouting “Bella!” and kissed me on the cheek. Just a perfect little story to go with my perfect jacket. (^_^)

So, yeah, the trip to Venice and Florence was really great (and the work conference wen well too). But I’m so glad to be home and be able to relax and try to put my life back in order after my trip. 🙂


I've arrived! #Venice #Italy #travel

I loved Venice. It’s a small city, which is actually made up of something like 120 islands connected by over 400 bridges. The only way to make your way through the city is by foot or by boat (the bridges make even bikes impractical).  I’ve never seen anything else like it in any of my travels.

There were an unusual number of tourists while I was there (according to the locals), and this was mainly due to some new cruise ships that had come it. (The cruise ship, huge monstrosities, are so jarring to see sailing through the main canal, their bulk erasing the cityscape behind them.) But the tourists all stick to the main tourist areas, and it’s not hard to get away from them, as only a street or two will lead away from the swarms to quiet cobblestone avenues.

#venice #italy #travel

#venice #italy #travel

In fact, one of my favorite things about the city was getting blissfully lost. The city is like a giant maze with no streets crossing the city in a straight line. To cross from one side of the city to the other I would just pick streets at random and see where it lead me, letting them twist me this way and that, until I began to circle back or they dead ended at a teal-green canal. I might sit at the steps leading down to the water and watch a nearby boat, tied up to a 12 inch wide “dock” bob gently. And then I’d move on to another corner, tunnel, nook to discover.

It was in this way that I discovered the Ca’ Pesaro modern art museum, which had a lot of fantastic pieces (some by Gustav Klimt, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol) and a great Asian art collection.

I also waded through the crowds to check out the main sights, including St. Mark’s Square (including the Basilica and a tour of the government building, the Bridge of Sighs (not romantic, as it was really named for the sighs of prisoners being secretly transported to the prison), Rialto Bridge and other well known areas.

View from my hotel window in #Venice. #italy #travel

Venice at sunset. #venice #italy #travel

I’ve heard that men in Italy will sometimes follow women down the street and get too close in their attempt to flirt, talking and not taking no for an answer. My friend has experienced this, but I  but on my last day in Venice, I met a man who started following me down the street. He asked me polite enough questions about where I was from and why I was in Venice, which all led up to his asking if I wanted to have company as I walked or if I wanted to sit and have drinks with him. When I said, no, that I would prefer to be alone, he smiled and waived goodbye and went on his way. It was all very tame and not the intense thing I had been lead to believe happened.

#venice #italy #travel

#venice #italy #travel

(I have a ton more photos, but haven’t uploaded them to flickr yet. I’ll provide a link when I do.)

I would LOVE to return to Venice. It evokes a kind of romance and mystery, the kind that leaves me spinning stories. It would be awesome to just stay a month or more there and sketch and write poetry and wander here and there.

Advice for Traveling in Venice:
• Since getting back and forth to the airport requires traveling by boat, keep this in mind while booking plane tickets, because it can be a pain to try to make early morning flights out of the city (as I discovered).
• Mestre is the town on the mainland directly across from Venice. The hotels are less expensive there and its a cheap, easy bus ride into Venice to see the sights.
• Wandering aware from the central tourist points is awesome and a great way to find less expensive places to eat.
• Speaking of good food, little pizzerias and cafes are everywhere in Italy. You can buy an drink (coke or water) and entire pizza or a panini for around 3-8 Euros (about $5-10), which is one of the cheapest ways to get fed, if you’re on a budget.

I also traveled to Firenze (Florence) while in Italy, and I’ll do write up on that tomorrow.

Updatery – Life Keeps On Keeping On

The winners of the Rhysling Award have been announced. I am not among them, and that’s okay. I was and still am just so honored to have been included in the list of nominees.

In other writing news, the short story I have currently circulating has been rejected again, but that’s the writing life. Time to send it to a new publication.

My biggest issue in my writing world right now is that I haven’t been writing much of anything at all, which is rather depressing. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately, in part due to all my traveling and I’ve been trying to just relax when I get home. (I suppose it doesn’t help that my relaxation has lately taken the form of mainlining episodes of Fringe.) At any rate, I’m going to have to hunker down toward my goals once I’m back from work trip to Italy and into my day-to-day rhythm.

Oh, yeah, did I mention that I am going to Italy? No?

Well, I’ll be traveling to Udine for work, then spending three days in Florence and a day in Venice for fun. I am STOKED.

* * *

In other, other news, my trip to Washington DC (a couple of weeks ago) was awesome. We did so much and saw so many sights. Here are photos I took of the Lincoln Monument, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum.


Washington DC

Washington DC

The amazing thing about the trip was not just the places we visited, but the people we were with. These women I traveled with are amazing women — books geeks, fabulous mothers, nerds, intelligent business women, joyful lovers of life, and so much more. I feel blessed to know them.