Monday, March 30, 2015

Day Ten -- Pisa and Florence

Monday, March 30

Despite, or maybe because of, the fact that dinner went so late last night (nearly 11 by the time we got back to the hotel!) we both slept the sleep of the road weary.  I fully expected to hear our next door neighbors leave at 5:00 a.m. for their early flight and never did.  I first awoke when it was already light out, which I think is a first this whole trip.  We were ready to abandon any hard and fast schedule and just go out on our own.  I felt good when Abby said at the end of the day "I like doing this, just seeing something, walking a bit, eating something, doing some shopping, and repeat".  It was nice and relaxing to just wander a bit.

What I had on the agenda for today was to change hotels and go to Pisa.  We did both by about 11 am.  Changing hotels was a breeze, very quickly got a cab to here (moving from San Lorenzo to Ponte Vecchio neighborhood) and our room was already available.  I'd hoped to have the room I had with Mom way back in 2004, which had a sneak peek out over the Arno, but we are a few down from that.  This, I think, is the best hotel we've had all trip, although I liked the one in Volterra.

We headed right out for the train station, which was about a 15 minute walk and easily bought tickets at the automated ticket machine.  We were on the train and in Pisa around 11:30.  Pisa doesn't have too much to recommend it, other than the glorious Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) which houses its tower, cathedral and baptistry.  The walk from the train station to there takes you through the main shopping street and across a bridge over the Arno.  On this trip more than ever before, I'm really noticing the color palette here in Tuscany, the warm oranges, yellows and browns.  I'd just never really taken note, I guess.

I'd been to the Leaning Tower before so knew what to expect, but it was so funny to see DS take it all in.  It baffled her brain, made her laugh and was quite unbelievable.  She thinks, and I agree, that whomever was responsible would have been fired today.  But not just one, but three people, were involved in making the tower what it is today.  One who got it wrong to start with, and two who tried to "correct" it when adding on additional floors.  It is more curved than leaning, when you see it in person. Photos don't catch the "adjustments" like the naked eye does.

The baptistry and cathedral have beautiful exteriors and gorgeous interiors, including Galileo's lamp in the cathedral.  It was neat to see again.

We grabbed a focaccai caprese and headed back for the 1:30 train to Florence (yes, we were really only there about 2 hours tops).  We still have a lot to cover in Florence so we wanted to get back and not waste an entire day in transit.  On arrival back here, we went to Santa Maria Novella church, which had some unbelievable frescoes by Masaccio.

Then we stopped in a leather shop off San Lorenzo that our guide recommended.  She said she'd long known the owners and to mention her name if we went.  Well...let this trip become known as the "how much can you get in a 21" suitcase anyway?" trip.  Because we both got ANOTHER bag.  The discount was significant so hard to refuse.  I have no idea how I'll get this one home, but I'll figure it out on Thursday.  The problem comes when we visit the New Market outdoors near our hotel and I find two other bags that I want (and buy two wallets to match the bags I already have).  Oy.  And I did actually research how much it would cost to take an extra piece of luggage home (which I would still have to buy here) and the cost is too exorbitant to be worth it.  I do not need any more bags.  Repeat after me.

We did pop into the Duomo in Florence, which, as I remembered, is not nearly as intricate or attractive as the exterior.

DS had to pick up the two rings she bought yesterday and had sized overnight.  And while she was at it she bought yet another pair of earrings.  The shop gave her a fairly good discount on the rose gold, which is pretty unique to this region.

We tried to take in the Van Gogh multi-media exhibit and the Bargello today, but both closed randomly early on a whim and we missed them.

Tonight for dinner we tried Ristorante Toto, which is just down from our hotel.  The menu was irresistible, as I'd been trying to find pappa al pomodoro for DS so she could try it (a thick bread-based tomato soup) and two restaurants on our street have it.  It would be nice to eat so close by and just hop right into the hotel, so we did.  We started with the pappa al pomodoro and a plate of pecorino cheese with honey on bread.  All were wonderful.  DS had pesto gnocchi which she was was good, certainly better than last night's but not as good as the ricotta gnocchi I had in Volterra.  I had tagliatelli with a cream sauce and white truffles and I thought it was excellent pasta but I couldn't really taste the truffles, which was a disappointment. I washed it all down with a half bottle of Brunello de Montalcino. Our server seemed to disappear so we didn't have dessert there.  Instead, we stopped at the mini market next to the hotel and I bought limoncello and a white chocolate bar.  Just as good.

Planning a day trip to Siena for tomorrow.  Hopefully tomorrow the sun will return sometime before mid-afternoon.  It was warmer today for sure, even a bit muggy especially in Pisa, but we saw no sun until late in the day.  Ah well...

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