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Pisa and Perugia [Oct. 16th, 2006|01:11 pm]
This weekend was supposed to be really relaxing and low key, but I ended up doing a lot of stuff anyway.

On Saturday, Mary and I decided at the spur of the moment to go to Pisa since we hadn’t been able to go when we originally planned. So we headed to the train station and managed to buy tickets and get on the correct train without incident. After a fun 3 hour train ride past much scenic coastline and much more industrial yuckiness, we get to Pisa. We find the right bus and get to the Campo di Miracoli easily. And there is the Leaning Tower leaning away right in front of us. Since it’s 2 in the afternoon we decide to have some lunch first. So we go to a restaurant that has a nice view of the tower and I read the history of the tower out of my Frommer’s guide while we wait. We learned that it took almost 200 years to complete the tower (or Campanile if you want to use the official title) because they knew from the beginning that it was going to lean. We also learned that they had closed the tower for 10 years for repairs and had just reopened it in 2001, but you had to make reservations 16 days in advance to go up. After lunch we went and took silly tourist pictures that looked like we were holding the tower up and everything. Then we walked around the outside of the church and baptistery to look at the pretty architecture. We wandered around the many souveiner stands, bought some postcards and headed back to the train station, because there really wasn’t anything more to do. We got tickets and got back to Rome in one piece. Taking the train was interesting because going there, it just had normal seats and coming back we were in a compartment. It was a little bit of a long way to go to take some silly pictures, but it was fun.

Sunday, Mary (again) and I went to Perugia to go to the Euro Chocolate fest on a trip that was organized through the school. So no trains. We met at the meeting point at 7 am and got on the bus for (another) 3 hour trip. We get to Perugia and have to take a shuttle up to the town. We get there and there are masses of people and masses of chocolate everywhere. It was a little chilly in this hilltop town in Umbria, so we started off with some absolutely, amazingly wonderful hot chocolate. Then we wandered around the booths selling every kind of chocolate imaginable. Then we got some churros with chocolate dipping sauce. Then we looked at more booths and watched the chocolate-sculpture carvers hack away at 3 feet cubed chunks of chocolate, throwing the chopped parts out into the crowd. Then we sat on the steps of the piazza and people watched for a bit. Then we were hungry, so we try to go to this restaurant called Ristorante Victoria, but it was full. So we walk down this really steep hill because we see signs for another restaurant. We get there and it looks really good, so we go in. The waiter they give us must have been an American living there, which was nice because the menu was a little complicated for my Italian skills. Mary ordered a really good steak and I got carpaccio. I though the carpaccio would be like the seasoned raw meat that I have always called carpaccio. But what I got was like very thinly sliced corned beef. It was good, just not what I was expecting. Then we went shopping for chocolate to bring back, stopping for chocolate covered popcorn on the way. I bought some baci (kisses) some filled with hazelnut and some with cherry, a variety of truffles in different flavors like amaretto and zabaglione, and a small bottle of orange-chocolate liquer. I almost accidently bought hot pepper-chocolate liquore, but the guy explained that I didn’t really want it. We asked if the chocolate would keep long enough to bring home for Christmas presents, but apparently since there are no preservatives, it wouldn’t taste very good three months from now.