This morning we enjoyed another great breakfast at the hotel in Florence before catching a tram back to the train station. The trams are very convenient and easy to use since there are ticket machines on all platforms.
Exploring the Florence SMN Train Station
We waited for our train to Pisa at the Florence Santa Maria Novella train station and got a chance to explore a bit. This station isn’t as large and beautiful as Milano Centrale but it still has lots of nice paintings on the walls.
It is another very mild day so it is very pleasant standing in the outdoor station. We had about 45 minutes at the station so we decided to get a drink while we met. 4 euros for a Birra Morreti in the train station. This is a great price considering how expensive everything is at the train stations and airports in the states.
Traveling by Trenitalia Train to Pisa
We validated our tickets and got on to a Trenitalia regional train. This train had very comfortable seats and the windows opened which was great since it was warm out. Very few tourists on this train. Everyone was speaking Italian and was young. The vibe of this train was reminiscent of a metro north train in New York – locals trying to get home or into the city. The main difference was how smooth the train ride was and how fast it felt like it was going. This wasn’t even a high speed train and we felt like we are flying.
We passed many vineyards on very flat terrain. As we got closer to Pisa we started seeing more palm trees and a more mountainous landscape in the distance. As the train pulled into Pisa we were not that impressed.
Our arrival in Pisa & First Views of the Leaning Tower
There was a lot of graffiti and the architecture didn’t look as Italian as we would prefer. As we walked towards the tower however, the area became more to our liking. The houses were beautiful stone structures in Mediterranean yellows, oranges and pinks with brown terracotta roofs. All of the houses have stone walls with intricate brass grates. As we walked down the cobblestone streets the Leaning Tower came into view.
It looks like it is leaning, in person, a lot more than it does in the pictures. I can’t believe it is able to stay standing. We walked into the courtyard where the Duomo and Leaning Tower were. There are actually a lot of buildings around the Leaning Tower which I didn’t expect. From pictures I’ve seen it always looks like it is standing alone in a grassy field. The area around the tower is filled with people “holding up the tower”. This is really hilarious to see from our perspective. Everyone looks like they are doing the thriller dance.
The tower is a very beautiful, intricate stone structure. If you walk up to it and look at its platform you can get an idea of how much it is leaning. Looked like at least 2 feet. To go inside the tower there was a huge line and it costs 18 Euros so we decided to pass. We walked around the garden areas a bit which were gorgeous because it was 55 degrees out. It is strange how green the grass is here in February and the fact that there are palm trees around. It doesn’t seem like a warm enough climate to have them.
Time for a Light Lunch in Pisa!
After we walked around a bit we went into a cute cafe for lunch. We started out with a Caprese salad, sliced meat, and a seafood salad. The Caprese salad was great. I can’t get over how good the tomatoes are in Italy even in the winter. For my main dish I had gnocchi in a pesto sauce. The gnocchi were fluffy and delicious. The actual pesto was so good. It was super creamy. I think they use a bit more parmigiana in their pesto than we do, which of course I don’t mind. We also had a beer with lunch that was very affordable at 3,50 euros. Even with the exchange rate I feel like meals and drinks in Italy are affordable compared to what we’re used to in New York.
A last look around the Duomo & Leaning Tower
After lunch we tried to get into the Duomo before our train. Unfortunately it had closed for the day but we were still able to admire its beauty from the outside. Another very intricate stone structure with religious paintings in its archways. It also had some gold details and what looked like copper doors (but I’m not positive). I really wish we had been able to go inside.
We walked back to the Pisa Rossore train station which is only about a 5 minute walk from the tower and boarded the train for our return to Florence. This train was a little more modern than the train we took to Pisa but was still the same commuter style train.
Note: The Pisa Rossore train station is the closest train station to the Leaning Tower – if you travel to Pisa Centrale, you can take a bus/taxi to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Back in Florence in Time for Dinner
After a short break back at the hotel, we took the tram to the restaurant Peperoncino in Florence. They gave us our own private room. The room was gorgeous and part of the table included couches inside of a cement grotto like area. We were given delicious Chianti and Pinot Grigio with bread. For my meal I got a sautéed chicken breast with tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella in a lemon/butter sauce. I also tried a bit of the eggplant parmigiana. The eggplant parm was really great. It is a little different than what you get in the US, the eggplant was not breaded and there was predominately parmigiana instead of mozzarella. Once again the tomatoes really made the dish.
I am really going to miss the Italian tomatoes! Our waiter was really nice and accommodating when it came to special requests and translations. He even gave everyone a free glass of Spumonte to finish off the meal.