I want to say thank you to anyone who has bought my book, Memoirs of a Solo Traveler – My Love Affair with Italy.
Until five years ago I had never been to Italy. I couldn’t speak Italian and understood very little. Last year I traveled to Italy on a solo adventure for three months, and it was the experience of a lifetime. I knew it would take a book to write about all the people I met along the way, everything I saw and did, and how this wonderful experience had changed my life. “Memoirs of a Solo Traveler – My Love Affair with Italy” is my first book and it was recently published in both digital and print formats.
Here is an excerpt from the chapter titled “Going to Siena.”
“Upon arriving in Florence and exiting the bus station I discover that it is in very close proximity to the train station, so I know that it will only be a short walk to the Duomo. Without a doubt the Duomo is the most compelling landmark in Florence and I had decided that I want to climb to the top of the campanile this time, since I missed out on that experience the first time I was in Florence.
On the way to the Duomo I happen to spot a tourist office and decide to go inside and get a map, always a convenient thing to have in Italy. Even though I vaguely remember how to get around this completely walkable city, I have concluded that a map still comes in handy. That is not to say that I still won’t get lost, as my explorations in Venice are a prime example.
In about ten minutes I am approaching the famous Duomo and I have to admire its impressive architecture and take some more photos. One can never have too many photos. Thank God for digital cameras. Eventually I buy a ticket to climb the campanile, which is also known as Giotto’s Bell Tower. It is 276 feet high and there are 414 steps.
Once inside I started climbing the spiral staircase with the other tourists and hope that this isn’t a mistake. I am not in the greatest shape since I had gained weight and had not lost it like I had hoped prior to coming on this trip. I am determined though, to climb to the top and am counting the steps as I climb so I could sort of gauge my progress.
At the bottom the steps are about 30 inches wide, and at the higher levels they become much narrower as the staircase spirals. There is only one staircase, so visitors use it to ascend and descend, necessitating that everyone might have to stand sideways at times to allow a group to go in the opposite direction. Thank goodness it is April and not July or August, or the heat would be unbearable in that crowded space.
There are several levels where I am able to stop and walk around, so I have a chance to catch my breath. I really am wishing that I had lost weight more than ever as I am now breathing much harder than when I climbed to the cupola of St Peter’s four years ago. This is definitely a strenuous climb, and even young people are huffing and puffing and sweating by the time they reach the top. This makes me feel a little better, knowing that I am not the only one who finds this climb to be a challenge. On the last 60 or so steps, those who are descending are offering words of encouragement to those of us still going up. There seems to be a sense of camaraderie in this venture.
Once I finally arrive at the top however, the climb was so worth it. The views are just majestic and I can see all of Florence below and also the surrounding countryside. It is truly spectacular! And unlike the Leaning Tower of Pisa, where there are very strict time limits and the authorities monitor the visitors to have ten minutes or less at the top, I am able to spend as much time up here as I want. You can only imagine that I am going crazy with my camera, taking photos from all sides. I love being up here and feeling the breeze and enjoying the view from so high above the city. Yes everyone who is physically able and comes to Florence should do this at least once.”