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Rome, Florence and Pisa
Part 2

20.05: Munich -> Bozen
21.05: Bozen -> Rome
22.05: Rome
23.05: Rome
24.05: Rome
25.05: Rome -> Florence
26.05: Florence
27.05: Florence -> Pisa -> Florence
28.05: Florence -> Bozen -> Munich

Map of Italy

25.05.05: Rome -> Florence
Hotel River, Florence. 110 Euro for a smallish double with a baby bed, with A/C, TV, phone, elegantly furnished, nice toilet with shower. Breakfast included.
Weather: sunny, spotless blue sky in Rome. Already hot in the morning in Rome when we leave.

The Roma Termini train station sucks, because there are very few baggage trolleys, which invariably somebody else is using. So you are stuck carrying your heavy luggage by yourself - in the heat.

We get up at 9am (and actually I'm woken up by noises at 6am and 8am - hotel Casali is a very noisy place) and are ready at 10:10am.  After paying the bill, we head to the nearby train station (a 2 minutes walk - that's the advantage of staying close to the train station). I get some food in a nearby cafe and check my emails in the Internet cafe.

The train leaves on time at 10:55am. This train originates from Naples and continues straight to Venice, arriving there at 3:30pm. The train, at least the wagon where we are in, is quite full. There are no AC power sockets, as was the case with the train from Bozen to Rome (later I will find out that even this train has A/C sockets, they are just somewhere else and less visible).

The train is almost punctual, arriving in Florence only 3 minutes late, around 12:30pm. Interestingly the train conductor apologises for the three minutes delay. We take a taxi to the hotel (8 Euro) and settle down in the room. The room is small, but very nice and fresh (they have A/C). This room costs the same as the room we had in Rome, but is much better.

Around 1:30pm while Shirley is taking a rest with the baby I walk with the laundry to the next Wash&Dry (a place with washing machines, in Ghibellina street) and wash the clothes. It's 3 Euro for the washing, 80 cents for the soap and 3 Euro for drying. The distributing machine takes 60 cents, then reports that it has finished the softener, but refuses to hand back the 60 cents.

In about one hour I manage to wash and dry the clothes. Looks like I'm lucky, because the distributing machine swallows the 3 Euro of another guy, then refuses to hand out the token. To top it all, the washing machine the guy chooses malfunctions and doesn't centrifuge the laundry at the end.

At 3pm I'm back in the hotel. Shirley tells me that the baby has just been sleeping for half an hour (couldn't fall asleep before). So we stay in the hotel room until 4pm. It's very hot outside, so I'm not too crazy about getting out so quickly.

At 4pm we start walking towards the city centre. We spend the next hours walking around, taking photos, having some ice-cream etc. Around 7 something pm we have a dinner in a not too good Chinese restaurant, then walk again downtown. There is a band performing at 9:30pm next to the Uffizi gallery. We're back in the hotel around 10:20pm.


26.05.05: Florence
Hotel River. We notice that the room we have is the smallest double of the floor where we are staying.
Weather: sunny, hot, spotless blue sky the whole day.

For the first time in our trip we all sleep until 10am (in Rome we used to wake up between 7 and 9am, because of the noise). This means that we cannot have breakfast, because breakfast in this hotel is only until 9:30am. By the way, the baby is still sleeping at 10am - we have to wake her up.

We manage to leave the hotel a bit before 12pm, then reach Piazza della Signoria square at 12:15pm. I head towards the Internet train Internet cafe, but it is closed until 4pm for repairs. So we start walking towards Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the river. Before getting there we stop briefly at 1pm in a cafe where we have one piece of pizza and a soft drink each. The bill is around 15 Euro - expensive, but in Florence everything is expensive.

We then reach Palazzo Pitti at 1:30pm. The sun is shining and it is very hot. My idea would be to walk through the gardens until the panoramic view point, from where to take a panorama shot of Florence. It turns out that to walk into the garden you need to buy a ticket, which at 6 Euro per person is essentially legalised theft. Note: you need no tickets to walk into the gardens of Castle Nymphenburg in Munich and Castle Schönbrunn in Vienna. And the Palazzo Pitti gardens are nothing special.

Anyway, once we are at the top of the gardens, it turns out that the gate to get to the panorama point is locked (Belvedere). Not sure why, I can only guess that the people in Florence want to restrict photography of their town. The only problem is that there is no other panoramic point in Florence which is nearly as good.

Never mind, it's 3pm and we start walking back to downtown Florence. We stop briefly in a self-service restaurant, where we have some food, then are at the Internet train Internet cafe shortly after 4pm. The  shop is still closed and nobody is there. So we walk towards the Florence dome church and this time go inside the church. Entering into the church is free, but the interíor is very basic, without decorations. Just for a change, tripods are not allowed. We leave the church less than 10 minutes later. I then climb on top of the bell tower (ticket is 6 Euro), while Shirley takes care of the baby (there is no elevator to go to the top).

At about 5:15pm I'm back with Shirley. Alissia is the centre of the attention. A group of young women play with her and hug her. We walk back to the Internet train Internet cafe, and this time the guy tells me that they open at 6pm. Initially we decide to spend the time shopping around, then we go to a cafe and have a drink.

The cafe is the Cafe della Borsa and they heavily overcharge us for two soft drinks (11 Euro, i.e. USD 14 for two ice teas). My guess is that their profit is at least 10.50 Euro, as the soft drinks cost essentially nothing. Initially they serve us ice tea heavily diluted with water. When we complain about that, they replace the ice teas with less diluted ones. I hear the owner of the cafe shouting in the background. This must be an incredibly greedy guy.

Shortly after 6pm we are back at the Internet train Internet cafe (it's not that I'm an Internet freak, but I have to urgently reply to some emails) and this time the guy tells me that they are closed until 8pm. Great. But luckily the guy tells me that there is another Internet train Internet cafe next to Ponte Vecchio, 10m to the right. We walk there and I finally manage to reply to all (urgent) emails.

Around 7pm we have a dinner in a restaurant (I have a pizza just for a change, while Shirley has some seafood spaghetti). In the evening we don't do much.

Tomorrow we'll probably do a day trip to Pisa. It's easier to reach than Siena and the things to see are all concentrated in one spot (Campo dei Miracoli).

27.05.05: Florence -> Pisa -> Florence
Hotel River, Florence
Weather: sunny, hot, almost spotless blue sky with a few clouds around noon in Florence. More fresh in the evening.

Today we sleep until 10:30am (lazy us). Again we miss the breakfast. Around noon we leave the hotel and start walking to the Chinese restaurant "Mr Hang" in Ghibellina street. There we have a lunch (food is ok) until about 2pm.

After we walk to the train station, which we reach at 2:20pm. The next train to Pisa leaves at 2:34pm. I queue up at the ticket counter, but the queue is long and the progress is so slow, that at 2:28pm I tell Shirley that we are going to miss the train if we wait longer. So we simply walk to the train, planning to get the tickets on board.

As soon as we are on board I tell the first person in train uniform I can find that we still need to buy the tickets. He tells me to go looking for the train conductor at the other end of the train. Well, it's a very long train, so I decide to wait until the conductor comes and checks the tickets.

Usually a train journey from Florence to Pisa takes a bit over an hour, but today the train has some delay and only reaches Pisa after two hours at 4:30pm. It appears that there are two train lines from Florence to Pisa and we took the longer one (the one through Montecatini and Lucca - the shorter one is through Empoli). Luckily the wagon where we stay has A/C (the other train wagons don't).

By the way, no conductor shows up in these two hours and we end up not paying for the train ticket.

In Pisa we catch a taxi to the leaning tower (5.20 Euro) which we finally reach a few minutes before 5pm. Until 6:20pm we are at Campo dei Miracoli, the area around the leaning tower. We visit the cathedral (quite nice, but not too breathtaking; entry ticket is 2 Euro), but skip the tower (15 Euro to go up).

We then slowly walk to the centre of Pisa, briefly stopping for an icecream and for checking the emails in an Internet cafe. Between 7 and 8pm we have a dinner in a cafe (food is not good), then walk to the train station. We fetch the 8:42pm train, and arrive in Florence a bit before 10pm. We then walk back to the hotel and are back in the room at 11pm.


28.05.05: Florence -> Bozen -> Munich
Weather: sunny and hot in Florence; overcast but still warm in Bozen; 19°C in Munich when we are back at 11pm

We wake up at 10am, then get ready. Once again we miss the breakfast, which is only available until 9:30am. About 10 minutes before leaving the room I phone to the reception and tell them to prepare the bill and call a taxi. But when we are in the reception, neither the bill is ready nor the taxi is there. The lady gives us a friendly smile, but what use is a friendly smile if we miss the train ?

Anyway, after some rushing we catch the train, which leaves almost on time at 11:49am. The train is quite full - even the 1st class wagon where we are. I can only imagine that the 2nd class will be much fuller.

This time I discover that next to me there is a power outlet, so I can do some computer work. Next to us is a family of four American tourists who are travelling across Italy for 9 days.

We reach Bozen at 4:20pm, 6 minutes late. We then fetch the car, put the luggage inside, then stroll across Bozen for some shopping. The sky is overcast and it looks like it is going to rain soon, but in the end we won't have any rain today.

At 6:30pm we have dinner in a restaurant, then at 8:30pm we drive by car back to Munich, which we reach at 10:55pm. Not too much traffic on the motorway and no traffic jams.

Copyright (c) 2005 Alfred Molon