From Rome, we went to Florence. We had booked a fast train from Rome to Florence and this is a journey one must make. If you book in advance, you can get great seats even upgrades at a lower price. Though they had asked us to carry a printout, even a mobile ticket sufficed. The seats were very comfortable and the beautiful Italian countryside just charms its way into your heart. We got free drinks and cookies which was a nice touch. Since we loved Italian cheese, we always carried cheese tomato sandwiches with us as you never know when one would be hungry.
We reached Florence in 3 hours flat. Florence is one of the loveliest cities of Italy in Tuscany way smaller as compared to Rome and Naples that we had already visited. The city has an old-world, small town charm. What unnerves you is that the place is notorious for pickpockets. So always keep your documents and money close to you. We luckily did not face any unfortunate events. As we got out of the spacious train station, we towed our luggage to the Airbnb accommodation that we had chosen. It was about 10 minutes walk from the station and with good pavements and good luggage, it was quite doable.
Since we did not have too much time in Florence, we freshened up in the pretty apartment where our hostess who was there to meet us had left us some freshly baked cookies. Nice touch! There was also a grocery store downstairs where we shopped for some pasta, produce and wine for a dinner later. We headed out to have lunch. Lunch was a panini at a roadside joint which was apparently quite popular. I loved the panini. We chose a chicken one but they did have a vegetarian option as well which someone helpfully pointed out to us. Hot and delicious, it was very filling as well. We promised to come back for more. Then we headed to the train station as we wanted to go to Pisa.
Pisa can be reached by a local train and you can buy the tickets on the spot. From Firenze Santa Maria Novella which is the main train station, you can catch local trains to Pisa Centrale. The journey takes about 1.5 hours. We bought the tickets on the spot and got into the train. We could sit anywhere. The train was practically empty. We got to see some more of the lush Italian countryside. This train, unlike the fast one earlier, stopped at all the small towns on the way. One thing was a constant throughout – the graffiti at all stations. We got off at the Pisa Centrale station.
The Miracle Square which houses the Leaning Tower of Pisa is just 10 minutes by bus. Some people like to walk for about half an hour. The bus stop is just outside the train station. You can buy the ticket at the newspaper vendor/tobacconist in the train station. The ticket is just 1.10 Euros one way per person. You have to catch the same bus back from across the street on your way back. And if you come back within a couple of hours you can use the same ticket back.
You get off right at Piazza Del Duomo that houses 3 stunning monuments – Baptistry, Pisa Cathedral and its bell tower commonly known as Leaning Tower of Pisa. There is no fee to visit. You have to only pay if you wish to climb to the top of The Leaning Tower of Pisa. You can cover the entire complex within an hour’s time.
The place is always buzzing with tourists posing funnily in front of the Leaning Tower.
The day we visited, it was beautiful blue skies and a sunny day. The architecture of all 3 buildings is stunning and in Roman style.
The Baptistry is at the westernmost part of the complex followed by the Cathedral and Leaning Tower of Pisa. There are lush lawns in front. Spend some time in admiring the beauty of the monuments. You can book tickets to climb on top of the Tower in advance but the queue we saw was quite short.
For those who enjoy trivia, The Campanile ( Bell Tower) or Leaning Tower of Pisa’s construction began in 1173. It was only finished in 1372 when the bell-chamber was added. Just five years into construction when it had reached 3rd floor level, the building began to sink on its south side. The weak foundation and subsoil led to this. The construction was then abandoned and the building stabilised. It was restarted a century later when adjustments were done to address the lean like building the upper floors taller on one side. The tower is around 60 m high and has 296 steps to the top.
The lean in 2010 was about 4 degrees. It is a stunning building and looks gorgeous even after centuries.
It was a journey totally worth it. Don’t miss it when you are in Florence.