Saturday, August 17, 2013

From Florence to Pisa: It Looks Like He's Leaning...

It seemed that every morning we had grand plans of getting off super early and getting lots of sight-seeing done before it got too hot. More typically our mornings looked something like this:
Monday was our travel day from Florence to Vernazza in the Cinque Terre by way of Pisa. It was a smaller regional train so we didn't have to catch a specific advanced booked train like usual. We decided to take advantage of our little bit of travel leeway to spend the morning partaking of one of Florence's less cultured--but still storied--pastimes: shopping! 

Sure, you could spend your time in Florence looking at places like this:
Or you could be dropping Euros right and left at the myriad shops and markets-- haggling over the price of a jacket, finding the perfect Christmas ornament for your collection or scoring a deal on a year's supply of silk neckties. 

Someone we talked to at church tipped us off to go to the Mercato Centrale. They had amazing deals on silk neckties, scarves, and leather of every size, shape and description-- shoes, wallets, belts, journals, iPad covers. Granted, an "amazing deal" on leather is still pretty pricy-- especially in Euros. I found an absolutely beautiful handmade red leather jacket to covet, but even at the great discount price of €200 (originally €400!) the jacket and I had to say our goodbyes and part ways. 

Florence is also home (as are most other Italian cities) to hundreds of tacky souvenir shops and T-shirt stands. This is your big chance to buy everything you never knew you ever wanted plastered with pictures of Michelangelo's 
David's nether parts. Magnets! Mugs! Calendars! Shot glasses! If I had a dollar for every time I saw those statuesque privates displayed on a kitchen apron or boxer shorts in a souvenir shop I would be a millionaire. 

After thoroughly entertaining ourselves at the market by single-handedly boosting the local economy, we caught a cab to the train station and a train to Pisa. 
In Pisa we stored our bags in the train station and then stopped for lunch at a little pizza and pasta place. It had a theme that can best be described as knockoff Disney-- complete with a Pluto-like dog logo. But they had serviceable salads and pizza, so we were able to put up with pictures of a cartoon not-quite-Disney dog on the outside of our restaurant. 

We had only a few hours in Pisa. 
We had a reservation to climb to the top of the famous tower. First we saw the ancient (well, only like 1200 A.D.) Duomo at the Campo deli Miracoli (Field of Miracles: the buildings were so grand that they seemed almost miraculous in their day-- and In can see why). 

We, cheesy tourists that we are, took the obligatory "push up the leaning tower" pictures. 

Climbing the tower was a vertigo-inducing experience. In the process of going "up" the stairs you would go up, then down, then up again.  
The views from the top were beautiful-- if also somewhat vertigo-inducing. 

After the tower we went to the Baptistery-- the largest in Italy. The acoustics create such a long-lasting echo that the priest can sing a chord with himself. 

We did a quick once-over of the myriad tourist-trap gift shops before deciding that something cold was an absolute necessity. There are times when you are so hot and thirsty that even gelato is not cold enough. At times like that you need the big guns-- you get a granita. A granita is the Italian equivalent of a slushy-- and the perfect antidote to a scorching Italian afternoon. Between the lemon granita and several chilled bottles of water we were restored to normal functioning long enough to catch our next train. Ciao, Pisa! Off to the Cinque Terre!

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