18 Dec – Day 3 in Italy, we set foot at three different cities, all in one day; Venice, Florence and Pisa. Florence is our checkpoint for an afternoon visit to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, one of seven medieval wonders of the world.
After a 2-hour train ride from Venice, we reached Florence at 11 am. Florence is very different from Venice, there were hardly any canals in sight and the city was buzzing with land transportation. It feels like we’re zapped back into civilization, where we had to look both ways before crossing the road. (: After obtaining the return tickets to Pisa, we checked in early into Hotel Angelica, a family-run hotel just a few minutes from the station.
As soon as we checked in, we quickly headed out for a quick lunch at Alinara café. I had vegetarian risotto – you wouldn’t believe the amount of green peas I had to eat. Later, I tried an artificial soufflé at McCafe. (I had a better one latter in Rome)
We quickly boarded the train to Pisa, all excited to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. There was a ticket stamping material that we missed on the way to the train. It was fortunate that the ticket lady was nice enough to give us a discount from a whopping fine of EUR40 per person to EUR8 per person. As we reached Pisa Centrale train station, we walked through a maze of shopping buildings and across the bridge. I grew increasingly excited as I could see the tip of the leaning tower. We walked along the ancient walls until finally, we reached a grand opening, about 3.30 pm, where we could see the sunset view of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
We took a couple of pictures of pushing and supporting of the Pisa, as well as some normal ones. I tried the flying kick posture and failed. It was time like these that I wished I did more yoga.
Returning back from the tower, we missed our 5.46 pm train from Pisa Rosso, an alternative train station, and was redirected by the locals back to Pisa Centrale. It was fortunate that the ticket we bought is an open return ticket (we didn’t know until we asked the information desk), so we did not need to fork out extra money for a new ticket.
That night, we returned back to Florence for dinner in Trattoria La Casalinga, as recommended by CK. The menu is all in Italian, and the waitress although slightly annoyed, translated the menu for us. I had ham and cheese tortellini for less than EUR10. We were excited with free stable wifi connection.
We then head off for gelato at La Strega Nocciola. The lady at the counter was very pretty and patient as we choose from almost 30 kind of flavours. I had “kaki-plaqeminer” and cappuccino flavours.
19 Dec – On the next morning, we went around to visit the different landmarks of Florence. First, we reached the Piazza del Duomo, where several UNESCO heritage sites were located. This included the Florence baptistry (Battistero di San Giovanni), and the cathedral (St Maria del Fiore). Originally called the Duomo, the Basilica of St Mary is the main church of the Florence. The interior of the church contains several different glass windows. A double bonus: There was free entry to the church and photography was allowed. The octagonal baptistery is one of the oldest buildings, built in between 10th and 11th century. The main entrance of the cathedral is carved by Michelangelo, the city famous sculptor in the 15th century, and is also known as the gate of paradise.
We walked to Signora square, where the town hall (Palazzo Vecchio) and the Michelangelo’s David naked statue is located. At the square there are a lot of other statues, some completely naked and some partially covered.
We past the Ponte Vecchio , a medieval stone closed arch bridge across Arno river. What is interesting about this bridge is the shops extending out of the bridge. Along the way, we avoided a peaceful demonstrations by students and listened to a Christmas carol on the bridge.
With some extra time, we entered a Gucci shop. Gucci originates from Italy, and the shop in Florence was as large as the LV store in France. Our quick tour around Florence ended before noon, as we checked out and head of to Rome.