Friday the 19th of June
Our Contiki Company could have passed as locals as we wandered through the narrow streets of Rome past the basilica and its surrounding souvenir shops to Leonardo Leather Works. The entire length of the street was occupied by stores devoted to leather so the rich smell of hide wafted in the air. In prehistoric days, the early humans hunted animals for food and did not believe in wasting any aspect of their catch including the skin from which leather was made. We were shown how to differentiate between real and fake leather, the most effective way being using a flame as plastic melts and leather burns. I bought a small pouch which the store stamped with my initials in leaf gold by heating up a metal tool and pressing the letters into the leather over the top of a sheet gold strip.
After a quick cup of cream coffee, a type of soft-serve iced coffee cream, we began our walking tour of Florence. We began at Old Town Hall where the council of Florence with the company of Lorenzo Di Medici ruled in its golden age. Emperor Di Medici was not always popular to the extent that he was exiled to Milan and imprisoned for a period of time. Democracy was fuelled by wealth in this time so when he returned he helped rebuild the Duomo as a strategic move to gain census support. Inside the Old Town Hall, marble designs decorated the arches which surround a statue of cupid. An outdoor terrace is used to display marble busts of gods depicting mythological stories. These marble busts are created through chiseling the tonnes of excavated rock and creating moulds for finer details. This was part of the Uffizi which is a renaissance art gallery featuring artists such as Da Vinci and Michelangelo.
On the way to our next sight we passed the Ponte de Vecchio, an old bridge with a bust at its centre. It was surrounded by a metal gate where romantics had put locks to symbolise their endless love. I jokingly convinced Pete we needed to ‘signify our undying love’ so he bought a granite lock and we placed it around the fence with the many others. We made it to the Duomo, our next attraction, that was the trade building of the fourteenth century. The white building lined with rose and emerald embellishments was a grand sight! The dome itself had taken three million bricks to construct and was left open for a long time until Lorenzo Di Medici completed the project. Next we passed the Victor Emmanuel Monument that symbolised unification and had a eternal flame at its centre in respect of perished soldiers. Finally the icon we had been looking forward to visit the entire day! The Trevi Fountain! The legend states that visitors must throw a coin over their right shoulder into the blue waters if they wish to return here some day. But we were met by disappointment! Scaffolding surrounded the white monument – it was not even worth the euro.
For a moment I had forgotten what country I was visiting for the pantheon before me looked a scene out of Ancient Greece! The peaked roof and the pillars formed the entrance to the Pantheon. When inside, the building transformed into a circular marble artwork featuring monuments honouring the royal families who formed the framework of culture and history.
Dinner was had with the group that had become my clique of friends at a little traditional restaurant in a side street by the Fountain of Four Rivers. We only had forty-five minutes in which to eat our pizzas and pastas (and in my case lasagna) before it was time to return to the coach that would then deliver us to the campsite where we would be staying for the next two days. Being on a deadline, we rushed the wait staff who were becoming increasingly confused with the overwhelming stream of our orders. It was ticking near time to leave and with only a few minutes to spare we ran through the piazza and made it to the bus. But we hadn’t all made it – WE HAD LOST DASH! After minutes of panic we had to take off! Hours later Ashden arrived at the campsite having had to navigate her way through the underground and walk a further forty minutes home. I am so impressed she managed to make her way to this secluded camp with no help! I might have lost my head had I been in her situation.