what a weekend

Whoa. What a weekend. So, on Friday as soon as class was over we went straight to the train station (10 of us, the other 3 went to Rome) and took an express train to Venice. Considering it was our first train ride, the plans went really smoothly and it wasn't too confusing. When we got to Venice we hopped another train and went to the train station closest to our hostel. We walked to the hostel, after asking 12897013 people for directions (when it ended up being literally a minute walk from the train station) to the hostel. We got checked in and ate dinner at the restaurant that was inside. The hostel was one of the nicest I've been in. After dinner we got ready and took a walk down the road where there were some outdoor cafes and bars playing music so we hung out there for a while. A guy I met and studied with in Argentina, Joao (Brasilian) came with us. That's the neat part about traveling is that you meet people from all over the world. 

Saturday morning we woke up and went to the train station and then took a water taxi...or...tried to take a water taxi to where we were supposed to meet for our tour. However, there was some huge america boat thing (??) going on in Venice so the canals were SO crowded and we weren't gonna make it in time for our tour. So, we jumped off at the next stop and started sprinting through Venice and frantically asking for directions in really broken Italian until we finally made it just in time for our tour. Upon arriving we realized we hadn't read our tour voucher that told us there was a dress code that none of us were dressed appropriately for so we had to dig in our bags and throw together hilarious hodge podge outfits to be able to go into the basilica. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and we saw tons of gorgeous things. Venice is beautiful!!! The gondolas are so pretty! After our tour hour walking tour (lugging around our 30lb backpacks in the hot sun) we took a break to buy some lunch (and a veneitan mask or cute fedora in allyson and kari's case) Next, was the one hour boat tour. Well, we, again, didn't read our voucher and didn't realize that that part wasn't immediately following the walking tour and we were going to miss the train we had made a reservation for if we did the tour and if we didn't we would lose money. We also wouldn't be able to make it to our next hostel in time to check in if we did the boat tour so we split into two groups so that we got the best of both worlds. Katrina, Kari and I went and took our train to Florence to make sure we didn't lose our reservations (and money). The hostel was AWESOME. It was a campground! When we got there we took a bus (to the wrong stop...who know you had to push a button to make the bus stop at your stop? I thought that was why it was called a stop...bc the bus was going to stop there. apparently not.) to our hostel and checked in. Then we had dinner at the restaurant on site that was up on a mountain overlooking all of Florence! The view was incredible especially since we were there at sunset. When the other girls finally arrived they probably weren't excited about the tents, but they weren't your average tents. They had hardwood floors, bunkbeds, lights, and a locking door. The facilities were great. The bathrooms were clean, there was wi fi and the market and restaurant were nice. The only problem was that the tents were cold. But some of us are considering going back because we liked it to much and it was so cheap. Only 16 euro per person. 

Sunday morning we walked down the mountain into the city center of florence (asking directions as usual) to meet our tour guide. He was CRAZY! We had so much fun! He taught us a lot about the art in florence (i think he was barking up the wrong tree a little, but hey, whatever) and some history. We saw gorgeous statues and buildings from the renaissance and gothic periods. He bought us all gelato and we literally SKIPPED through the town all whisteling and singing ha ha we were cracking up. It's not like people dont look at us weird anyway. Might as well make a spectacle of ourselves. That is something to mention. To me, the Italians seem very rude. The NEVER smile at us, they don't say anything back when we say excuse me. They look us up and down and mean mug us. I don't like the overall attitude. The ones that have taken the time to talk to us are all very nice but just your average joe in the street. not so much. If you like smile at their baby or something they give yout he death glare. And they bump into you on purpose and don't say anything. Hate it. Anyway...

After our short tour, we split up again, 3 of us took a quick trip to Pisa to see the leaning tower and grab dinner with some friends that were there who are also from TN. There's not much else to do in Pisa so afterward we hopped a train back to Siena (more on that later). Two others stayed in Florence to do some shopping bc Florence has GREAT leather items. And the rest went straight back to Siena. 

We were starting to get very comfortable with trains because we've taken so many now and know how the system works, but last night was a little different. Katrina, Kari and I were coming from Pisa to Siena when a friendly looking old old man came and started shaking our hands and talking to us (not normal for italians on trains) etc and then he sat down right next to us and turned all the way around in his seat to where he was staring right at us just smiling. We were trying to do the "I-know-you're-looking-at-me-but-i'm-just-gonna-pretend-i-dont" thing but we couldn't help but laugh and when we did he busted out laughing with us and that made us laugh harder and when we would stop he would stop and vice versa and he was LOUD. It was causing a big scene on the train. We are pretty sure he wasn't all there. He kept trying to kiss us on the cheek and take pictures with us and talk to us in rapid italian. finally a lady tried to explain to him that we didn't understand but it was so embarrassing. Katrina was crying she was laughing so hard. Kari had pulled out her knife and we snapped a picture with him. He finally got off and some people around us were laughing at us and about 2 seconds later the train car door opened and I hear Kari say "Allyson?" and sure enough we turned around and there was allyson who in turn turned around and ran back out. We were confused until she came back with Kristen saying how insanely releived they were to see us because some old man had been following them form seat to seat.....hahaha! Same one! It was definitely an interesting train ride. 

We are all exhausted now and looking forward to relaxing all day after class.