11.10.2016 - 12.10.2016
The second stop on our Italy trip took us to Florence. Unfortunately, the weather had taken a turn since leaving Rome and once we got to Florence the weather was a lot colder and it rained on and off - we immediately layered up!
We got a taxi from the train station to our hotel (which just so happened to be located next to the other train station in Florence - oops!), left our bags and went for a wonder. We were staying in a hotel that was situation on the Piazza di Santa Croce, which was lovely and also held the Basilica di Santa Croce, the principal Franciscan church in Florence. We had a look around here which was really nice then checked in and made our way over to the main event, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore is the main church of Florence and it is a very impressive sight. The Duomo (as it is more commonly known) it's the city's most recognisable attraction - you'll know you're in the right place when you find yourself straining your neck to see the church's massive, iconic dome. Its exterior boasts intricate designs and breathtaking features while the interior is apparently surprisingly plain - we did not get tickets for this and the queue was huge, meaning we decided against going inside and instead just viewed and appreciated it from the outside. It is quite an impressive building!
Our next stop was Ponte Vecchio. The Ponte Vecchio is a Medieval stone segmental arch bridge over the Arno River, noted for still having shops built along it. The majority of the shops here are jewelry, great if you are looking for a souvenir to take home.
We had not yet been out for a proper, really nice meal so Adam set himself the challenge of finding somewhere for us to go that evening. We decided to try one called L'Osteria di Giovanni (http://www.osteriadigiovanni.com/), a pretty fancy restaurant which you could not book into. It was only a ten minute walk from our hotel so we decided to give it a try and see if we could get in. Once there, the waiter who met us at the door confirmed that they had no available tables other than in the cellar. We decided to go ahead, not really knowing what we were agreeing to, and ended up literally sitting in their wine cellar beneath the restaurant. They had about 4 tables in there with some lights strung up and our own waiter - the atmosphere was fantastic! Adam had his heart set on trying bistecca, a type of steak cooked on the bone and served rare. We went for this and it was unbelievably good. Hands down the best steak I have ever had. We had a great meal here and it was made all the better for sitting in their wine cellar, a truly unique experience.
Despite only having a couple of days in Florence, we still decided that we wanted to get the train over to Pisa to go and see the tower. Firstly, let me make you aware of something. If you ever plan on visiting Italy and getting the trains, make sure you validate your tickets! We bought our tickets in the station and got straight on the train, unaware of this. Once the guy on the train got to us and checked our tickets, he informed us that we had not validated them and therefore we had incurred a fine. Not what you want!
Once we got off the train in Pisa (it only took around an hour to get there from Florence) we had a 15/20 minute walk over to the tower. I thought perhaps we were headed the wrong way as I kept expecting to be able to see it above the buildings, but we were going the right way and suddenly we turned a corner and there it was. I must admit I was very impressed with the tower and it leans so much more than I expected or than it appears to in photos. Due to Adam being a bit of a whimp, we did not go up the tower. However, it was just as nice wandering around it and taking in the sights. The tower is situated in the Piazza dei Miracoli, also including the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry, the Campanile, and the Camposanto Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery), all worth a look around.
Florence is a beautiful city but, for me personally, there was not enough to do here. It was great for our two-day visit but I could not imagine spending anymore time than that here. That being said, I do highly recommend visiting this city - there are some beautiful sights to see!