a mini tuscan break: pisa and florence

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europe / italy / on the road
The view at one of the pit stops

Day 1: Pisa

While at the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy with the Fiancé, I thought two thoughts:

Random Thought #1. Where was my 4th year high school Physics book? Paul Hewitt was the reason why Physics was my favorite science subject then. I remembered reading up to Einstein’s theory of relativity even though it was way past the required reading list, just because I was so caught up with Mr. Hewitt’s writing + cartoons. (Ah, the nerdy days of yore.) I hoped my mom hadn’t given the book away. Random connection to Pisa: I vaguely recalled a Hewitt Drew-it cartoon of Galileo throwing balls from the tower.

Random Thought #2. Why was the Leaning Tower of Pisa so white? Considering its age, I expected it to be a little dirtier. Or maybe there was some mold-repelling characteristic of Italian marble which I didn’t know about. However a cursory search on Google that night revealed that the tidy whiteness was actually a product of eight years of careful restoration, finished in 2010.

The squeaky clean Leaning Tower and Duomo

The squeaky clean Leaning Tower and Duomo

Do not be deceived by the apparent shortness of the Leaning Tower. To me there was a challenge in the climb, which was the lean itself. I felt like I was falling when rounding those corners, as if navigating a marble fun-house.

The Baptistry

The Baptistry

The inside of the Baptistry looks like a spider's web... with the font right at the center

The inside of the Baptistry looks like a spider’s web… with the font right at the center

However of all the buildings at the square, my favorite was the cemetery, or the Camposanto

Light play at the windows

Light play at the windows

It wasn’t as popular as the Duomo or the other buildings so there was hardly anyone about. There’s something peaceful about the early morning light, the defaced marble on the floor–stone faces which had long lost their noses with people’s feet scuffing all over them–and the empty sarcophagi.

A pity most of the frescoes were destroyed in WW II

A pity most of the frescoes were destroyed in WW II

Star struck by a famous resident

Star struck by a famous resident

Of course I also did my tourist-y duty and had a cheesy “Look Ma, I’m holding up the Leaning Tower!” shot that looks like this:

Source: WeKnowMemes

Source: WeKnowMemes

I also tried to imagine what Mr. Chinese Factory Worker was thinking (because really, all the souvenirs I’ve bought here in Europe have a ‘Made in China’ sticker) when he was making these leaning shot glasses.

Maybe it's the inflated profit margins on these things that would make Mr. Factory Worker scratch his head

Maybe it’s the inflated profit margins on these things that would make Mr. Factory Worker scratch his head

Day 2: Florence (or Firenze, if I was a wannabe Italian)

Depending on the game, I like watching my Fiancé play on his PS3. He’s playing Assassin’s Creed II at the moment, and we’re having fun identifying places in the game with places we’ve actually been to, like “Oh, this street would be near our hotel,” “Have we been to this church,” or “So that’s what a bird’s eye view of Florence would look like if we could monkey up the bell tower like Ezio,” etc.

In AC II, Ponte Vecchio looks beautifully medieval and devoid of the tacky souvenir shops that crowd the bridge today. Here’s fiction…

Ezio's Ponte Vecchio (Source: Historia Games)

Ezio’s Ponte Vecchio (Source: Historia Games)

… vs reality.

My Ponte Vecchio

My Ponte Vecchio

Still, I suppose nothing beats the real thing. Ponte Vecchio is how I imagined the bridge where Giuseppe Baldini’s little perfume shop is would look like–albeit dirtier, more crowded, and um, in France.

We went to The Uffizi and managed to see many of the greats before closing. What struck me about the museum was how cozy and informal it was. I felt like I was touring my eclectic–but rich–grandma’s house. There were several wings closed for renovation which probably led to some of the paintings and sculptures being squeezed in with others. I guess this contributed to the overcrowded feeling in some of the wings.

Pitti Palace reminded me in some ways of the Palace of Versailles, in that both were fancy-looking residences for the rich with equally fancy gardens out back. The artists whose paintings hung crowded in the rooms read like a Who’s Who of Renaissance art.

Palazzo Pitti's facade

Palazzo Pitti’s facade

The palace’s Boboli Gardens underwhelmed though; it didn’t look as well-tended as the Versailles grounds. Maybe it was a bad grass day.

The Fiancé and I did have fun taking ‘leaning’ shots Smooth-Criminal style on the slanted steps in the gardens. Believe it or not I was standing straight in the photo below. It took several tries but we made it. Cracked us both up.

Proof of our maturity

Proof of our maturity

The Grotta Grande, a grotto with "stalactites" made of sea shells

The Grotta Grande, a grotto with “stalactites” made of sea shells

Another notable stop we made in Florence was I Fratellini, a delicious fiaschetteria tucked on Via dei Cimatori. The queues are justifiably long; the brothers serve delicious, reasonably-priced sandwiches and good wine.

the best sandwiches everrr

the best sandwiches everrr

There’s even a little shelf at the side where you can park your wine glass in between big bites. I had the roast pork with mushrooms and was sorely tempted to buy two.

Then we went to the Duomo for our customary climb and city view. The church itself has one of the most unique facades I’ve ever seen. It was undergoing cleaning so one side was clean while the other was grimy.

A two-face building

A two-face building

The climb up the Campanile was one of the more challenging ones we’ve undertaken, at 414 steps. It was a good thing there were pit stops along the way where we could sit and catch our breath.

The view at one of the pit stops

The view at one of the pit stops

I caught the eye of equally exhausted tourists and imagined us sharing a “What did we get ourselves into” look.

But the rewards at the top were great.

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The Author

I am 100% Filipina. I've lived in Manila, Jakarta, and London. Right now, I'm firmly planted in the tiny island of Singapore! I caught the travel bug early on. I also love reading, dark chocolate, spur-of-the-moment food trips, Fridays, dachshunds, and lazy weekends with my family or the Hubby.

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