We decided to make Florence our base while we visited the two other ‘must-sees’ in Northern Tuscany, Pisa and Lucca. In hindsight this was a bit of a mistake and we should have stayed in Pisa as it is more centrally located.
Up nice and early to catch the 10:28 train to Pisa from Florence. Everything went to plan and we dis-gouged ourselves just before lunch in Pisa city centre. We had booked pre-timed tickets to go up the tower at 5:30 and so we had a bit of time to kill before the ascent. Between the tower and the station is the main shopping street and you can be assured Tracy took full advantage of the goods on offer. With the kids being on school holidays is wasn’t long before we encountered our first DEA (Dreadful Englishwoman Abroad). You know the type. You are casually looking around a shop when Mrs Loud from the Home Counties arrives with two dis-interested kids and a forlorn husband in tow. She speaks at the top of her voice to everyone, giving a running commentary to everything she sees or does and then speaks very S L O W L Y to any poor shop assistant in range. Silently we left.
We thought we would have a mosey at the tower before lunch to get a feel for the place and understand what we need to do with our tickets currently residing in Apple iBooks. Turning the corner we saw the tower. Our first impression was that it looks like a stubbed out fag in an ashtray of sand. It seems shorter and if anything more tilted then you imagine. It does bring a smile to your face and you sort of like its daftness from moment one. We took some pictures and then headed off for lunch.
We had a pleasant pranzo for a reasonable price sat outside in the Tuscan sun before we headed off to wander around a very underrated town. It seems that 90% of tourists never leave the Piazza with the tower in. They arrive by bus just outside the city walls, walk the 100m to have the ‘leaning photo’ taken and then leave. Pisa is heaven to walk around, it is quiet with surprising little squares opening up in front of you un-expectantly. Having walked off dinner we refuelled with a gelato each before heading back to look at the church, lie on the grass for a bit and finally climb the tower.
Bang on time we were allowed up the tower. You get a miniscule history lesson of how the tower was built before you are allowed to skip up the 300-odd slippery steps. It is a bit disconcerting at first as the ground floor is on quite a slope but the feeling is soon overcome as you head skywards. When compared to some other internal climbs up ancient monuments such as Koln Cathedral this is a doddle. In no time at all you are at the top for a tremendous view of; err, nothing really. If it was not the Leaning Tower and just an ordinary straight-up tower then you would be seriously disappointed from the view offered. Anyway, you get 15 minutes before your return to terra-firma. Pictures.
With a balmy evening in-store we sat in a square and had a reasonable red before catching our train back to Florence. Being a cheapskate I took advantage of the 2-4-1 offer on a particular train. It did arrive, it did leave on time, it had no toilets and stopped somewhere on the outskirts of Florence. We got home late and by means of a taxi. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Last pictures from Pisa.
An even earlier start today for our next daytrip to the walled city of Lucca. Being a Sunday I was rewarded with being allowed a McDonalds breakfast. To my surprise it cost €15 for two McMuffin meals. Robbing Gets. Anyway the train was on-time and we got a couple of lovely seats on the upper deck and sat back and enjoyed our journey to Lucca which was a mixture of grim industrial towns and iconic Tuscan hilltop delights.
Lucca is a beautiful old city with handsome churches, stunning squares and excellent restaurants. It is a real ‘Sunday’ day out kind of place with a relaxed atmosphere to stroll or cycle around in. And that is what we did. We strolled around, we eat in a ‘slow food’ restaurant, we strolled some more, we had a drink, we had a final little stroll around the walls and then we caught a train home. Is this a place worth going too? Certainly yes although it does know where its tourist dollar is buttered. The Piazza built on the site of the old Roman Amphitheatre is a wonderful place to spend a drink or two and watch the world go by. We did not visit any churches, we did not visit any museums, we did not climb any bell towers, erect or otherwise. We just enjoyed the place and unlike San Gimignano, Lucca is love at first sight. Piccies.
Being a Sunday the trains were not the most frequent and as the time of departure grew closer the waiting crowd on the platform grew larger. Not fancying having to stand all the way back to Florence we took the strategic decision to guess where the end of the train would be and wait there. Bingo, we got it bang on and scampered up the stairs for the free seats. Oh how we got it wrong. The carriage was occupied by Europe’s latest citizens, a.k.a Mrs Merkels Marvels or to some, Angela’s Asswipes. Judging by their performance on the train back to Florence I might be edging towards the Asswipe category. They played Music at full volume, they set off the train alarm at every station causing endless delays, they chased and harassed any unattached woman on the train and were generally badly behaved. We were relieved to reach Florence without any mishap. Lucca is worth a daytrip and is a good release valve from the pressure that is Florence.
All our Love