Italy 2008

CHI was in Florence this year. I arrived two days early to practice my presentation and to tour a bit. First stop: Rome. Utilizing Italy's speedy rail network, I was able to a one-day whirlwind tour of the capital, taking in the Basilica di San Clemente (and associated underground exploration), Colosseum, Forum (and adjacent Roman sights), Pantheon, Castel San Angelo, Vatican (and museum), and Sistine Chapel. This required at least 15 miles of power walking. I also planned my route so that I would pass through Rome's top plazas: Piazza San Pietro, Navona, Popolo, Rotonda, Barberini, Spagna, and Repubblica. When I got hungry, I hit up whatever place had locals spilling out onto the street (mostly really cheap pizza joints). Bonus points for postal workers, cops, and taxi drivers. Looking back, I felt totally underwhelmed by the Roman sites. Only the Vatican exceeded my expectations. The highlight of the experience was walking around on a Saturday with everyone out and about - Rome is a vibrant city.

The following day, Sunday, I set off with Aubrey to visit Bologna, about an hour north by train. Although facing stiff competition from Rome and Florence, I quite liked the city. There were far fewer sites, but some have stuck with me. The main Piazza Maggiore/Nettuno area is very cool with all the surrounding medieval/renessance structures (apparently one of the best in Europe) - a density Rome and Florence didn't seem to have. Climbing the Torre Delgi Asinelle was fun. We also saw the (leaning) Torre del Garisenda, the Basicalica di San Petronio, and the Basilica di Santo Stefano. Some random and rather tasty street food was consumed. On the way back to Florence, we got off at some dinkey little town for a restaurant that was recommended to us by a ticket seller in the Bologna terminal.

I explored Florence in little bursts. Over the course of CHI, I managed to squeak in visits to Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo), Ponte Vecchio, and Santa Maria Novella. Sneaking around the Palazzo Vecchio with Tawanna was fun, as was trying to get into Boboli gardens and getting my lunch stolen by a dog (long story). Like Rome, toddling around the city proved to be as much fun as the sites.

© Chris Harrison