It's Italy...just smallerI 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. :)