Following our fun times with new and old friends in Orvieto and Viterbo, we made our way to Firenze for more fun but with the family this time. And no, I'm not talking about some distant relative. My parents were flying over to join us for 10 days in the north of Italy before embarking on a river cruise along the Rhine and then visiting the family in Malta.
Maybe it was the fact that they'd never spent this amount of time being parted with their "baby boy". Or maybe Mum just wanted to make sure that I really was capable of cooking for myself (or at least getting Jess to cook for me) and washing my own underwear. Or maybe they were just due for another overseas adventure. Whatever the reason for their trip, I didn't care. I was stoked to spend time with my folks. Plus, I was running out of clean socks!
Jess and I spent the first day in Firenze roaming the streets and preparing for Mum and Dad's arrival. We didn't really bother visiting the art galleries and seeing the statue of David. Jess and I are not great appreciators of art and we didn't really see the point of queuing up for 7 hours to stare at a statue of a bloke with his tackle on display! On the day of my parents' arrival we had a typical Italian lunch waiting for them - mozzarella burrata, prosciutto, ciabatta and lots of marinated olives. Following lunch, Mum and Dad headed to bed for a jetlag and food coma-induced siesta while Jess and I visited the impressive Duomo Cathedral.
After a the two days with my folks it became patently obvious to Jess and I that our usual routine of non-stop walking and sightseeing from 10am til 6pm wasn't going to fly with a bunch of pensioners coming off 25 hours of flying. So Jess and I very quickly embraced the Italian tradition of doing three fifths of five eighths after lunch and coming out of hibernation around dinner time for a meal and evening passeggiata. And we also relished the opportunity to split up for some father-son and mother-daughter in law bonding time. Mum and Jess got their shopping on and combed every inch of the markets while Dad and I enjoyed a few beers and caught up on all that happened in the last 4 months. We also made a new friend in Tullio, the owner of a local bar.
Tullio had overheard Dad and I talking and inserted himself into our conversation - cracking jokes and boasting about how he'd seen more of Australia than we had. Some of his observations of Australia were a little odd and when we'd try to clarify or correct him he'd reply with a loud and lengthy "aaassshhhaddduppp" in the spirit of Joe Dolce. He had us in stitches. He was the only bloke I know of who has told my old man to "shaddup" a dozen times and lived to tell the tale. Then he offered to take a "nice photo" of Dad and I enjoying our beers. Here's what he took - http://www.offexploring.com/gaz-jess-and-the-world-2014/albums/family-fun-in-firenze/13261433
Jess and I also found time for a morning trip out to Pisa to see the iconic leaning Tower of Pisa. The 11th century tower was built on a less than stable patch of turf and began to show signs of instability a few after its construction. You can feel yourself tilting from side to side as you climb the Tower's winding staircase. Thankfully the foundations of the Tower have now been stabilised to ensure that the Tower stays standing, with its trademark lean intact. But the true highlight of visiting the Tower is to be found on the grounds below where tourists attempt to outdo each other in the ridiculous poses department. There's the done to death "hands up to look like you're holding up the Tower", the increasingly popular "make it look like you're carrying the Tower on your back" and, of course, the "I'm trying real hard to look like this photo was taken quickly and naturally but I did my hair and makeup and took 458 takes before I got the right one" which is extremely popular with the American tourists from the West Coast. Jess and I had hours of fun people watching and taking comfort in the fact that there's always someone out there at whose expense you can have a good laugh.
Between Tullio's antics, and the simple pleasures to be found in spending time with my folks, Firenze was sure to find a special spot in our memories of this trip.
Next stop: Venezia