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Kate's European Adventures.

Stepping back into Renaissance Florence.

ITALY | Monday, 10 August 2009 | Views [1262]

After leaving the rich and famous behind in Antibes, France, we got back on out coach and headed for Florence – with a side journey through Pisa.

Stopping in Pisa meant the obligatory tacky photos – trying to push the tower back up, groups doing a pushing battle from either side of the tower and of course the guys lying on the ground looking very pleased with themselves. Pisa also meant dodging the shady characters trying to sell you rip off Gucci handbags, chasing you down the street if you so much as sneeze in their direction. And of course hunting for the tackiest souvenir we could find. Some gems were the Rastafarian tower statue (complete with dreadlocks, hat and joint), the ever-so-classy boxer shorts with the tower strategically placed, and lots of pointless Pisa inspired key rings with bottle openers and nail clippers.

After our first venture into the tourist havens of Italy, we headed towards Florence and our camping site. That night meant the fine Contiki tradition of the Red Garter pub with super cheap jugs of cocktails. The cheap cocktails and the presence of karaoke proved to be dangerous grounds for our group – but the drinks were flowing and the songs were being belted out. Our bus ride back to the campsite turned the coach into a party bus for the first of a few times on the trip. There were people dancing in the aisles, people hanging from the luggage racks and Katarina splitting her pants by climbing over the seats.

Back at camp, after a talking to from our drunk (and not so serious, despite his best efforts) tour manager about the need to not be loud and drunk, we ended up at the bar with no sign of bed in sight for a little while at least. Megan, from Aus, had belted out some tunes with the best of them at the bar, and was taking advantage of her slightly drunk stake, some of the other girls told her she had won the competition (that was never a competition) and her prize was the lovely necklace she was wearing around her neck. Good on Megan! She was ecstatic and even though the rest of us were slightly perplexed because we didn’t remember there ever being a competition, we were happy for her too. Eventually, someone thought the whole scenario was a little too odd and asked Megan if she had been wearing that necklace all along. She paused for a moment, touched the necklace, and her face dropped as the realisation hit that she hadn’t won any competition and in fact it had been her necklace all along. Sorry Megan, but it provided us with some great laughs for a fair whack of the trip.

Still kicking on, someone in the bar brought out the grappa and our previously mentioned Canadian friend, Katarina (for splitting her pants in the bus) got a little too excited. She came running out the bar, threw her hands in the air and yelled ‘Grappa!’ while doing the splits. Completely forgetting she had already started to split her pants, doing the splits certainly didn’t help. So Kat gets up, turns her back towards us and asks if we can see her bum. Sorry too Kat, but that certainly had us going for a very long time!

Completely forgetting we had this massive day ahead of us the following day, the night ended with the New Zealand boys, Sam and Jamie, doing the Hakka on the table and a few of us girls coming back from the loos and finding Kinan, from Cyprus, a little intoxicated and lost, wandering around the camping ground but not being able to find our tents.

The carnage of the Red Garter saw more than a few waking up feeling a little shabby and tired. Our big day in Florence started with a chance to watch the parade of flag throwers and musicians that were part of the Renaissance festival we were lucky enough to catch. It happens around this time every year (24th June) and the city was all buzzing with renaissance flavoured things – costumes, parades, the works! Certainly worth considering if you want to visit Florence around this time of year. We got to do a guided tour of the Florence where she pointed out all the major sights and buildings, and then check out a leather factory, but by this stage most of us were severely feeling the after effects of the night before and had fallen in a dirty big heap. Nothing a little Pizza and coffee couldn’t fix though!

The girls (Brooke, Katarina, Christine) and I decided we wanted to head to the Academia to check out Michelangelo’s statue of David. The woman that had given us the tour in the morning had said the queue moves quick – hmmmm, not quite sure what her definition of quick was, but 2 hours later (and with Mish joining us) we got into the gallery and marvelled at the statue.  A quick browse through some markets and it was time for our next Florentine adventure.

Jonny (tour manager) had told us about the grand final of the Florentine Football match that was happening that afternoon. This is a renaissance era football variety, where about the only rule is that you can’t bite. The game had been cancelled for a few years due to the increasing violence levels, so we were all expecting some cross between a scene out of Fight Club and an out of control soccer match. I think the fact that it was the first time the games had been run for a few years, and that they took half the red team and swapped them with half the blue (to lower the violence) all meant that the match was probably a little tamer than we had though. There seemed to be a bit of wrestling and a fair bit of hugging going on. Having said that, it was an incredible experience sitting in these stands put up around the main Piazza in town, where the cobble stones had been covered with a layer of sand. The fact that these guys are in full renaissance costume added to the atmosphere of it all and the gorgeous Florentine summer afternoon certainly helped. We were all glad when the Red team won; because that was the side of the arena we were sitting on!

Next a quick change of clothes and we were off to our Tuscan dinner for some great wine and more food (ah, if I must). All fed up after some incredibly tasty food we went to watch the fireworks over the river. The craziness of the festival came into play here, with stubborn Italian drivers insisting they drive down the roads where thousands of people were waiting for the fireworks. What a spectacular way to signal the end of the day. Of course our night was not quite finished though, and we were off to the Space Electronic Discoteque for more karaoke and more drinking. Tonight was Lucy’s birthday and we all tried our darndest to provide her with a memorable Florentine birthday experience, dancing the night away at the discoteque.

Another quick pack up of tents the following morning, we left Florence a great deal heavier than when we got there from all the great food (well I know I certainly did!) and headed to the tourist capital of Rome.

Tags: florence, renaissance festival



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