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San Quirico d’Orcia / Pienza : Serene and quiet towns in the region of Tuscany. The time we visited was beginning of winter, and there were no crowds anywhere. Similarly, a lot of shops were closed and we got the whole place to ourselves. The hike to the countryside in between these towns were epic, and it was one of the happiest moments in the whole trip (we did the galloping along the route to emulate the scene from The Gladiator).

Siena : I didn’t expect myself to enjoy Siena. During the planning, I’d always had the impression that I’m going to like Florence more, because there seemed to be more places of interests there.

But I couldn’t had been more wrong. Siena is fucking dope, my friends. It felt different. The streets, the buildings, the view, the people, everything. I had the best pizza in Siena too. I fucking love Siena. It’s my favorite city.

The driving across countryside to Tuscany: The countryside of Italy is like a postcard picture almost the entire journey. Driving at dark would be such a waste (which we did not do, except the early start to Florence, which was still dark when we started). My wife took fuckloads of pictures, and we had an amazing time savoring the unbelievable views from the car.

The churches/basilicas/temples/all the POIs at Rome : Fucking amazing and beautiful, just as expected in all Europe. Everyone will have their favorite, and I got mine. I liked the St Mary in Trastevere and the one at Campidoglio. We’d go into the churches, and sat there for 15 – 20 minutes admiring everything inside. For The Vatican City, one would need the whole day to cover the entire place. We enjoyed the visit to the Colosseum, Capitoline Hill, and the Foro Romano as well (Rome can be both such a great and a shithole at the same time).

No hablo ingles : Italy, despite being one of the most visited country in the world, is not an English friendly nation. Some places are English friendly, but those are the ones that are all out to butcher your wallet because you’re not Italian. However, it’s not hard to figure out Italian, as they use the same Roman alphabets for their language, one can still read and guess what the meaning on the sign is. But still…

The people : Italians aren’t the friendliest people I know. Had to be said. Apart from the driver I’ve contacted and the AirBnB host, we got negative hospitality from basically everyone there. Examples: Got yelled at when I inquired about the Accademia tickets at Florence, got yelled at (in Italian) by a man in military fatigue uniform when I – you got to hear this – put my bag too early on the table for him to check! (bag check to enter a museum). If you’re dealing with people selling shit in a shop, expect them to serve you with a face that looked like they’re dying. We had encounters of a restaurant trying to con us as well. From the airport to the museums, you’d notice that these people aren’t good in the hospitality business and they do not make you feel that you’re welcomed. But anyway, fuck them. Just do enough research/planning prior a trip to Italy, that’s all I want to say. (Italian stray cats, however, are extremely friendly to us. There was a cat whole followed me in Tuscany for quite a while).

The street peddlers around Florence/Rome : Most of these street peddlers are African, and they can be seen all over the fucking place in big cities like Florence and Rome. These fuckers are eyesores to the beautiful streets around Florence/Rome. They’d harass people, they’re annoying as fuck and they could be pickpockets in disguise (we didn’t encounter that though). My wife encountered an incident where she stopped to look for something in her bag, and this nigger came to her to be friendly and shit, and gave her this colored trinket string ‘for free’ he said… as a token of ‘friendship’. When he saw me walked far enough to the front, he started to ask for money from my wife. Terrified, my wife gave him EUR 0.50, and he said it wasn’t enough… so my wife gave him another dollar… and he skedaddled out of there like a rat. Fucking niggers kinda ruined our experience in Florence. In short, you’d not feel safe walking around the streets of either Florence or Rome.

The filthy streets around the big cities : The big cities are fucking filthy, and full of shit. I do mean full of shit, especially in Rome in the morning. I saw turds all over the narrow alley, and I even stepped on one. I do not know if it’s human feces or was it a dog’s but, I’d like to think it’s a dog’s. In the morning, the streets can be dreadful. Garbage and bottles strewn all over the places, and smelled terrible. They said the ghetto was a thing in the past, but I’d say, it’s pretty much the same depending on how you looked at it.

Florence : Florence is amazing, no doubt about that. A few of my friends boldly proclaimed that Florence is their favorite city of all Italy. I don’t know about that but for me, Florence is just another big city in Europe that is filthy and too crowded. I enjoyed visiting the landmarks there, but that’s all I can say. I secretly wished that those landmarks weren’t in a shithole like Florence but, that’s just wishful thinking…

The food : The expectation was strong on the food, I have to say, only to be disappointed with mediocrity. Prior the trip, I told a friend of mine who owns a pizzeria that I’m going to find out if his claim of being kosher is valid. I was secretly hoping that his pizza was not as authentic as what he claimed after I’ve sampled some from Italy. But then, I found out that his pizza was actually better than most restaurants in Italy itself. He was ecstatic of course (that bastard). Anyway, to my opinion, food is not a strong point in Italy’s portfolio, despite what people claimed.

You know, Company T employs a lot of fresh graduates almost every month. That’s why, I get to see the latest fashion senses (…like… in a super regular basis) when these young aspiring engineers show up for work at the beginning of the month. I don’t have to go to a college or a mall, I can see it all happening in my workplace, Company T. It’s like watching a slasher plot unfolding perpetually, one serial serial killer after another.

One of the most revolting sense of fashion I’ve noticed lately, is ‘short pants’. Not like the shortpants short pants but, a pair of long pants that are deliberately cut short (or made short? undersized?), just like the picture you see on the left. And I can see like, almost 50% of these douchebags wear these kind of stupid pants. No socks (socks sales must have fucking gone down lately, I bet). One of my old schoolmate once called this ‘The Michael Jackson pants’ – which if you noticed, was the kind of pants that Mike would wear when he danced. But he did that with white socks, reason being was, he wanted people to focus on his feet when he was dancing. But these young douchebags? They wear it without socks. Maybe this is one of the androgynous K-pop fashion thing that I might not know…

OK, a few problems with this Michael Jackson pants with no socks at work. First of all, they sure as hell aren’t dancing at work, so I have no idea why would they want anyone to notice their feet. Secondly, the ‘no socks’ policy is fucking disgusting. People wear socks to absorb the feet sweat to keep their feet dry. When your feet are dry, you don’t get as much bacteria breeding under your feet, therefore, reducing the stink (that’s why you need to keep your socks dry too, and change them regularly). This is like trying to regress from being civilized. You guys fucking heard of ‘Athlete’s feet’? Well, contrary from what the name suggested, it’s not a desired state where you have muscular lean feet like an athlete’s, but a kind of fungal infection when you do not wear socks and your feet would literally turn into zombies (go Google it already, you imbeciles!).

For the record, we’re in our early 40’s so, I don’t know if you young chicks find that attractive but, we definitely don’t. I swear on my feet that if I ever get a young guy wearing like that in my team at work, I’mma fucking help to accelerate his goal of getting ‘Athlete’s feet’ by loading him with more labor intensive work and sweat it out through his feet. Mark my words.

In my case, thankfully, it’s just a child and a measly career. You see, it’s simple. People usually get married in their mid 20’s, and during then, they’d pork and conceive a child (or more). By the time a married couple is in their 40’s, the child(ren) would be in the teens, so… there’s going to be much focus in that area. So is the career. It’ll be about 15 – 20 years into the work life and things are just beginning to spice up.

My daughter Regine hits 12 this year. I started to see her changing into a different person. Suddenly, she could speak Cantonese, and she has a guy-pin-up poster in her room. She watches a lot of Youtube channels now, and she has her own social media accounts as well. She could understand words like ‘hangry’ and ‘shart’. She pointed out words that I missed in my crossword puzzles and now she’s taller than my wife Emily! Just only last week, she had her braces on and with the stress in her mouth, she’s as emo as shit. She already had her orientation this week, and she’ll be starting her secondary school years in the new year. My kid is now an quasi adult and I am still coming to terms with it.

My career – I could say it’s taking a positive turn now. The attrition in the team made the whole affair enjoyable for me, as I had to cover as the lead and I had to code shit myself (and I did not even know how to code!). In a way, I am finally able to change things to the way I wanted it. I told my boss I needed more headcounts, but deep inside me, I am secretly enjoying the work (I think I’m sick). Day in and out, I am damn busy, just like the old times when I was with Company Y. At the beginning of the career in Company T, it wasn’t much of a challenge by just dealing with shitbags. Now, I deal with shitbags, code my own program, run my own team and rig my own hardwares. (I guess that’s why I can’t be successful/a boss – I can’t live without getting my hands dirty).

The travel took us to Italy this year. It was one of the most memorable trip we had (mostly had to do with the experience of driving there). We got wiser now, and made improvements after each trip. The new problem now is that with Regine’s secondary education starting, her attendance at school has just gotten more serious and finding a good time to travel would be a whole new challenge for us. But we’ll manage.

I found a bargain back in January this year with Qatar Airways to Rome, so I planned for a trip there and just came back a week ago. It was a 2 week excursion (actually 12 days, if you minus out the long traveling time) – 4 days in Tuscany, and 1 week in Rome. My overall expenditure turned out to be lower than going to Japan (not surprising at all). Here’s the itinerary for you bastards who might be interested. Going to split the trip into 2 parts, one for Tuscany and another one for Rome. As usual, the customary disclaimer before you proceed…

– The itinerary hinges on the assumption that you’d do your own planning/research on public transportation. You can choose to splurge on taxi or go easy by subway/bus, or even rent a fucking car/bike. Doesn’t matter. Just Google around for info. (for the record, the Tuscany part in this itinerary was done with a rental car – which according to me, is the most efficient way to get around between the places).

– Some of the days are weather dependent, meaning, it cannot be done without a clear/blue-sky weather. You need to proactively check the weather forecast (when it’s within a week away) and shuffle the days around. I actually had to shift a few days around. One of my planned days did not happen and had to be substituted with an impromptu plan.