All original content © 2011-2014. Photos and Text, unless otherwise stated, are by the author of Pork Bier Belly. If you want to use images or writing, please ask for permission prior to using.

Thursday, August 22

Pisa and Firenze

Amongst other planning, I got to work and started making a list of all the restaurants I wanted to try and the sights we would want to see.  Of course we had to try all the delicious gelato and eat the fresh pasta.  And more importantly drink fantastic Tuscan wine.  Oh the sights- there were some of those as well.

When my brother in law and sister in law (his wife) booked their tickets, we were startled.  These are the same people that have promised a visit to US for the last 6 years and it has yet to happen.  Obviously right now, that’s impossible since we aren’t in US but we were hopeful.  When the tickets were bought, we were both excited.  We’ve only had the chance to host the husband’s parents and the two kids in our home (that was in US) so this was a new opportunity to host others.  Immediately we said we’d visit Pisa and Florence (Firenze) with them, a place we had not yet seen ourselves.  
We flew to Pisa with Ryanair, it was our first time.  Although we’d heard horror stories with luggage limits and seating, we escaped without a hitch.  There is a reason for inexpensive tickets, 19 euros one way to certain cities, it is a basic no frills airline.  You don’t get assigned seating.  When you add extras like check in luggage and overweight luggage, the total quickly adds up.   Unless you’ve paid for priority boarding, customers have to line up for seating and run to the plane once the gates open.  We had competitive brothers that wanted the best seats so we were fortunate enough to be second in line and get good seats.  My brother in law joked he’d knock someone out for a good seat.  

After 2 hours on the plane, we arrived in Pisa.  Our bed and breakfast was a basic place, step above a hostel and by no means a bed and breakfast but it was good for one night.  The breakfast was continental.  That morning we walked into the downtown where the tourists come in hoards.  

Pisa has the world famous Leaning Tower.  Near the Tower are the cathedral and baptistery, all made from the same material as the Tower.  We paid for a tour in Pisa and that was well worth the money.  It’s sponsored by the city and the fees are minimal.  The tour guide was well informed and shared extensive information about the Tower and its neighboring sights.  We learned that the ground soil the structures were built on is uneven and decay in the soil forced the structures to tilt.  We looked closely and noticed the Cathedral is also tilting, even though the Tower gets all the attention. I highly recommend a tour otherwise the self guided walk will take 22 minutes.  Interestingly enough, because the tower started leaning after the foundation and the first few levels were set, no architecture has come forward to claim their work.  (They were worried their life would be in jeopardy admitting to a building a tilting tower.)  

We ate lunch at Enoteca il Toscana, nearby.  We tried pasta with Tartuffo (truffels), pizza, and Pappardelle pomodoro with pancetta.  Everything had attention to detail on flavor.  Even the family enjoyed the pasta dishes. 

After lunch we headed to Firenze on the train, a short ride away from Pisa.  After arriving we rested in our out-of-the-way but charming bed and breakfast.  I highly recommend a stay here if you plan a visit to Firenze.  The beds and rooms are spacious (by European standards), the breakfast is assortment of fruits and pastries and Deborah (the owner or host) is a valuable resource.  

That evening, our goal was to sightsee briefly before drinking few glasses of wine.  We visited the Piazza della Signoria and sights around it.  It was bustling with tourists and locals; and impressive to see it in person.  Walking around the square and enjoying the surroundings is the key to this sight.  Walking back to our Bed & Breakfast, we found a restaurant for dinner, Osteria del Cocotrippone.  We shared stuffed cannelloni (covered in white cheese sauce and baked), chicken with roasted potatoes, and fusilli with vegetables.  Everything we ordered that night was delectable.  We walked away delighted with our first dinner in Firenze.  Although Firenze is famous for its Florentine Steak, we didn’t try it on this trip. 

The next day we toured the other parts of the city.  Florence is gorgeous to see by foot.  The famed bridges and the Duomo are two that are memorable.  The bridges have homes and buildings dotting the river, at a quick glance, artistic.  The Duomo towers the old city and unlike any other we’ve seen thus far in Western Europe; its exterior’s vibrant colors reminisce of bright colors in mosques.
With the nerds brothers a trip to Firenze would be incomplete without a trip to the Galileo museum.   We were all happily surprised at the collection pieces, especially the Physics professor in the group.  He was a kid in a candy store. Having little interest in the subject, I wasn't sure how it would be but I was surprised; if you like science even in the slightest and want a museum trip, I highly recommend it.  

We ate gelato few times that weekend because it was enticing each time.  If nothing else, gelato must be eaten daily while visiting Firenze Italy.  

We wrapped up the day with a stroll through old town.  Dinner was at a pizza place next to a large hotel, on the river.  The restaurant was overrun by tourists staying at the hotel and therefore yielded average food and unpleasant prices.  I can’t remember the name of this place or the large hotel next door but that’s good for everyone.   I’ve believed if the language mostly spoken when walking into a restaurant is English (where it should be the local language), walk out.  Unfortunately we were all too tired and starved to bother with anything else.  

With comfortable night’s sleep at the bed & breakfast and short bus ride back to Pisa, we were on our way home.  Overall this trip was meaningful because Firenze is a romantic city and a window into Tuscany.  Also it was a bonding experience for the 4 of us which we rarely get. After this trip, I am convinced my brother in law thinks I am a nut for planning my trips based on restaurants and going from one place to another for food.   

On an entirely different matter, I bought canned tomatoes in Firenze to bring back home for paella (in a cooking class in Spain in March, I learned an incredible recipe for Paella that used sofrito of onions and tomatoes; I wanted to remake the recipe for family on Sunday (a day everything is closed in Nuremberg).)  At the airport in Pisa, the TSA person made me throw away my canned tomatoes (!!!!) because it exceeded 3 ounce limit.  I was saddened; I will forever hold a grudge against the Pisa airport and RyanAir for idiotic rules.  (Why am I telling you this? Because I am still upset.) 

1 comment:

  1. I certainly don't think you're crazy for planning a trip around a cuisine, or certain ingredient, or places to eat locally.

    We did a couple days in Florence a few years ago and drove around the area somewhat -- but not to Pisa. Wish we had done that. Maybe that's a destination for next time. Thanks for the tips!