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Looking around Do you know that kids show 'Go outside' with the woman and her collie in the biplane? I took her message very much to heart.

A Quick Note on Pisa and Florence

UNITED KINGDOM | Friday, 19 June 2015 | Views [296]

On our way to Florence from La Spezia we decided to stop off at Pisa, to take the obligatory leaning photo before heading on to Florence. I’m glad we stopped off in Pisa if only because I will never have to go back there. It is probably a nice little town outside of the madness of the tower and the cathedral. So many tourists desperately trying to take the best, and most inventive, picture and getting frustrated whenever someone accidently walks behind them and ruins it or their hand won’t stay still enough to take the perfect shot. Looking at a hundred people leaning into thin air is a very sobering sight. Pisa is pretty missable. Yes, the tower leans, it’s no better in person than in pictures. There’s actually a cathedral in the same courtyard, made of checkered stones like a chess board, but we didn’t attempt to wade our way in that far. We were feeling peckish and a little flustered from the heat so we sat down for lunch before heading back to the train station to catch the train to Florence. Then true to the current tone of the trip we caught the wrong train and had to wait 45 minutes in Livorno for the right train back toward Florence.

We were being different in Florence and staying in an Air BnB in the residential area in the North of the city nearby Statuto train station. But the woman we were staying with, hadn’t got back to us yet to tell us the exact address so we were stranded in an internet café on the Piazza Pietro Leopoldo trying to get in contact with her and sucking ice lollies to cool down. Eventually she did and we made our way to her flat. She and her two small children greeted us and showed us to our room. We didn’t get to see much of her or her family while we stayed at her house, which perhaps was the best for awkwardness sake. The woman was cheerful and friendly and her two children, a boy and a girl who were just typical shy but playful children. Her husband worked nights and we only heard him shouting at his wife to get his children to shut up grouchily now and then, which she almost completely ignored. She left almost as soon as she let us in to take her children for ice cream with some friends and didn’t come back until past 11. The next morning everyone was gone before we got up and we were left to try and leave the flat. This trip was cursed by our inability to open doors. The door to the flat was a complete mystery to us. It was heavily fortified by cross bolts and had a handle which detached so you couldn’t open it without it. For the life of us we couldn’t see this handle and we had to root through all of her draws until we eventually found it and managed to unlock all the bolts and finally leave the apartment. From there we made our way into the city centre towards the Duomo. I can’t remember why we chose to use Air Bnb, maybe it was the cheapest option, that seems like the most logical reason to use it. I don’t regret it, the house was very nice and she was a great host. Plus, it’s oddly exciting to be inside a stranger’s house, seeing how they live and feeling welcomed by them as a visitor rather than just an observer. I felt safe and homely and we got to see how the Florentines live, if only for a few days.

There were many things I didn’t get to do in Florence, and I can’t shake the feeling of unfinished business. I would have loved another day (and the foresight to book the tickets) to go and see the real David not just the replica in Piazza Della Signoria, to go inside the Duomo not just snap pictures with the crowds outside it, visit the university and museums. Not that I didn’t have a nice time doing what we did. We saw all the nice Piazze, like the Piazza Della Signoria with the huge fountain and statues. We relaxed in various cafés and restaurants with coffee and gelato and pizza. We were serenaded by a man playing the accordion. We walked down the Ponte Vecchio with its clusters of expensive archaic jewellery shops that crowd the sides so that you would never know you were suspended over water. We strolled along the murky waters of the Arno and watched the locals sunbathe on a spit in the middle of the river. We saw a breath taking view of the city with the bell tower, the Palazzo Vecchio, the terracotta tiled roofs and its surrounding walls, from the hill at the Piazza Michelangelo. And we wandered down the narrow sleepy midday streets of domestic Florence.

The city reminds me of Paris, every street, every building is a piece of art to be admired, so a simple walk is more than enough to enjoy the city even without visiting any of its attractions and museums. The villas and poplars (maybe aspens? I know nothing about the names of trees) are very different from the small quaint and cramped houses and the tall broad jungle of Liguria. There is no sea breeze to help combat the suffocation of the midday sun. The two regions almost seem like foreign countries, and this goes for the modernity and flatness of cosmopolitan Milan compared to Liguria or Tuscany. Each region is so different from the last! Not like England, where everywhere looks pretty much the same, except some places are hillier than others. Although there is one feature that seems to unite all the regions so far, and that’s the people. The locals stroll, stop to chat, take the long way round just because it’s prettier or there’s a tastier bakery that way. Like cats they embrace the sun, find a nice place to sit and relax like they have all the time in the world. It must be this slow pace life and total disregard for time that makes them so helpful and hospitable. Here they still worship the sun, not the clock. They will go out of their way to help you, take you rather than show you where you need to go, risk missing their own bus to make sure you get yours, they might do it with the exasperated air of a grandmother who is sick to death of telling you to be quiet or sit still, but they do it. Whether it’s Rosanne, the old lady who showed us to the bus stop, and told me many times that she had seven grandchildren, the old man on the bus who made sure we got off at the right stop to see the tower at Pisa, or the countless others who are gracious and helpful when we stop them for directions, even though their English is bad. I see my grandmother everywhere in this place.

Tags: air bnb, firenze, florence, leaning tower of pisa, piazza della signoria, piazza michaelangalo, pisa



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