Ciao bella! That's right, that over-used stereotypical phrase means I've just returned from Italy. Instead of going to Barcelona with my boyfriend (he ran out of money), with three other American friends I got to see the monuments of Rome for the second time and the art and beauty of Florence for the first. Our visit began with a pleasantly familiar sensation of panic and disorientation. The bus we took from the airport dropped us off in the middle of nowhere at the end of a metro line, which we were planning on taking into town. The metro was not functioning for some reason and we wandered around in the dark until we found a fellow traveller going in the same direction who spoke a little English and a little Italian and got us where we needed to be. The hostel we stayed at in Rome was everything one imagines a hostel to be. Insane amounts of loud, outgoing 20-somethings from all over the world all eating, drinking, smoking and hitting on each other. This particular hostel provided both dinner and breakfast, as well as free wine, beer, and internet. A very cool thing. But why? During my stay there, through the repeated and rather insistent requests for our presence "out" at night by the staff, I realized that the bar next door was owned by the same people that owned the hostel and the real money was made by shuttling already drunk people in to drink more. Thankfully, I never went to that bar. Instead, my good friend Kaci and I found some Brazilians also staying at the hostel who were missing Carnival going on back home and in need of a good night of dancing. Unfortunately, the clubs closed at 3 am on Wednesdays and we ended up wandering back through the chilly streets of Rome, eventually finding our way into bed at 5 am. Rome was really only two days: ancient day and religious day. Religious day was the Vatican and the magnificent St. Peter's Basilica and other assorted churches. I was already a big fan of St. Pete's but this time I glumed on to a passing tour and learned some very cool facts about it. It's huge. It could easily fit two football fields in the main hall. The statues at the base of the pillars are ten-foot; top of the pillars are 17' and the ones hanging out by the ceiling are 24'. This means that with perspective, they all look about the same size. But the most amazing fact I learned, you would have to be there to appreciate it, but I'll let you know just in case you ever get there and remember and want to blow your mind. There's a gigantic (20' high?) brass archway at the front of the hall. Directly up 120m (St. of Liberty from base to tip is 93m) is the cupola. From where you are it looks like a tiny dot, but the entire brass archway towering above you could easily fit inside. Ancient day was Colliseum, roman forum/ruins, Vittorino (an enormous museum/monument dedicated to the unification of Italy), Pantheon (incredibly old dome-style church with a hole in the center to let in light, and rain), Spanish steps (made decidedly less cool by large ads covering the church at the top), and Piazza del Popolo. On to Florence. Uffizi ("offices" in Italian) is an office building converted into a museum. That doesn't sound cool until you see what "office building" meant to 17th century Florentines. Rich decorations, frescoed celings and marble floors. Here is housed many famous paintings such as the Birth of Venus by Botticelli (which has a bunch of stuff around Venus that is normally cut off in representations), a bunch of 12th century "Madonna and Child"s and a rather cool work, The Adoration of the Kings, by Leonardo DaVinci that was half-finished. It was interesting to see how the master began his work with charcoal sketches. Also located in this beautiful city traversed by the Arno river is the Doumo, an incredibly intrecate church decorated with white, green and rose-colored marble, and that's just on the outside. In another church, Santa Croce, I saw the tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo, Macchiavelli and a bunch of other dudes. Unfortunately, my night out with the Brazilians left me under the weather so a lot of my time Florence consisted of shuffling about trying not to pass out. But now I'm home and getting better. And everything would be going perfectly if my landlord weren't a total asshole. See, the faucets in my apartment drip and as he insists that he wants everything to work perfectly I told him about it. He came over and decided to call a plumber. The plumber opened the faucets and reclosed them. Then he waited 45 minutes to see if they'd drip and they didn't. Now my landlord wants me to pay his 90 euro service fee because there's "nothing wrong" as if I would lie about something like that. The faucets still drip, I see it everyday. It's not even so much the 90 euros that gets under my skin, even though that is a lot of money. What bothers me the most is that for doing something nice, I'm getting totally screwed. See, I don't pay the water bill here, my landlord does, so except for it being annoying to find water dripping every morning, it's not really my problem. Greedy bastards. Why do I keep getting money-hungry assholes for landlords? Well, anyway, that's really stressing me out, but I've still got a week and a half of vacation left to chill. Peace.