Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 16

Wednesday the 18th of January
(Sorry for the delay – A late night and early start prevented us from finishing the blog)
Today started with the fog continuing to lay heavy on the city and lagoon of Venice. An early start was needed to get us to the bus so we could continue our travels through Italy. Our boat was supposed to meet us at 8 am sharp. However, by 8:05 nothing had appeared, so we were considering the use of a Vaporetto when a phone call to the taxi found that he had forgotten he was to pick us up! He said he would be there in 10 min, and true to his word, he was. We loaded the boat again and then headed out on a very foggy lagoon. As we glided over the water we saw many water craft, included in this was a massive container ship quietly moored awaiting loading. We arrived at the appointed place and there was the bus, as promised. We headed off to Bologna to keep our appointment at the Ducati Factory.

The bus driver made good time and we got there at 9am. Waiting for us were the tour guides and an American couple who were to join us for the tour. All of the guides are very pretty young ladies, and the boys noticed!
Ducati is of course a producer of some very classic, powerful and successful motor bikes. We saw how they assembled and tested the bikes prior to shipping them all over the world. They manufacture several hundred bikes every day, and it is an illustration of their popularity that every bike manufactured has been ordered by a customer. Ducati do no manufacture “on spec” which results in them not needing to hold stock!!
The tour then took us through the museum, where we discovered that Ducati originally produced radios, then various implements, and finally after WW2 it began making auxiliary motors for push bikes, and the rest, as they say, is history!

Some of the lads then parted with more money to gain a piece of Ducati merchandise. It was a very successful side trip.
It is now time to head into Tuscany by moving south, our next stop is Lucca, a small walled medieval town that seems to have changed little in 400 years. The town has a unique look and feel, small narrow dark streets and little shops that contain incongruous modern products like mobile phones and paper shredders.

Then back on the bus to go to the famous leaning tower of Pisa. The bus park is quite a long way from the actual tower and we had a long walk to get there. I have to say that my impressions of the tower were good and the boys had a lot of fun taking pictures of holding up the tower, but the town of Pisa itself is a bit run down and the location of their main tourist site is in a poor part of the town.

We are doing a first for the blog tonight. As I write it is about 6pm and quite dark. I, along with all of the other travellers in our little band are on the bus rolling through the night along one of Italy’s highways heading toward Florence. The group is very tired as we have had some very big days, and today has been no exception. The hostel in Venice was very good but no one sleeps exceptionally well in a group situation. So the bus is not as rowdy as it has often been, there is the light buzz off conversation above the low rumble of the wheels on the dark bitumen and the whistle and whoosh of the wind as it flows rapidly past the windows. I look around and see many with their eyes shut, perhaps dozing, perhaps thinking or even dreaming of days past or days to come. There is the odd overhead light on with that seat occupant engaged in reading, or checking their photographs from today.
We expect to get into Florence in about an hour or so, soon activity will be required of us again. There will be bags to carry and beds to make, then dinner to eat. Then some who need to clean their clothes will go in search of a Laundromat while others will talk and laugh in their rooms till sleep overcomes them.  So we all wish you a good night and God bless.
Cheers Jim Scritchley.

Well, the boys have certainly had many different experiences during the trip and Italy has been no exception. They appear to be enjoying themselves and have generally been very grateful for the opportunity to see new places and enter into new cultures.
At the moment, we are on the bus to Firenze-Florence, the art capital of Italy. Firenze is the capital of Toscana-Tuscany and home to some superb works of art and architecture and some very beautiful towns.
Just to fill you in on the sort of information we cover at school and demonstrate the connection between what students study and our trip………
Firenze is, of course, renowned for being the birthplace of Il Rinascimento-The Renaissance, which then spread across Europe. The word ‘rebirth’ encapsulates the role this period in history played in promoting a new way of thinking, new developments in many faculties, including the beginnings of the sciences and medicine as we know them today. So many brilliant individuals were born and worked during this time, amongst some of these: Leonardo Da Vinci, Christopher Columbus and of course, William Shakespeare. Many will know that several of Shakespeare’s plays are located in Italian cities. Part of the reason for this is that during the Renaissance and the centuries to follow, Italy was seen as the place to visit for any cultured individual, something like a finishing school.
Firenze and wider Tuscany, are also associated with the birth of the Italian language as we know it today, as it is in this region that Dante Alighieri wrote his famous Divine Comedy’ in the Florentine dialect of the time, rather than in Latin, which had up until that time been the dominant language used in literature.
It is worth recalling that during the time of the Renaissance (1400-1600) Italy, like most other countries, was not Italy as we know it today. It was made up of many different kingdoms ruled by powerful families. One such family was the Medici family and they ruled a large portion of the region that is now Tuscany. It is thanks to this family, that had the money to commission works of art/architecture for their palaces and kingdom that we are now able to marvel at the great works of great artists.
The Medici family are also credited with the beginnings of the banking system as we know it today, as it was one of the first families to loan large amounts of money. We are looking forward to exploring this city tomorrow along with its markets.
Have just collected ‘bond’ money from the lodgers which ensure their room keys are returned and that the rooms are left as they were found. Have also investigated and reported several minor issues with door locks and showers and finally marked out some spots to visit on the maps provided. It’s now 11.45pm and time for bed…… More tomorrow.

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