Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Florence, Siena, and My Thoughts on Tour Groups

Before I get into the play-by-play, I have to vent a little bit. I hate tour groups. Period. The ones that are about 20+ in size and have absolutely no sense of respect or personal space when in a museum or church. Now to clarify, it is not that I do not love or respect the people in these groups...but the concept of being herded through a city for a photo op or history lesson makes me seriously nauseous. I never want to join one...and I vow that I never will. Hold me to it please.

Anyway, we enjoyed a wonderful tour of Florence on Monday. Our tour guide-Anna- was an energetic young woman who loves art and history- quite the contrast to our 60+ year old tour guide in Rome who was about as excited about history as a 5 year old toddler. Anyway, I learned a lot about Italian culture during our hour car ride together (my family followed closely behind us). She told me of the struggles of homelessness, education...nothing particularly atypical. She also explained why Italy was so open- the very nature of the people is welcoming unless you're from Eastern Europe. Apparently over the past years, immigrants from those countries have been behind serious organized crime.

When we entered the Duomo church on the tour, we were met with the beautiful sound of a choir. The music was a pleasant reminder of how much I love harmonies and acapella ensembles. And then when we were in Siena last night, after an amazingly refreshing dinner, we happened upon the close of a festival where a choir of over 200 children sang of a better world. My heart soared with them. I think these two things have to have been the coolest incidents we have had thus far.

To severely summarize, the past two days have been filled with people watching, new flavors, learning how to love and hate the Hertz GPS system, great winery visits, and wonderful photography. I will say, however, that after 5 days in Strove, the Wolff clan was ready to leave. Castel Bigozzi, though nice, is very small and we left just as a couple of...well...interesting guests arrived. To be blunt, these two males- both going through Italy on motorcycles- represent the brutish, rude, male population that abuse and manipulate women for power. You could seriously smell the attitude coming from them- in the way they flirted with the waitress, to the way that they "thanked" my mom when she returned the borrowed salt shaker. One of them was married and I pity his wife. I know this runs the risk of sounding harsh, but these are the boys who never grew up...who stayed in adolescence and think the world belongs to them. Anyway...we left and are in Bologna at a very lovely hotel with real hair dryers and softer beds.

We will be here just for 2 days. Tomorrow, we will visit the university founded in 1000 AD, where my grandfather attended medical school. And then we finish our trip in Venice and Milan. To be honest, it's nice to enjoy a few minutes removed from the "moving around" and reflect on all that has occured over the past week and a half. Thanks for traveling with me on this's fun to share all of this with you.

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