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Italy trip review part 1 Mon, Sep 19, 2011
First the recap, now the review of the places we visited: 

Rome.  Rome was an awesome city.  I couldn't get over the fact that you step out of a subway station, and there's the Colosseum, where they used to make prisoners fight wild animals to the death.  Or you walk past a few restaurants and coffee shops, turn a corner, and there's the Pantheon, where people have been worshiping one of various gods for 2000 years.  The mixture of ancient and modern was amazing.  An interesting thing I learned though was that many of the relics, statues, and especially obelisks were actually stolen from conquered enemies (like Egyptians).  I guess that's what you did back then. 

Cinque Terre.  This collection of five fishing and farming villages was full of hikers and backpackers, and for good reason.  The hiking took us up really steep hills, through vineyards and terraced farms, all overlooking the ocean.  And they had nice fresh seafood, which was great after a long, sweaty hike.  The best part about Riomaggiore, the town we stayed in, was their rocky little port which made for a great swimming spot. 

Venice.  I expected Venice to stink, since its streets are made of water and their plumbing systems were created hundreds of years ago.  Turns out Venice had no smell at all, not even a salty water or marsh smell.  The only thing I smelled in Venice were the German tourists.  This city was probably our favorite of the trip, maybe because of its uniqueness, or maybe because we spent a good amount of time sitting around in shady spots.  An interesting thing I learned was that many of the buildings along the main canal are deteriorating due to rising water levels and sinking foundations, but the Venetian government has a lot of restrictions on development and renovation in order to preserve history, so the number of vacant buildings is increasing, and the city's population is shrinking.  The entire city is essentially one large museum. 

Florence.  There was a lot of art to see in Florence, and we saw pretty much none of it, which was fine.  The Duomo was interesting because you could see it no matter where you were.  The view from the top was even better.  We had two separate meals of memorable pizza, one of which had rosemary and olive oil, which was unique. 

Tuscany.  The guided van tour to some wineries in the countryside was quite nice.  Our tour guide was entertaining, and the scenery was excellent.  The wines we sampled were mostly reds, and they were mostly great. 

Siena.  We saw this city at the end of the trip, and we just weren't really feeling into it.  It was similar in style to Florence, which we had just toured around the previous day.  But it had a unique feel because of the contrade, which were different regions of the town that compete in horse races and have their own crests. #travel


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