Day 9 & 10: Pisa and Florence

Plan for the two day

We planned to be in Florence by late afternoon where we would be staying for two nights. Enroute to Florence we would stop at Pisa to see the famous “leaning tower of Pisa”. The drive to Pisa would be 114km taking about 1 hr 46 min. At Pisa we gave ourselves two hours to explore. By about 3 pm we hoped to leave for Florence. The journey between Pisa and Florence would take about another 1 hr 40 min.

Route from Vernazza to Florence

Route from Vernazza to Florence

Our Airbnb stay at Florence was outside the ZTL zone so we would have no problem arriving by car. We planned to park our car at our “stay” for two nights and explore Florence using its public transport.

By the end of the Two days
Pisa was beautiful and crowded with tourists. Seeing the leaning tower in real life had been my wish since I learnt about this tower when I was 13 year old. Florence was beautiful and two days was good enough to explore the city. 

Pisa

The town center of Pisa where the leaning tower stood was off limit to non-resident’s car. So like many other towns in Italy we had to park our car at public carpark outside the ZTL zone. We drove to the nearest public carpark “Parcheggio Via Pietrasantina” which provided free parking and from there it was about 700 m to Porta Santa Maria (Pisa), the gate into the walled Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracle) where the “Leaning Tower of Pisa” was located.

Free public carpark near Leaning Tower of Pisa

Free public carpark near Leaning Tower of Pisa

It was 12 noon when we arrived at the public carpark, the carpark was huge so there was plentiful of parking lots. At noon the sun was very hot so we toyed with the idea of going to the Leaning Tower of Pisa by public bus, unfortunately it was a hazzle as nobody could direct us to where we could board the bus so we ended up walking to the leaning tower.

Midway we came upon a day market with makeshift stores selling products, souvenirs, food, etc. It definitely made our walk more “entertaining”. The stores lined the route all the way to a huge stone arch/gate. 

Porta Santa Maria (Pisa)

Porta Santa Maria (Pisa),

The arch was the entrance to Square of Miracles, “Piazza dei Miracoli”. We were so excited to had a glimpse of the white leaning tower from the entrance.

Looking into Piazza dei Miracoli

Looking into Piazza dei Miracoli

The Piazza dei Miracoli was a walled 8.87-hectare area, it was recognized as an important center of European medieval art and one of the finest architectural complexes in the world. The first building was a beautiful white round beautiful structure with a dome roof. Half the roof had brown tiles and the other half none. It was the Baptistery (Battistero di San Giovanni).

The second building was also white in color and it was the cathedral (Duomo of Pisa). In the building were walking path and green turfs. From far the structures of the building looked very intricates like laces.

Baptistery and Duomo of Pisa

Baptistery and Duomo of Pisa

The third build was the “Leaning Tower of Pisa”, the highlight of this piazza (square). It was tilted as much as 4º off the vertical. It looked like a super tall multi tiers wedding cake that was about to topple. Apparently the construction for the tower began in 1173 and continued for about 200 years due to the onset of a series of wars. 

Considering that the tower was tilted we were surprised that visitors were allowed to ascent the tower!

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Near the tower was a statue of a fallen angel. It was lying on the grass in front of the Palazzo Dell’ Opera.  All in we spent about two hours in the Piazza of Miracoli. 

Fallen Angel infront of Palazzo dell' Opera

Fallen Angel infront of Palazzo dell’ Opera

Florence

We reached our “stay” in Florence at about 4.30 pm, which left us plentiful of time to visit a nearby supermarket to stock up some food. After we returned to our “stay” we cooked and ate dinner and all ready to explore Florence.

Getting to Piazza Michelangelo

Our first destination was Piazza Michelangelo, a must visit place to see sunset over Florence.  We could drive to Piazza Michelangelo as it was outside the ZTL zone but decided against it as we intended to explore Florence central after the sunset and the central was off limit to “non resident” car.

Using google map we easily identified that bus 13 would bring us to Piazza Michelangelo. The bus stop was about 650 from our Airbnb stay and it took us about 10 minutes just to walk there.

Route for Airbnb stay to Piazza Michelangelo

Route for Airbnb stay to Piazza Michelangelo

We did not have to wait long at the bus stop for bus 13 to arrive (every 20 min as according to google map). We entered the bus from the front door and paid the bus driver €2 per person (flat rate) for the bus ride. This was our first bus ride in Italy and we were still not use to the ticket payment system. Apparently we could get our bus ticket “somewhere” for €1.50 per ticket and validated (time stamped) it on the bus. Buying the bus ticket on board the bus costed €0.50 more per ticket. The journey took about 30 minutes and the bus brought us directly to Piazza Michelangelo, extremely convenient! 

Sunset at Piazza Michelangelo

Surprisingly Piazza Michelangelo was packed with visitors at sunset. Luckily the piazza was huge and there were several large viewing decks that could accommodate the vast number of visitors. Looking west we could see the sun setting over Florence and scene was absolutely stunning!

Sun setting over Florence

Sun setting over Florence

The views were mesmerising. As the sun set, its rays turned the whole place golden. Even after the sun went over the horizon and the town lights of Florence came on the scene was still incredible. The backdrop of Florence, the horizon and the far off mountain ranges turned bluish, pinkish and orangey. 

Florence after the sun went down the horizon

Florence after the sun went down the horizon

In May, sunset timing in Florence was 8.30 pm and by the time all the sunlight was gone and the sky turned black it was close to 9.30 pm.  

9.30 pm at Piazza Michelangelo and Michelangelo's David

9.30 pm at Piazza Michelangelo and Michelangelo’s David

Florence Night Scene

By the time we were done with Piazza Michelangelo it was only about 9.30 pm. It was still early and with the weather feeling just nice (not cold) we decided to explore Florence town central. From the piazza we hopped onto bus 13 that took us near to Florence Central. It was a 25 minutes, 15 bus stops ride and as soon as we crossed River Arno we alighted. 

Bus 13 route from Piazza Michelangelo to City of Florence

Bus 13 route from Piazza Michelangelo to City of Florence

At 10.00 pm many of the shops in the city of Florence were already closed but there were still many visitors exploring the streets/roads. The streets were brightly lighted, the air was cool, there was hardly any vehicles on the roads. The city was just one huge pedestrian mall. 

Piazza Santa Trinita

We strolled along and soon we were at Piazza Santa Trinita. In the center of the triangular shaped square was a ancient Roman column known as the “Column of Justice” . On the top of the column was a statue of a Justice (not sure if it was a man or woman) holding a balance. 

It was at about 10.45 pm when we stopped by one of the many cafeterias that was still open to have some drinks and cakes. Three drinks and two cakes came up to €20.

Nightcap with our nephew

Nightcap with our nephew

After our drinks and cakes we decided to walk back our Airbnb stay which was about 2+ km away and would require about 30 to 40 minutes. So far from our observation of Florence the place looked pretty safe and walking back was more convienent and straight forward then taking the “right” bus. Going back by bus would require some walking to the bus stop and more walking from the final bus stop back to our Airbnb stay.

On our way we passed Piazza de Duomo and saw the magnificent “black and white” Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. It was close to 11.30 pm and there were still many people at the square. The city of Florence looked like a town that NEVER SLEEP!

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Florence in the Day

On the 2nd day after having our breakfast we walked from our Airbnb stay into the city of Florence. Our final destination was Ponte Vecchio, “Old Bridge”, the highlight of Florence. The walking distance to the bridge was about 2.8 km and along the way we would pass through many prominent monuments of Florence.

Route to Ponte Vecchio

Route to Ponte Vecchio

Our first stop was at the Piazza of San Marco. In the center of the square was the Monument of General Manfredo Fanti, a soldier and leader in the battles for Italian independence and unification. 

Piazza Santa Marco

Piazza Santa Marco

After Piazza San Marco, we walked passed a yellow building which had a very long queue at its door. The building was the Academia Gallery and it housed the original Michelangelo’s David. We had seen so many beautiful replicas of Michelangelo’s David and the latest one was just last evening at Piazza Michelangelo.  We decided it was not worth spending time queuing to get into the Academia Gallery and paying for the tickets just to get a glimpse of the original David.

Long queue outside Academia Gallery

Long queue outside Academia Gallery

Alleys of Florence city

Alleys of Florence city

Finally we reached the Piazza de Duomo and saw The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The “black white” building looked even more magnificient in daylight. The black and white colors were created by green and pink-white marbles that were used to build the cathedral. The queue to get into the cathedral was very very long.

Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore

Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore

All around the city there were beautiful statues, they were so life-like and “nakedness” seemed to be the theme.  The male statues had “six packs” and the female statues had “firm and nice boobs”.

We went in search of the “Wild Boar of Florence” and do the usual stuff of putting a coin into its mouth and letting it dropped into the water and rubbing it snout for Good Luck.

Statues statues everywhere

Statues statues everywhere

Finally we arrived at the “Old Bridge”, it looked like an long apartment block spanning across the river. The bridge apartment had a few levels and the units on the lower levels were painted in different color and each of them had their own unique window and roof awning.   

Porte Vecchio of Florence

Porte Vecchio of Florence

There had been shops on the “Old Bridge” since the 13th century. They were all types of shops including butchers and fishmongers. In 1593, Ferdinand I decreed that only goldsmiths and jewellers be allowed to have their shops on the bridge. This decreed improved the prestige on bridge. On the highest level of the bridge was saw a row of uniform small windows which were very unlike those windows on the lower level. The highest level was actually a “secret passage” used by Medici to cross the bridge. 

On bridge of "Porte Vecchio"

On bridge of “Porte Vecchio”

The bridge had a center walking lane and on both sides of the lane were shops. It was packed with visitors. Just as we reached the end of the bridge, immediate on the left we saw a cafe “Maioli” and went in to have our coffee break. We went up to the upper level of the cafe and chose a table just by the balcony where we had a view of the walking lane on the bridge. It was fantastic sipping coffee, eating cake and at the same time seeing the people strolling on the bridge. 

Coffee break at Ponte Vecchio

Coffee break at Ponte Vecchio

Two cups of cafe latte and a cake came up to €12, a nice price. I was not too sure the cost of a cup of cafe latte as one moment the waiter said it was €4 then it was €3.50 then it was €5 for two. The tiramisu was another €5 and €2 was for tips to the dancing waitress on the second level that subtly reminded customers to drop her some tips.

Our Meals

We cooked two breakfast and two dinners at our Airbnb stay. Our “stay” had a good size kitchen with stoves, oven, microwave and toaster and big fridge. Most of the time we got the entire kitchen to ourselves so we happily cooked to our heart content. 

On the first day our host gave us the direction to a supermarket. At the supermarket we picked up strawberry (going at a very cheap price), eggs, bread, tomatoes, ravioli, tortellini, ham and bacon and milk. By the time we reached back to our “stay” we realised we had bought too much and the only way we could finish them was to have them for the next two breakfasts and two dinner in Florence. 

Two Breakfasts and Two Dinners

Two Breakfasts and Two Dinners

Our Accommodation in Florence

We got a private room (Wonderful Room closed to Fortezza)  with shared toilet and shared kitchen on Airbnb. The main reason for selecting this Airbnb place was its proximity to the city of Florence and its free street parking nearby (as stated on its listing). We would prefer a room with private toilet but ended up with this listing because of its good pricing of €146 for two nights.

We drove onto the street, Viale dei Cadorna  where our Airbnb stay was located and happily parked in a white lined carpark lot just a few doors away. Unfortunately we were later told by our host that for Florence “white lined lots” were meant for resident! Wow this was confusing as in most other town s”white line” meant free parking and “yellow line” meant resident only parking. 

Main door to our stay on level 2.

Main door to our stay on level 2.

On entering the partment we were rather disappointed as the sitting room looked dark and gloomy and in need of a fresh coat of paint! Our host had a old dog, andit was occupying the entire sofa in the living room. We were told that the old dog could be gouchy and unfriendly and would bites at times. Okay we knew, we would not go near the dog, and the living room/sofa was off limit!  I was relieve when our host told us that whenever she went out she would locked the old dog in her room. 

Dark and dull sittting room

Dark and dull sittting room

Our room looked better than the sitting room. At least it looked brighter and was of a good size. There was no fan and our host gave us “mosquito repellant pad” which we were supposed to place in anb electrical gadget on the wall socket to repell mosquito. This did not sound good because without a fan would mean we had to open the window for air circulation which also mean letting the mosquito in. Tsk..Tsk…

Our room

Our room

The shared kitchen looked good, with everything we needed to cook a good meal. The only problem was it was a bit untidy with unwashed crockery here and there. I guessed it was still usable enough. Another door in the kitchen led out to a nice balcony unfortunately our host had not been cleaning up the place and the balcony was littered with cigarette butts and ashes and full of dirt. 

Kitchen at our stay

Kitchen at our stay

The shared toilet was large and the shower was powerful and good. It was not spotlessly clean but at least it was not moldy. 

Shared Toilet

Shared Toilet

Despite some of the negative points of our Airbnb place, Wonderful Room at Fortezza, on the whole it was not too bad. Though there were mosquitoes we were not badly bitten, the “mosquito repellant pad” helped. The free street side parking saved us a great deal of  money. The room cost for two night was also relatively much cheaper than many other places too.  

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