High Heals and Vespas……

View from Duomo

Its an amazing sight to behold, Italian women dressed to the nines wearing 3″ (to 12″) high heels with shiny fiberglass helmets riding Vespa scooters all over the city.  Where in the world are they going in high heels at 10am on a scooter!?  I am so bummed I never got a photo of this apparition, but I was always too mesmerized to grab my camera.  And it is only the women, you don’t see any men on Vespas (and practically none in high heels).  I suppose that is due to the Italian mans’ machismo burden.  They all have to ride Ducati crotch rockets as a sign of their virility.

Stone Penis

Another observation I made in Florence is that there are an awful lot of stone genitalia floating around this city.  Well, technically the genitals are not floating around, they are attached to very virile looking sculpted men & women (who apparently did not need any Vespas or motor cycles). Francesca remarked that apparently back in Roman times pants had yet to be invented.  Seriously, what’s up with that?  Why are all the dudes naked? They had togas didn’t they?  Maybe the toga was just the fat man’s apparel?  I guess if I had a physique like that I would show it off as well.  On the other hand, if I were hung like a walnut like most of these statues (and I’m not saying I am), I think I would invent pants if they didn’t already exist.  I’m just sayin’…..

birth of venusedit

And then you’ve got the female sculptures and paintings where the artist is trying to portray his female subject as all modest and shy as she attempts to cover up her privates by haphazardly draping her arm across her chest or funneling the hair from her head into her nether regions as in Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” (above).  I am like “….uh…excuse me Ms. Venus, but…..uh….you seem to have….uh…missed… AN ENTIRE BREAST!”  I am not as big a prude as I must seem at this point, but come on, a little effort please.

Speaking of effort, it took a lot of it for Francesca and me to capture the photo below without having to pay for the David cooking apron!

dan as sculpture

Actually all this reminds me of that old SNL skit with Dan Aykroyd as the Renaissance painting critic;

Dan Aykroyd: “Okay so here’s another painting of a nude broad on a couch.  And its by Titian <he pronounced it “Titty-in”> so its a classic!”

I couldn’t find the clip on YouTube, but if anyone can find it let me know.  Its….well….a classic.

ponte vecchio

Sorry, I got a little ahead of myself.  After 4 lovely days in Tuscany we arrived in Florence and dropped Francesca’s mother off at the train station so she could continue her travels – Austria I believe was next on her itinerary.

That left Francesca and me to wander the city for the better part of two days.  Now I am not a big fan of museums nor do I profess to have a huge appreciation for art (as demonstrated above), but when in Rome, or in this case Florence, do what the Florentines (and the tourists) do; check out art.  We went to the Uffizi Gallery (I think we got through in a record 1 hour and 20 minutes) and the Major Duomo (which I believe is technically called the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore).

Major Duomo

The latter was actually pretty fascinating, especially seeing the frescoes inside the dome painted by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari between 1572 and 1779.

Duomo frescoes

I was pretty excited that my new totally awesome Canon HF S100 was able to capture close ups of the details of the frescoes from the floor way below.

Frescoe detail

I’ve had some hangovers that felt like this!

Frescoe Hell

And the brilliant light through the stained glass windows.

Stained glass

In the interest of full disclosure the last two photos were actually taken from the gallery area right beneath the dome, but the Canon still did well to take them through 2 inch plexiglass without a reflection or washed out colors.

I continued up, up, up to the top of the cupola to see those iconic views of Florence.

dan and florence

While I was reaching closer to the heavens (at least geographically speaking) Francesca was indulging in some sinfully good gelato on the street below.


Our last cultural stop was at the Piazzele Michelangelo where we met a street musician from Cordoba, Argentina who was traveling Europe with his friend making money busking in high tourist traffic areas.

argentine busker

We also chatted with a couple from London who sold us on the idea of going to Lucca that afternoon instead of staying another night in Florence.

James Abraham & wife

Lucca (about 2 hours away) is as charming, quaint and devoid of tourists as they had promised us, however, it was raining by the time we got there and so our brief stay ended up being mostly a lengthy internet session.  [Below is a shot of the Piazza Anfiteatro, a really cool ring of buildings once used for theatre, but now houses shops].


The restaurant that the couple recommended though was fantastic! Probably the best meal we’d had since arriving in Italy.


It is called “Cantine Bernardini” and appears to have already garnered a tremendous word of mouth following even though it has only been opened for  five months.  The owner, Massimo (pictured above to my right along with his two chefs), is a great guy (he let us use his internet access for free for about an hour after dinner) and both the food and service is excellent.

While we wanted to do some hiking in the mountains north of Lucca the next day given the forecast for rain we decided it would be best to press on and get some long driving in during the inclement weather.  So we packed up and headed towards the lakes region with the thought of stopping in Portofino for the night.  Too bad we didn’t know what the elements would have in store for us or we would have stayed warm and safe in Lucca an extra night……

……to be continued.

In Retrospect (September 18, 2010):

This is one of my favorite blog postings from our trip.  I think it’s when I really started to hit my stride in terms of the kinds of blogging I wanted to do.  My vision was to write blogs that were interesting and educational, filled with tid bits of history and facts while also layered with a healthy dose of humor.  This post got a lot of positive feedback from friends and family and I noticed a big boost in readership after that.

Now regarding Florence, despite not being into museums and art I actually really enjoyed Florence.  The architecture of the buildings was amazing and I particularly enjoyed the Duomo as it reminded me of one of my favorite books, “The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett (that was recently made into and apparently horrible made for TV mini-series).  Such an impressive building.


12 Responses to “High Heals and Vespas……”

  1. awesome blog you guys … i think you can add this blog to one of those that makes you feel like quitting your job too … felt the pangs myself as i read about your adventures – love the apron – you should have bought it ! i won a trip to florence through a magazine a few years back and loved it but was eventually “arted” out – i remember renting some bicycles and went around the town which was fun – am wondering how do you manage to update your blog edit photos etc what tools are you using ? just curious as a tech geek – look fwd to more great photos – take care – jx

    • aroljahns Says:

      Thanks Jules! When did you win the trip to Florence?? how awesome is that?! I never win anything!

      As for the photo & video editing…..I use Picassa 3 for editing the photos (cropping, coloring correction, etc.) and videos. Simple video editing. I havent done much video editing b/c i have an HD camera and i need to first convert the file format into one that Picassa can read and even then it is really choppy b/c it can’t handle the large file. so then i have to convert it to a compressed quick time file and then edit. B/c i dont have a lot of time on the internet and most of that is needed just to stay current on the blog, i havent done much of it. But i am going to try to include more short, unedited video clips where possible. Since you are a self proclaimed tech geek, here are some other software programs I use related to photos and videos.

      * iSkysoft’s Video Converter (to convert my .MTS files to other more useful formats)
      * Gimp (fairly sophisticated freeware photo editing software akin to Photoshop).
      * MPEG Steamclip (also to convert to different file formats)
      * Windows Movie Maker (very basic video editing software that came with my netbook. Lately i’ve been using Picassa for basic video editing (which is all i really have time to do), but they are very similar programs.

      Let me know if you have any tech suggestions on how to make me a better “flashpacker”.

  2. Dan, Frankie,
    This is looks amazing. Thanks for sharing. The food sounds amazing and of course the view is spectacular. Can’t wait for the next updates!

  3. Dan and Fran,
    It sounds like you are having a blast. Thanks for the blog. It’s great to be able to “follow” you around places I’ve seen and not…
    Your notes are so rich that I feel like this vicarious experience will save me the trouble – so thanks!
    Lastly – Dan, you are starting to take on a striking resemblance to Ben Roethlisberger. Not that there is anything wrong with that…
    BTW – Steelers beat the Vikings 27-17 today!
    Later, Bro

    • aroljahns Says:

      Thanks Dave! Glad you are enjoying my travel musings. Yes, the beard is getting quite unreasonable. I have to figure out how to trim this thing so as to avoid the unsightly Roethlissburger look! 🙂

  4. Fran & DAnson – this was the best- I really enjoyed it- thanks!!!!


  5. aroljahns Says:

    Hey, my friend and former colleague Seth Culter found the link to the Dan Aykroyd SNL skit mentioned above….check it out.

    It will only work if you are in the United States unfortunately due to licensing reasons with Hulu. 😦

  6. I suppose its the cheapest way to get around on a vespa for women to go to work in Italy. But to wear there high heals on the bike while riding seems strange not to wear flat shoes then change into there high heals when they get to work.

  7. Greetings! I’ve been following your blog for some time now and finally got the bravery to go
    ahead and give you a shout out from New Caney
    Texas! Just wanted to tell you keep up the fantastic job!

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