Italy (day 1) – Pisa and Florence
After spending 2 days in London (blogpost here), we went for our honeymoon in Italy. The plan is to visit Pisa-Florence-Venice over 6 days. We took the Ryan Air flight from Stansted Airport. It was my first time going to Stansted and flying Ryan Air . Turns out the airport is quite big. To be honest, I was quite nervous. I’ve heard so many horror stories of flying with Ryan Air, so today, it’s my turn to finally experience it. Below were our flight details:
- Flight Depart: 8:05AM (UK time)
- Flight Arrival: 11:20AM (Italy time)
- Cost: GBP140 per person (inclusive of GBP10 for Reserved Seating and GBP35 for checked-in baggage)
The first thing I realised as we arrived at Stansted was that I forgot to print out our boarding passes. I didn’t panic as I recalled Bristol Airport had a printing station, therefore I assumed it would be the same for Stansted.
I was relieved to see a number of self-check-in and self-print machines provided by Ryan Air at the main check-in area. After keying-in my booking number, I saw the print charges: GBP7 for 2 boarding passes. Sounds reasonable, I quickly pulled out my credit card, and was about to swipe, when my wife stopped me. She said “Are you not seeing the price??”. I was still sleepy (it’s quite early in the morning), so I had a second look at the print charges: GBP70. I was shocked! GBP70 for 2 pieces of paper! RyanAir is seriously insane! I cancelled the print request, and explored the airport. Luckily, I found a PC station with print service (the ones using coins) at the end of the airport. Printing at the PC station was only GBP4. Haha, imagine that!
Pisa, 21 July 2013
We arrived in Pisa city around 11:20AM, as scheduled. The Pisa airport was smaller than Stansted. From my readings, the best way to see Pisa tower is to take the train from the airport. So, from Pisa Airport, we took the train to Pisa Centrale Station.
The train station has definitely seen better days. It looks quite run-down. Given the Euro Crisis is still on going, I guess repair works will need to wait.
At Pisa Centrale Station, we stored our luggage at the Left Baggage service (located at the end of Platform 1), and from there, we headed to the bus stop. I wanted to take the City Sightseeing bus for Pisa (website), but after waiting outside the station for nearly 30 minutes, the red bus was nowhere to be seen. We only saw the normal Pisa city bus. We got bored of waiting in the summer heat, so we decided to take a taxi. The ride from Pisa Centrale to Pisa tower was EU12 (non-metered). I have no doubt if it was metered it would have been just around EU5-EU7.
Pisa Tower is located within Piazza Del Duomo. When we arrived at the Piazza, it was packed with people. It’s Europe’s summer holiday at its peak. The heat was a real killer, 33 degrees!
We took some nice photos and later went under the shade near the Duomo. From our resting area, we admired the leaning tower. We also noticed the only people taking refuge in the shade were Asians. Haha! It’s so obvious we’re not sun people.
We admired the rest of the Piazza and later took a taxi back to Pisa Centrale Station. At the station, we took the train to Florence. The thing I like about trains is that you get to enjoy the view of the countryside, and in this trip, it’s the beautiful Tuscan landscape.
Florence, 21 July 2013
It was a 1 hour ride to Firenze Santa Maria Novella, the central station of Florence (in Italian: Firenze). Based on my research, our hotel is walking distance from the train station (about 10 mins walk), but given our heavy luggage, we took the taxi from the station.
- Hotel Name: Hotel Calzaiuoli
- Hotel website: http://www.calzaiuoli.it/
- Duration: 4 days 3 nights (21st July to 24th July)
- Room Rate: Total €500 (~RM2,100). €167 per night (~RM714)
We stayed at Hotel Calzaiuoli on Via dei Calzaiuoli, which turns out to be one of the main streets in Florence. It is right in the middle of the city center. The location is very convenient. We could walk to reach all of the major attractions in Florence. After we checked-in, we immediately went out to explore the city.
We walked south of the hotel and found ourselves in the middle of Piazza della Signoria. In this piazza, we saw 2 of the main attractions in Florence: Palazzo Vecchio (photo above: left building with tower), and The Loggia dei Lanzi, an open air gallery. The view of these 2 buildings were breathtaking!
Palazzo Vecchio was built in 1299. For a few centuries, it was the seat of political power in Florence. In 19th century, it became the office of the mayor of Florence, and later, the city council. Now, most of the Palazzo is a museum. Apart from being a tourist attraction, it is still viewed as a symbol of local government.
The Loggia dei Lanzi is an interesting attraction. It is an open air sculpture gallery, built in 1382. Visitors can enter the gallery for free, and sit on the stone benches to admire the artwork.
From there, we walked across Via dei Calzaiuoli and arrived at Piazza Del Duomo. The main church of Florence, which is the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (established 1436), is located in this piazza. The church is also commonly known as Il Duomo.
There was a long queue to get into the Duomo, and since it was around 6PM, we decided to explore the nearby areas instead. We went to Piazza Della Repubblica. There were a number of restaurants around the piazza, and as we suspected, the prices are standard tourist price. Since we only wanted to have coffee, we chose a restaurant that had the best view of the piazza.
Later that evening, we explored the streets at the back of Piazza Della Signoria and spotted an Italian restaurant called Yellow Bar (website). There was a modest queue, so we assumed it must be famous. We joined the queue, and after about 10 minutes, we were seated. We had pizza and a pasta. The food was reasonably OK, nothing too fantastic. But we did had a good time observing the somewhat chaotic environment, typical of an Italian restaurant I guess.
After dinner, we strolled along the street towards Piazza della Signoria. From there, we went to the Loggia dei Lanzi gallery, and sat there to observe the artwork. I had my travel book with me, so I took the opportunity to understand the sculptures better. Later we bought gelato, and walked slowly back to the hotel.