Italy, 2001

This is an excerpt from our ezine Degeneration Excerpt, a semi-weekly and semi-weakly ezine on Atlanta's music scene, random travel tales, blasphemy and prophesy. If you want to subscribe to that broadcast just contact us!

Part 1: Roma (Rome) Part 2: Firenze (Florence) Part 3: Toscana (Tuscany) and more Firenze Part 4: More Tuscany and Siena Part 5: More Roma

Out into the Tuscan hills though tiny, picturesque towns that look like what Disney or Helen, GA, was trying to mimic only to fail miserably, on and on up into the hills until we finally arrived at Dicomano, a crossroads about an hour from Firenze. There are 3 bars, 3 restaurants, a drug store, a couple of grocery stores and one or two of anything essential but not much else. We passed through and headed up the mountain overlooking the town where my folks had rented a little villa. The place was cute and reasonably priced, but the kicker was the view.

Leonardo couldn’t have painted a softer, prettier scene. A ridge of mountains to our left held the storm clouds at bay, the dark gray mist just leaning over the edge. Rays of sun shone through the cracks, spotlighting the green valley and yellow town below. When the villa’s water ran out it was hard to complain. Forget showering, just sit in the yard and gawk at the view.

We headed down the hill with degenerates JN and BK to the bar for a nightcap or three, sucking down bottle after bottle of vino. The owner brought us the day’s leftovers from the pastry counter just because we were there and tipping well.
In the morning we got in the car to cruise around and found yet another stunning view up and around the mountain, followed by another, and another, and… until our little 3-cylinder Korean car couldn’t take the rutted gravel road. So we stopped for a picnic overlooking a barn full of chickens who had a view utterly undeserving of their bird brains – stunning.

We headed down to wander town, eventually heading into a restaurant for dinner. Ristorante Etrusca, or something like that, was empty when we arrived early for the Italian dinner hour (they eat late, like 8 – 10 PM), but it never did fill up and the only other people in the place were tourists like ourselves, for good reason. Mediocre food and grumpy service. My folks recommended another place up the street so we knew where to go next time.

Every morning in Dicomano we woke up to an incredible view of the valley below entirely shrouded by fog. It was like someone had filled the entire valley with shaving cream, utterly surreal.

This particular morning we rounded up the troops for a day trip to Firenze.

We started off with the pinnacle of sights, the climb up to the top of the Duomo dome for the spectacular 360 degree view. It’s an arduous climb, particularly for us degenerate slackers, but well worth the sweat. Along the way you get little peaks out of the sides, such as this view of the Palazzo Vecchio tower.

Then once you're up there the view is absolutely marvelous. I pieced this one together from several wide-angle shots. Next time I'll take a panoramic lens!

Here's another view from the top of the Duomo. The bell tower, or campinile, to the left was supposedly designed by Giotto, often called the father of the Italian Renaissance. There is some debate in art history circles about whether or not he actually designed this tower, but you'll never hear any different in Firenze.
We followed that with a gelato from our new favorite place, “Perche No!” then walked around town.

Here's a view of the Arno, Ponte Vecchio, The Uffizi, and the Palazzo Vecchio tower.
At the Firenze train station there are automated ticket machines that seem very handy. Touch screens allow you to select language, then destinations, dates, times, train type, etc. You can purchase tickets with plastic or cash, or just view schedules. These would be great IF THE SCHEDULES WERE ACCURATE. The machine told us there was a train to Dicomano at 9 and 9:35. There is a hidden, unknown information counter behind the regular ticket counter in the station as well, so we confirmed the next train out of town was at 9 with the human behind the counter. We had an hour to kill so we went for a beer at the Irish pub down the street. Then two beers. Then we decided to make it three beers and trust the machine’s 9:35 listing.
Of course, there is no 9:35 train, nor one later than that, so we had to catch a cab all the way to where we’d left the rental car. Fortunately split four ways it was only like $10 each, but I mention it to educate you should you ever travel abroad – even if you don’t speak the language, always try to confirm timetables and listings with a human being!

Next Stop: More Tuscany and Siena!

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