It's time to say goodbye to Florence. Pack bags, finish what we can of our meagre groceries, separate the trash, double and triple check we have everything, huff it down the eight flights , and cross town, pass the magnificent Duomo.
A cathedral that makes no sense to a Canadian mind, just massive, but unlike the medieval churches we saw, gilded and decorated past comprehension on the outside.
In a tip to my lapsed Catholic upbringing, I did want to see the inside. It is pretty amazing how, me, a mostly Asian man from Canada who was raised Catholic can still feel comfortable in such ornate surroundings. The main features of a Catholic church are repeated around the world, and it almost has a homey feeling.
I realize this is odd, as among the Christian faiths, Catholicism has the most Baroque and ornate ceremonies. Odd statues and rites.
I remember the first time I visited a Protestant church, being struck by how austere and simple everthing was. Where were the stations of the cross, the tabernacle, the statues, oh the many statues, the candles to light, the confessionals? Where was the massive crucifix showing Jesus slowing dying from suffocation with a bleeding crown of thorns on his head. Ok, writing it out now I realize it's a bit odd.
In anycase, yes, I wanted to see inside, as most tourists do, but with a feeling of almost nostalgia. Like being in the middle of Japan and hankering for a Big Mac. Slightly sacriligeous, sure, but I am a former Catholic.
There was a morning service, and there was a door open at the front, clearly for the faithful. I couldn't bring myself to step through, seemed disrepectful. If there is a next time I'll pay the entrance fee and visit like the other heretics.
In our time in Florence and Rome, petty theft has not reared it's head. Everything is very urbane and lovely. Is there some part of me that misses what I imagined to be a little electric thrill of navigating pick pocket infested streets? Maybe, but with everything so extremely chill it allowed me time to people watch.
It was noticeable how so many of the pedestrians were young women. I have many theories about this.
Maybe most art history majors are women? Maybe only young ladies have the responsibility and discipline to save to travel? Maybe this is just a reflection of the fact that there are more women than men in post secondary education?
I have no answer, but there is a sizable gulf between 'don't travel alone, it's dangerous!' paired with the fact there were so many young women, often by themselves, living their best lives.
There are a few markers of casual Italian dress. IMHO, in no particular order
- well fitting pants
- no rad Star Wars prints
- puffy jacket, or leather
- lovely scarf (almost mandatory)
- a higher than Canadian percentage of older men with long hair (and younger, of course)
- leather jacket and leather pants is almost certainly guaranteed Italian
Due to what Mrs. Owl and have termed 'sympathetic peri-menopausal heat flashes', and also due to the traditional gender role foisted upon me to 'carry all the heavy stuff', I had to strip down to my, uhm, rad Star Wars t-shirt. Scarf absolutely out of the question. Jeans.. whatever I got at Costco. Ethnic background, mostly Asian. I was the least Italian pedestrian in all of Florence.
I was also THAT Canadian wearing a t-shirt in, somewhat cool weather, about 10C.
If you are Canadian, particularly if you live in the more temperate areas, there are always transplants from the colder parts of Canada who insist on wearing shorts and t-shirt well into November. "You think THIS is cold" and other such phrases never fail to tumble out of their mouths, as if they are proud of being raised in the arctic wastes, oddly what they conceive of as the Real Canada.
And so we finally make it to the bullet train! I honestly thought I'd write more about that, hence the title, but there isn't so much to talk about. It's quiet, on time, not a single donkey cart upturned in sight.
It goes 300km/h which is an eye watering speed to go on land. A speed that's more fitting for birds of prey , or, I dunno, objects falling from the space station. I'm sure it's all stabilized and controlled by computers and software, which, as a programmer, really just makes me even more worried.
Just as we leave, the text to speech announcements glitch out just enough to give the first 15m or so of travelling at 300km/h an electrifyying dose of excitement.