Thursday, September 28, 2006

It's Italy...just smaller

I have a lot of catching up to do, especially regarding blogging about this past summer's adventures up north, but before I let this get away from me, I wanted to blog about Cyndi and my recent trip to the little-known land of 'Italia in Miniatura.' Yes, for the non-initiated, that would be Italy, in Miniature. As Cyndi mentions over at her blog: if you don't have three weeks for the grand tour of bell'Italia, you can do it in three hours--just meet us in Rimini and we'll show you how.

Italia in Miniatura is just a bus-ride away from Rimini, and when I got off the train at Rimini station to find Cyndi waiting there, we asked the fellow at the local bus stop which bus went to Mini-Italy. He was almost overly helpful, but he cheerily informed us of the bus number, also letting us know that we had lucked out: today the bus to mini-Italy was free! Cyndi and I spent the next ten minutes waiting for our miniature bus to show up (it was actually normal-sized, with plenty of normal-sized people on board), and then spent the following thirty minutes riding through the countryside and along the coast, to Mini-Italia.

As you enter little Italy, the first thing you'll think is, "how in the world can this really be costing me 16 euros?" But once that moment of extreme anger and frustration passes, you will see, in front of you, a very strange amusement park. Dare I actually say amusement park, since there aren't many rides? What it is, in reality, is a long map of Italy, boot-shaped and all, punctured in points by monuments, churches, whole piazzas and towns, built to scale with the real thing. We entered mini-Italy at the heel of the boot, and immediately trulli houses, a mini cathedral of Bari, Taranto's fortress, and a mini-Castel del monte surrounded us, bringing us smack-dab in the middle of miniature Puglia.

I'm a bit embarrassed to say this, but I fell in love with the little places. I took pictures and pointed things out and shrieked over this and that, acting overly touristy--so much so that Cyndi must have wanted to hop a mini-train to her spot on the map. But lucky for me, I've got a patient friend. We made our way up the boot to Le Marche (another explosion of excitement on my part), and then, eventually, even Cyndi got as excited as me when we bumped into mini-Emilia-Romagna.

In between shooting photos of the mini-places, I must have come to my senses. I noticed that other people were beginning to arrive, and mini-Italy was filling up with tourists. As I took a look around me, I saw these cleaning guys in blue uniforms and dangerously-short shorts beginning to fix up the mini-piazzas and towns, and they began vacuuming away with life-sized leaf-blower-type vacuum cleaners. I laughed out loud. They looked so strange--these huge normal sized people cleaning up the little places with such precision, like monsters who come to your town, but not to destroy it: to clean it. I snapped away pictures and, soon enough, they were laughing at US for laughing at them.

Cyndi and I pondered the situation: "If someone asks these guys what they do for a living, how would they respond?"

"I sweep miniature piazzas?" Not, of course, to make light of their job. It's serious work, folks. Somebody's gotta keep miniature Florence on par with the real thing, and keep those miniature Italians from getting dusty. (If a miniature Italian in a miniature piazza falls down, how would he pick himself back up without the help of his Goliath-sized cleaner?) Anyway, I perhaps, have a strange sense of humor, but it still cracks me up looking at pictures of our new-found friends parading through miniature Italy like policeman, keeping the small country in running condition.

After Cyndi and I had had our fair share of the mini-map, we visited Miniature Venice, which is actual quite large. We took a little boat ride through a miniature grand canal, and got to visit miniature Saint Mark's Square. It reminded me of a Hollywood set--in pictures, miniature Venice looks almost real, but in reality, I felt like these huge cardboard cut outs of the palaces and churches might fall down on us at any minute.

After a very fun log ride (Cyndi and I didn't hesitate much before purchasing pictures of ourselves going down the last main slide of the log ride), Cyndi and I ate a normal-sized lunch, and spent the next hour or so visiting what remained to be seen in miniature Italy. We got pictures of ourselves in front of Roman ruins and city piazzas, and we visited mini-Naples and mini-Bologna. I picked up a souvenir at the gift shop, and we were off, almost late for our bus back to Rimini.

After another hour or so visiting Rimini, getting gelato, and taking in Rimini's main church, we got on our trains and headed in opposite directions. Somehow, as I stared out the window, half asleep, everything seemed so much larger than it had before. :)



At 9:05 AM, Anonymous rowena said...

MINI-ITALY?? It would be the both of you to know about a place like that. From what I've read, I think it's a blast, but heck if MY Husband will want to even go there.

Funny, just last night I happened across an expat blog that decided to bid farewell to the blogging world. Europe had become "old hat" after living here 22 yrs. I wonder if I'll feel the same way...maybe not if there's cute places in miniatura to visit eh? ;-) Hope you find a cool gelato flavor! I hear they make gelato al baccalĂ  in Sanselpolcro.

At 10:10 AM, Blogger Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

I read Cyndi's post on this too and both cracked me up, and you both had different and funny things to say. I LOVE the "we wear short-shorts" guys. Things you just don't think about, but you're right, somebody's gotta keep the place presentable!

At 6:38 PM, Blogger Expat Traveler said...

WOW WOW WOW - Jackie. I loved this post. IF we actually went to Italy, I think I'd absolutely love to see this..

What city is it in again? OR is there a link?

Anyhow - there is also a mini Switzerland located near Lugano area and right on the lake. I forget where it is, but I've heard it's kind of cool too. (not as big for sure)...

Great to see photos of you both too. Man I need to catch up on reading blogs! So many to read. :)

At 7:33 AM, Blogger Cynthia Rae said...

I must be getting old. I thought I left a comment days ago... oops.

Had a lot of fun with you Little Italy! You always make me laugh. The short shorts guys were just too much! "Are you girls Italian"?
Yea, don't we just (and act) it! hehehehehehehe! I'll be sure, if I ever get back there, to pass along your number!

Bologna was great too. Will get some pictures up soon. The one with Johnny turned out great. I will email it to ya!

At 4:44 PM, Blogger Bryan said...

Were those "mini-gelato" or full size. That sounds interesting.

Wanted to ask you if you have taken the SS77 to Foligno and if it is a good way to get to Perugia?

At 12:50 PM, Blogger rowena said...

RYC: I am just taking a short break from garlic because now I've got pumpkin-on-the-brain. Heck I LOVE those pumpkin-filled capellacci that you mentioned and think the cuisine in Emilia-Romagna is the best (although I say this about every region in Italy). The weird thing is, the one memorable meal that I had in Ferrara was a frog leg risotto! OMG, it was just unbelievable and uhm, forgive me but I think I would like to start using up the frozen Kermit legs in my freezer soon.

At 6:29 PM, Blogger Stelle In Italia said...

rowena: notice how there was no mention of the husbands? yes, both of them were kind of grossed-out by mini-italy and decided not to join us this trip. ahh, look at all they missed! also, so you've HAD capellacci! why, it seems like you are doing a little italian pumpkin tour! i'll keep my eye out for other uses of pumpkin in local cuisine--oh, i never saw ANY frog legs while there, but we might make another trip to ferrara soon for an art exhibit, so I'll inform my husband (you're talking to a vegetarian here, so i can't share your enthusiasm! :)).

shelley: finally, someone who actually thinks cyndi and I are FUNNY! :) (so it's not just us who laugh at our weird sense of humor...) yes, i agree, someone's gotta keep the place presentable, but must they where those shorts? i have a bunch of photos of these fellas, but i decided not to post ALL of them... :)

expat traveler: so there is a mini-switzerland too? it was cool--there was mini-europe as well, and i think there was a swiss town, but i forget what it was called. i remember it being very cute, though. mini-italy is right outside of Rimini on the Adriatic coast--i think it's worthwhile going in summer instead of fall, since they stay open till midnight and i think have some sort of closing fireworks show perhaps. here's a link:

bryan: full sized gelatos, of course! we ate them OUTSIDE of mini-italy, in Rimini (which is anything BUT mini, despite the name). ha, that makes me laugh--only now did i even notice that there was a 'mini' in Rimini--of COURSE mini-Italy is there! anyway, not sure if we took ss77 or not, but I don't think so. I will ask Antonello.

and cyndi: i had a great time too, and bologna was a blast. i can't wait to see the photo with Johnny!


At 3:29 AM, Anonymous Eric said...

Please tell me you guys are sitting on a mini-Via Sacra!!!


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