OK, I've procrastinated long enough -- here are some of the pictures I took while I was in Italy. This is only the first half of the trip -- my computer ran out of juice before I could download the rest of the pictures, and my voltage adapter couldn't handle a three-prong plug, so I had to put the other photos on someone else's computer and get them burned to a CD. But anyway:
This is the view from the front porch of the house we stayed at in Caldogno, a small town on the outskirts of Vicenza, which is about 45 minutes inland from Venice. If you look closely, you can see the Dolomite mountains in the background -- the weather was mostly pretty hazy while we were there, but on the morning we left for Venice you could see the mountains clear as day.
On our first full day in Italy, we went to a little town called Marostica, which has a castle on a big hill on the edge of the central town area. The trail starts behind the church you see at the bottom of the hill and ends at the castle you can see (barely) at the top . . .
. . . and this is the view of the town from the castle.
The next day we went on a boat trip down the Brenta canal, which runs between Padua and Venice. The boat trip itself was less spectacular than we'd been led to believe it would be, but the villa we ended up at -- Villa Pisoni, seen here -- was pretty spectacular.
The villa had a garden maze we screwed around in for quite a while. At the center of the maze there's a small tower where they used to have cake and ice cream for the (rich) kids who successfully made it through the maze; this is the view from the top of the tower, and the guy in the center of the photo is (I think) David, whom we tried to guide through the maze from the tower with a great deal of ugly-American pointing and yelling.
A couple days later we went to Venice. This is one of the villas we saw along the Grand Canal, which is like the "Main Street" of Venice. The artwork on the walls is actually huge mosaics.
This is St. Mark's Cathedral, seen from the square where all the pigeons hang out.
This is one of the street vendors selling food you can throw to the pigeons, and we all agreed he looked suspiciously like a certain well-known Big Ten football coach. Apparently 4-7 just doesn't cut it at Penn State anymore, and JoePa has been busted down to pigeon-feed duty in Piazza di San Marco.
This is the view of the Grand Canal from the top of the Ponte Rialto, probably the most well-known bridge in Venice . . .
. . . and here's me on the bridge, unshaven but otherwise looking a lot better than I usually look in photographs.
Some gondolas (gondolae?) in their "parking spaces" along the Grand Canal. Before anyone asks, no, we didn't take a gondola ride -- those things run at least 60 Euros ($75-$80 U.S.) and there were only four of us to split the cost. One of the girls in our group did get her picture taken with a couple gondoliers, though, one of whom took the opportunity to grope her while we were taking the picture. Primo!
And this is a bulldog we found chillin' in the doorway of a photo-developing shop near the Rialto. As a Georgia fan, I couldn't not get a picture of him; Italy is a very dog-friendly country, and you see dogs everywhere from shopping malls to train stations to airports, but this was by far the most awesome dog we saw at any point on the trip.
The next day we went to a small town called Breganze, where they have a big winery. This is the visitors' area, which I walked out of with eight bottles (yeah, I'm a drunk); if the amount of wine you need is too much for bottles, you can always roll your tank or urn or whatever over to these wine pumps, stick the nozzle in, and pump wine just as easily as if you were pumping unleaded at the BP station. Though I dare say the wine was probably cheaper, liter for liter, than any of the gas available in Italy.
Next day we went to Florence, where the Duomo, one of the most famous cathedrals in Europe, is located. This is the roof of the cathedral's Baptistry, which has some of the most incredible artwork I've ever seen. (Yes, that's gold leaf up there.)
This is the view of Florence from our hotel room -- or the hotel room we would've been staying in had David and I not gotten kicked out. Funny thing about some Italian hotels: When they say "this room sleeps four," they mean it sleeps four and not one person more, so if you think you can save some money by reserving a four-person room and then trying to sneak two people in later on when you turn in for the night, you can forget it. Our hotel was even more restrictive than most -- you can't even have visitors in your room after 8 p.m. -- so, needless to say, when we two guys tried to sneak up into a room that had been reserved by four girls, we were turned out on our American asses with extreme prejudice. Thus began David's and my night roaming the streets of Florence, lugging our bags and wandering from place to place looking for bars that stayed open late
The funny thing is, Florence isn't exactly a party-all-night kind of town, so by about 2 a.m. we were just as shit-out-of-luck as we would've been in Auburn or Birmingham. Around 3:30 I suggested we head for the train station where we wouldn't be quite so out in the open; David wasn't crazy about this idea, but we went anyway, and other than being bothered for change and/or cigarettes by a few random drunks while we were trying to sack out on the floor of the biglietteria, not much happened. It was only a few days later that David was flipping through his Italy guidebook and found some notes on train stations in the safety/personal security section: "Italian train stations are generally safe during the day but are to be avoided at night. Especially steer clear of the train stations in Florence, Rome, Venice . . . " Uh, heh. Sorry about that one.
Anyway, that's the first half of the trip -- I'll try to get the second half up here as soon as I can get my virtual hands on the photos.
And no, I didn't want to come home.