Trip Start Nov 06, 2012
Trip End Dec 21, 2012

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Flag of Italy  , Tuscany,
Sunday, November 25, 2012

Day 16 - Friday 23 November

Our train to Florence didn't leave until 9.46 am so we weren't rushing in the morning like we usually do. We enjoyed our final breakfast at Hotel Opera; they have been very good.

The train was on time and we were soon on the rails to Firenze - Santa Maria Novella station. The journey was smooth and fast as we arrived into Florence at 11.30am and walked a short 400m to our hotel, Hotel Rosso 23. The room was ready which was a pleasant surprise so we quickly got ready for an afternoon trip to Pisa to see the town Cathedral Square. This is home to the Pisa cathedral and it's famous leaning bell tower (leaning tower of Pisa).

It was easy to get a regional ticket from the ticket vending machine and soon we were on our way to Pisa. Little did we know we had to validate the ticket we just purchased before boarding the train. The train conductor checked our ticket and got angry that we didn't validate it and fined us €5! We made a note to validate it on the way back! One hour later we arrived in Pisa and purchased a €4 map to work out how to walk to the famous leaning tower. After spending the money we found a visitor information centre handing them out for free! The walk to the tower took around 20 minutes through the city heading north across the Arno River, which also runs through Florence. Walking through the streets and then around the corner to see the leaning tower was spectacular, which was built in 1372.

We got a few snaps, including the typical tourist photos where you try and straighten the tower, much to our embarrassment! It had to be done though!
Tickets to go up the tower were €15 each. A rip off considering you can only spend 20 minutes going up and coming down! But we had to do it, after all we had come all that way. The tower is currently on a 5 degree lean to vertical, due to soft ground which the tower is built on. The walk up to the top was a strange sensation. It felt like one side you walked up was steep and the other way felt like you were walking downhill! The view for the top was beautiful! It really is a nice part of the world.

After we came down we saw the sun was slowly going down so there was beautiful golden light on offer for photos so we got a few more before making our way back to the train to get to Florence, where we both nearly fell asleep listening to the clickety clack of the wheels on rail.

By the time we got back it was dinner time so we browsed the streets before coming across a typical Italian restaurant about 1km from the hotel. They barely spoke a word of English so we tested our Italian skills, with the help of our phrase book, and ordered our meals without speaking any English! I think the locals appreciate us trying. The food was very tasty so we were happy.

On the route back to the hotel we had a hankering for gelati. There was a place across the road so we stopped in there to grab a waffle cone. Upon paying, we realised we had selected cones that were €10 each! We had almost spent more on gelati than dinner! Shock horror! Needless to say, we made sure we savored the taste tonight and made a mental note to check the prices before ordering in the future! Later we discovered that this trap is common for tourists such as ourselves to fall into. It's a good lesson to learn, only once though!

Tired and full of gelati, we settled in for the night and had a great sleep ready for a day of sightseeing the next morning. We were a bit slow getting up the next morning. The breakfast selection was different again to what we had in Rome but it was still enjoyable with cereals, breads, yoghurts and fruit available.

We decided to have a quieter day today. There were only a few things on our hit list so we took our time doing them. First on the list was climbing the bell tower at the Florence Cathedral, Basilica Di Santa Maria del Fiore, or otherwise known simply as Duomo. This cathedral is absolutely stunning. Construction started in 1296 and finished in 1436, it's the largest brick dome ever constructed, world heritage listed and is an example of renaissance architecture. After climbing more than 400 stairs we reached the top. It was a hard slog but we were rewarded with a wonderful view over Florence. While we were at the top we noticed a rowdy group of students protesting in the streets. We don't know what they were protesting but there would have been over one thousand of them protesting.

The walk down the tower wasn't as hard. When we reached the ground we went in search of some markets that we saw from above. It was only a few blocks before we reached them. We each got a new scarf. Apparently they are lambs wool and made in Italy but who knows! They looked nice! Around the corner was a big indoor produce market. We had a great look through that. The smells were amazing as vendors were selling fruit and vege, breads, pasta and meats. For lunch, we went back to a little cafe we saw on the way that was selling a panini and coke for €4. Ash had a pizza and coke for €5. What a bargain!

Next on the list was visiting Florence's oldest bridge. It's called the Ponte Vecchio. It's the only bridge not to be bombed in the second world war. The bridge has shops on it that have been there since the 14th century. We crossed the bridge and took some photos from the other side of the river.

As we made our way back to the hotel we passed the replica of Michaelangelo's statue of David. For the rest of the afternoon we decided to catch up on the blog and get some washing done. There was a laundromat down the road. The lady didn't speak a word of English but we managed to get our washing done although it cost €8! We spotted a place for dinner right by which had pizza and pasta for around €7 each so that seemed like an economical decision for dinner. We went back later and was quite satisfied with a four cheese gnocchi and tomato, ham, mushroom pizza.

In the morning we are off to Venice, city of 400 bridges and a place we are sure to get lost in! Good night and goodbye Florence.
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