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Posts Tagged ‘visit florence italy’

Finally, and with great difficulty, I tore myself away from Pisa. Collecting my bag from the Pensione Helvetia (where quite frankly I could easily have stayed…I love it so much), I said goodbye to the cat and started my walk to the station.

pensione helvetia pisa italy

the house cat at Pensione Helvetia

It’s a mere 25-30 minutes walk and although Michel had said I should get the bus, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity for another walk through the streets of Pisa 🙂 So much to see!!

a walk through the streets of Pisa

a walk through the streets of Pisa

First I walked past the Piazza de Miracole to say my good byes to the Tower (gosh I really love that building!) and then heading south (I think) I made my way to the river and onto the station. The buildings in Pisa are so beautiful. Worn and tatty with paint peeling, shutters loose on their hinges, the plaster falling off the walls in chucks, it has the aura of an ancient Dowager, her beauty fading as she ages, the creams and lotions she applies no longer hiding the sagging lines of her skin.  But oh how pretty she is with her gaily decorated walls and flower boxes filled to the brim with brightly coloured flowers dancing in the breeze. I was truly enchanted. Perhaps I was wearing rose-tinted glasses!

pisa italy

some of the fabulous and very old buildings in Pisa

I reached the station in no time at all and since I had already bought my ticket previously I made my way to the platform and onto the train. I love those double-decker trains. I remember we first encountered them in Amsterdam. Super cool to sit on the top deck…brilliant views as you travel.

Statzione Pisa Centrale

Stazione Pisa Centrale

Florence…I’m on my way. I was really keen to visit the Ponte Vecchio and watch my first Tuscan sunset……I was not disappointed.

I finally arrived at the SMN Florence Stazione and that’s when the stress began. The host at the AirBnB had said to take the Number 33 bus and after about 10 minutes and 4 stops to get off. Well thankfully I had mapmywalk on and I was able to watch our progress in real time….it was more like 25 minutes and 10 stops!!! Urgh. Seriously. I bet he never uses the bus. Anyway we had ‘le grand tour’ of Florence, although I was way too stressed to appreciate it. Finally we reached the point where I was meant to get off but the driver didn’t stop!!! He’d forgotten about my request. Seriously dude!! Anyway, I reminded him and voila, he just stopped right where we were, and with no further ado opened the doors and I got off. hell would freeze over before a London bus driver would do that!!!

And there it was the road where I would be staying and before long I found Number 77. Oh gosh!! LOL. I wish you could have seen the lift!!! It was ancient. You could probably fit 3 people in with a hell of a squeeze, but no suitcases. Gladly I was on my own. It’s one of those lifts where you have to first open the gate that slides back and then you have to open the two interior doors, step inside and the do the reverse. Hilarious.

The apartment was terrific. My bedroom to die for. I had the most marvellous bed that proved to be so comfortable that I slept like a baby every night.

florence italy

I used AirBnB again for my stay in Florence. This bed was amazing

Huge kitchen, wide passages and then horror of horrors….a communal bathroom with only 2 basins and 2 toilets and the smallest shower I have EVER seen in my life… to accommodate up to 10 people. The apartment had 6 double bedrooms.!! And when I say the shower was small…I mean VERY small. I couldn’t even undress properly there was so little space. Oh well. Since I am preparing for the Camino…this would be good practice. Getting used to communal bathrooms and tiny showers. LOL

I hardly put my bag down, tested the bed, took the obligatory photos and then after trying to extricate myself from my AirBnB hosts most appreciated, very useful and kind, but long-winded explanation of ‘places to go and what to see’ I finally managed to get myself out the door. Finding my way back to the station was easy peasy. It was no more than a 20 minute walk and fairly direct. If only he had given me proper directions…. anyway. I was here, in Florence and on my way to explore. There was a seriously awesome fort just across the way from the station, but for some reason I just never got to visit it!!

my route to the station

my route to the station

Wow, what an amazing city. Firstly, never just plunge into the maze that are the streets of Florence. They do not go in a straight line, they twist and turn and while you may think you’re going in one direction….you’re probably wrong.

florence italy

the streets do not always go in a straight line, and even when they do…not necessarily in the direction you want to go

Well I was, I did and I got so muddled. It took ages to find the river….

But finally!!! There it was. Just as the sun was starting to sink into the horizon I reached the river.

sunset  in florence

sunset in Florence – not the Ponte Vecchio

And there, just upstream from where I was standing and finally…Ponte Vecchio. Hoorah!!! I had wanted to see this bridge for ever such a long time, it was one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Florence at all.

ponte vecchio 1

Ponte Vecchio, Florence – that most famous of bridges

As I got closer I noticed that there was a massive crowd in the middle of the bridge; all waiting to watch the sun set. Apparently this is the ‘done thing’. Well, as it turned out, sometimes the dream is better than the reality. The bridge was not at all what I had expected (?) and was sadly quite a let down. The Rialto Bridge in Venice was so much more than I had expected, but I’m afraid the Ponte Vecchio did not live up to my expectations. But, hey I was there, the sun was going down and I made my way up and onto the bridge. I managed to squeeze into a tiny space at the front when some people moved off and there it was…my first Tuscan sunset. Stunning.

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Ponte Vechhio, Florence

After that I made my way back along the river to the bridge/piazza where I had first exited the maze and this time found a more direct route back to the station. And there it was that I discovered the fabulous Santa Maria Novella Church. OhMyWord!!! I could only stand and stare. It is so beautiful. Closed by then of course, it was already after 8pm, but I determined that I would be back as soon as possible to visit it.

santa maria novella florence

The ethereal Santa Maria Novella, Florence

Walking the streets of Florence was amazing. I felt so safe and never threatened in any way, despite the lateness of the hour. Although there are a lot of North African touts around selling those ubiquitous selfie sticks and various other bits of fake tat, I just walked boldly on and with a cursory No, grazie and made no eye contact. I’m pretty good at just staring ahead and walking on. They left me alone.

And so my first experience of Florence was drawing to an end as the day turned into night. How thrilling to finally be here.

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Yes, yes, yes!!! Yesterday I took the plunge and booked my ticket to Florence, Italy. 🙂 Whoop whoop!!! Florence has been a long held dream of mine to visit. After Venice, it was my next dream destination but for one reason and another I just haven’t been.

So, since it is my goal/plan/intention to spend my birthday each year at a different destination, this year its…….FLORENCE!!! Yayyyy. I can’t tell you how excited I am.

Planning a trip to, and day trips in, a foreign country gives a thrilling frisson of fear…kicks the adrenaline into gear 😀😀😀😀

And so I took the plunge and booked my ticket….no going back now! I’ve decided to stay overnight in Pisa since my flight gets in quite late; I’ve found a super hotel…review to follow on TripAdvisor. And I’ve used AirBnB again since my other 4 experiences have been good, it makes perfect sense…and this venue has the use of a kitchen…VIP if travelling on a budget.

Today I’ve spent some time researching ‘things to do in’ Pisa, Florence,  Lucca, Siena and San Gimignano. During my research I found this brilliant site that was ever so useful in giving a step by step guide as to where to go, which bus to use, buying the ticket, length of the journey and how to get back, as well as suggestions, along with the history of ‘what to see while you are there’ Fantastic!!

During my research into these cities I’ve discovered that:

4 of them listed UNESCO Heritage Sites: Historic City Centre of Florence, Piazza del Duomo, Pisa, Historic Centre of San Gimignano and the Historic Centre of Siena

4 are walled cities: San Gimignano, Siena, Lucca and Pisa (although not all the Pisa walls remain apparently.

and they all have cathedrals! Perfect as this means I’ll be able to add these to my goal of visiting 100 walled cities, 100 cathedrals and as many UNESCO Heritage Sites as possible (18 so far). 🙂 So as you can imagine I’m very very excited. My other lists of 100 places = Countries, Islands, Counties in the UK, Abbeys, Domesday Towns and Villages, Castles, Palaces, Walled Cities and famous Walks. So enough to keep me busy till I die. LOL Mind you, I’ve done quite a few already…so….

Anyway, for now it’s FLORENCE FLORENCE FLORENCE. I’m going to sleep, eat and dream Florence till 20th April…..35 days to go.

I’m now working on the travel details for the day trips to Lucca, Siena and San Gimignano. IF and it’s a very BIG ‘if’ I get a chance I hope to go to Cinque Terre…it’s a 3 hour train journey so I may not make it, but still, if I’ve seen all I want of Florence and done the day trips then I guess I shall just have to endure the ‘hardship’ of a train journey to the coast 🙂

Before booking this flight I had dithered and procrastinated for weeks. I had originally phoned Flight Centre to plan my journey but after the lass to whom I gave my details, sent me an itinerary that had my jaw hitting the floor with shock….£888 for the flight??? What???? I’m going to Florence in Italy!! She had planned me a trip to Florence in America ffs. When I queried why it is that I have to fly to Florence in Italy via America she said ” I know, I’m so sorry, that’s the best flight I could find.” Uhmmm, really. I could walk there quicker….even with swimming across the English Channel, I replied. She said: Yes, I know, it does seems weird, but that’s what the computer came up with. I then said but I did a flight search myself yesterday and it was approx £80!!  At which stage she said okay, I’ll do another search and see what I can come up with…..a few minutes later she phoned back and said “I’m awfully sorry, it seems the ‘computer’ took you to Florence in America, and not Italy!”  No shit!!! Thankfully I know my geography!

Anyway long story short and a few words from me, I told her to forget it and I’ve booked the trip myself.  So counting the days…..OMG wow, I’m going to Florence!!! In Italy 😉

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