europe · italy · Travel

All Aboard the Pisa Express – Florence 2015

You know that good night sleep with no interruptions that I was so looking forward to? Didn’t happen.  It seems some of our fellow residents decided to take the “treat the lounge as your own home” mandate quite literally by returning at 2am, slamming every door to announce their entrance, pouring themselves drinks (whilst loudly clattering every glass available) and settling down for a good chinwag, full of loud guffawing.  Mr Fletche and I don’t want to be party poopers, but we do start to google “shut the f**k up” in a number of languages.  Eventually, our neighbours decide it’s a suitable time to finish the party and we are able to get a little sleep without the need us to practice our newfound phrases.  (In Italian by the way, it seems to be loosely translated as “chiudi il culo” – in the name of international diplomacy, please note however that our noisy neighbours were not necessarily Italian).

So we’re a little grumpy when we share our breakfast table the next morning.  Even more so when my boiled kettle of water is stolen by a guest whose tea requirements are obviously more important than mine (“Yes, I’m clearly just standing by this kettle for fun… no, please you go ahead…I’ll just boil the next one shall I?”)

Still, it’s our final day in Florence, which we decide to celebrate by…. leaving Florence.  Despite the ominous clouds threatening rain we head off to the station, where we purchase tickets to Pisa, and also our tickets for the next leg of our journey tomorrow.  All aboard the “Pisa Express” (pun totally intended).  We’re about halfway to Pisa when the skies darken and there’s a low rumble which can be heard even over the sound of the train.  Lightning flashes across the sky, and the rain comes down so heavily we fear that we maybe canoeing the rest of the way.  Luckily I’ve packed my trusty 5,00 euro ombrello. 

Pisa in the rain
Pisa in the Rain – thanks to CPF Photography for this fab atmospheric shot!

Despite the rain, we decide to make the 2km walk to Piazza dei Miracoli rather than the bus (Verona has scarred us forever, we may never take a bus again).  Our route is lined by sellers, who have packed away their selfie sticks for now, and are now brandishing umbrellas in our faces.  I have an umbrella.  I do not need another umbrella.  Mr Fletche does not need an umbrella – there is room for two under this one should he choose to shelter.  Yet every unscrupulous vendor tries to convince us that what we really need is one of their umbrellas.  We’ve finally successfully run the gauntlet, and reward ourselves with a cappuccino at Lo Sfizio on Borgo Stretto.  The rain finally eases so we take the final stroll towards the famous Leaning Tower.

There’s no doubt that this is an impressive landmark, but the Cathedral and Baptistry are just as impressive, and the famous leaning campanile should be considered as a part of this complex.  On its own… well it’s just a tower that’s slightly wonky.  In fact, if you tilt your head slightly, it doesn’t even lean.  It is flanked by a lovely emerald green lawn, which is unfortunately fenced off – it would be a great place to be able to lay a blanket and just relax for a while, but this doesn’t seem in the least bit encouraged.  It seems that Pisa has become centred almost entirely around celebrating this monument, and has become something of a tourist trap.

We were excited to discover a small market just beyond Miracle Square, hoping for local arts and crafts and authentic Italian cuisine.  Instead we were faced with nigh on 50 identical souvenir stalls, all selling fridge magnets (and you know how much I love a fridge magnet), mugs, t-shirts and all manner of tat; aggressive watch and sunglasses sellers; and a McDonalds and Burger King for a non-authentic culinary experience.

We made our way back to the station, returning to Lo Sfizio for a couple of salads and a lunchtime drink.  We get to the station (having forgotten to check the return train times when we arrived) and find we’ve missed our return train by one minute.  If only we’d taken one less picture of me trying to prop up the tower we may have made it.  An hour’s wait, and we’re finally heading back to Florence.

We spend a little time packing up our suitcases before heading out for our final evening.  We make that long walk down to the river once more.  This time, as we cross the river on Ponte Santa Trinita, the soft early evening sunlight bathes the Ponte Vecchio in a golden glow, and the river is almost still, leading to an almost perfect reflection.  This is the most beautiful we’ve seen Florence and we almost wish we’d left Pizzale Michelangelo for tonight.  Mr Fletche contemplates suggesting a return but then remembers my moaning from the previous evening and thinks better of it.  Refusing to purchase a selfie-stick, we attempt an arms-length selfie… a kind fellow tourist offers to take our picture for us.  This is one of the few pictures we have taken together and proves that we were actually there together.  Although on closer inspection, the photo looks like we have been superimposed on some sort of “perfect Florence scene” background screen…

Reflections of Florence
Reflections of Florence
The Fletches in Florence
The Fletches in Florence!

Remembering our lovely meal from the first night we try and find the square.  We know we headed in this direction, and then we sort of headed off in that direction… eventually we concede that we have no idea where we are or where we’re trying to get to.  A quick glance of the notes on my phone would have given us exactly the right restaurant name and location.  By the time we’ve circled round to Piazza di San Firenze for a third time, we decide we may as well eat at one of the restaurants there.  There seem to be no vacant tables on the terrace at Osteria De’Peccatori, but we are beckoned over by the beaming waiter who magics up a tale for two for us.  And we are glad we decide to eat here, the food is fab and I love the fact that all the waiters look as if they have been waiting tables for at least sixty years… When we opt for a limoncello to finish off our meal, our waiter practically applauds…he clearly approves of our choice.  Best of all, the two meals, wine, beer and limoncelli come to just 35,00 euro… what a bargain!  We wave ciao to our new best friends, and weave our way back to our hotel for the final time.  Our noisy neighbours appear to have checked out so hopefully there’ll be no late night partito in the lounge tonight…

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