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Seeing the Sights in an Afternoon and Disaster Averted in Florence

sunny 80 °F
View Post-College Eurotrip on atbrady's travel map.

When we got to Pisa at 4pm, we went to the place to lock up our baggage and found out it closes at 9pm. We wouldn’t be back to the station until 10 or so for the 10:30pm train to Florence, so we unfortunately had to carry our bags around Pisa all day. Or more accurately, I would be carrying my backpack and both duffel bags around all day. We bought a map and saw that the Leaning Tower was all the way at the north end of the town and the train station was way down south. Luckily, we found out that Pisa is a small town and it took us 20 minutes to walk the length of our map. The funny thing about Pisa is that the entire tourist section is in one block. There’s the tower, a cathedral and a baptistery all right next to each other, with an endless row of vendors lining the side of the block.

Kristine went to buy tickets while I guarded the bags and she was happy to find out that you can’t bring bags up the tower and have to check them. Our ticket for the tower was for an 8 o’clock tour and they wouldn’t let us check our bags until 5 minutes before the tour, so we were stuck with them for another 3 or 4 hours. We went inside the cathedral which was actually pretty amazing, although the outside architecture of it was probably the most impressive. The baptistery was a circular building which gave it incredible acoustics. It’s known for the echoes it makes. Although you have to be silent inside, every half hour one of the security guards makes noises in all different pitches. It sounds like he has a chorus with him because the sound reverberates so many times that it sounds like there is several voices. It was cooler than you might think. By this time, we had a few minutes to take the requisite “holding up the tower” pictures before actually heading up. On the lawn in front of the tower, there is signs all over the place saying that the lawn is off limits and there are two security guards patrolling with whistles. They take their job way too seriously although the fact that they try to keep you off the grass in the first place is kind of ridiculous. Every once in a while, they security guards were out of sight for just a minute when people would start creeping on the grass to take pictures. Eventually the lawn would be filled with people until he came back blowing his whistle like a crazy person. Quite entertaining to watch.

Going up the stairs in a lopsided tower is pretty disorienting and it was cool to get to the top and walk around the edges to see how much higher one side was than the other. We were up there just around sunset, which was perfect. We headed down for dinner was within sight of the tower itself. There was even a little band walking around playing music. One thing that kind of ruined the ambiance, however, was that they turned the TV on which was right above us and had an MTV-type channel playing mostly American songs. Not exactly adding to the Italian atmosphere. The waiters at this restaurant and a few others we have been to take orders on PDAs which was kind of cool. I’m sure it makes things much easier on their end. I really like how everything here already includes tax and tip. It gives you a more realistic idea of what you’ll be spending and also keeps too much change out of my pocket since most prices are at even numbers. It takes forever to get your check no matter where you go and we ended up kind of having to hustle back to the train station. Speed walking with both our bags was fantastic. We made it with a few minutes to spare. Pisa was a great little town. It was cool to see what it’s like being outside of a major city. Things certainly were much cheaper, even despite the fact that we were in a very touristy section. I’m definitely glad we made the trip, although I’m not sure what we would have done there if we had stayed longer. All of the attractions truly were in one square. Most of the other people seemed to be there on day trips as well, which makes sense since a train ticket to Florence is only 7 euros for a 1 hour trip. Since I was carrying the luggage most of the way, Kristine had the map and kept bragging about not getting us lost like I had in Rome, even though Pisa is about one tenth the size of Rome and we only took the one major road from the train station to the leaning tower.

When we got to Florence, it was quite a walk to our hotel and I was again carrying all the bags. We ended up getting there just fine, but sat outside the hotel pressing the buzzer for probably 45 minutes. I went to try to use a payphone but the payphones here only accept calling cards. We were about to start asking people to use their phones to call the hotel number until another person came in and let us in with them. There was luckily a computer for public use and I suggested Kristine send the owners an email that we were here. We also checked and confirmed that both the hostelbookers website and the hotel website said 24 hour reception. We had been inside a half hour or so and were getting ready to sleep in the hallway when one of the owners came in and let us into our room. I was honestly expecting a free night or something but instead they tried to convince us that we said we would be arriving at 8pm and that we should have called if we were running late. First off, we definitely said 11. Maybe she could have convinced me that I accidently put in 11am, but 8? No way. Secondly, she tried to tell us that it didn’t say 24 hour reception on their website and that they wouldn’t be there late unless we called (calling with what phone by the way?). Finally, we were told that there was an error in their booking system and that we would have to switch rooms for tomorrow night. Fantastic. I guess that’s Italian customer service for you. My mom probably would have tried to get a free night out of it (although I would have been surprised to see this lady budge after she tried to blame all the problems on us) but we were so tired at that point after a long day of traveling and just happy to have a bed to sleep in. We booked this hotel because the reviews said the continental breakfast was really good and our breakfasts so far have been pretty bad. This breakfast better be fantastic.

Posted by atbrady 16:32 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites

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Are you kidding me . . . Free night AND complimentary breakfast THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!! Ha-ha-ha . . . xoxoxo

by EJBrady

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