Sunday, December 09, 2007

From Venice to Florence to Pisa

This part of my "travelogue" is now on the third day of my European vacation. Amazing how many things you can do and sights you can see in 3 days, rail trip included. It seemed I had been away for a long time...

Gino and I spent a mere 26 hours in Venice but we were quite content with what we experienced there. Venice is a small city and you can walk across it in a matter of hours. We got to see the major tourist attractions. Yes, there were more that we could have visited with more time and MONEY. But as we would tell each other, "It's good to leave some things to come back for".

By this leg of our trip, we were back on schedule. While waiting for our train's departure for Florence, we had time to go to the Jewish ghetto and nearby areas. We walked around with our luggage in tow even if they were very inconvenient to carry on bridges and uneven sidewalks.


At the Jewish ghetto

Finally, we were off to Florence. The train ride took about 3 hours. We arrived past 2:30 pm, which was when our hostel, the Ostello di Rossi, opened. The hostel was just a few blocks from the Santa Maria Novella train station. Very accessible. And among other things, it had free Internet!! Our Venice hostel had Intenet too but they charged 5 euros per hour. This one in Florence gave us free Internet use for 30 minutes at a time.

Internet-starved, Gino and I spent some time checking our emails as soon as we settled in. Done with that, we went back to the train station and hopped on a train to see the leaning tower in Pisa , about 1.5 hours away. By the time we arrived, it was already dark. We hadn't considered that the sun set early. So there we were in a strange place, with no idea of where the tower was nor how to get there. I was a little anxious.

We went to a small magazine stand inside the station to ask about the tower's whereabouts or to buy a map. Gino knew little Italian. I knew hardly anything. Even so, we tried to make conversation with the lady vendor. Fortunately, she knew some English. She was fine until I asked the question, Is it safe to walk?

"Safe? I don't know safe..." She answered, a little embarrassed. How do I convey "safe" through sign language? I thought to myself. I thought of strangling Gino by the neck or pretending to stick a gun to his side with my hand. I prepared to do the second--the hold-up act. But I thought I would look really silly if Gino did not catch on nor cooperate in my instant role play. I put down my "hand gun" before I could even put it up. (It's a literal hand, silly.)

Although the lady said we could take a bus to the leaning tower, Gino insisted on walking. "We can see more of the city if we walk," he said. In spite of my apprehensions, we walked some two kilometres to the tower with Gino guided by a map.

We walked and walked--over a bridge and on narrow streets. "This is it," Gino said when we got on a road that was supposed to lead straight to la torre. We were busy chatting and the street was lined on both sides with buildings that covered the view ahead that I did not notice the end of the road until Gino exclaimed, "Whoa!" I looked up. There was the cathedral, the Duomo. As we walked further on, the leaning tower appeared on our right. WHOA!!

We were at the Piazza Miracoli (Square of Miracles) where 4 magnificent edifices--the cathedral, the baptistery, the camposanto (a walled cemetery said to be the most beautiful cemetery in the world) and the leaning tower--stood. We admired the architecture and exterior of these structures even if we did not get to go inside any. Definitely worth our time and effort!

By the time we arrived, there were still many tourists in the area. The leaning tower was still open but tourists could no longer go in as its maximum number of visitors for the day had been met. "Mom is happy about that," Gino said. Yeah I was. I had a reason not to shell out 50 euros per person to go up the tower.



We walked back 2 kms. to the train station then rode a train to Florence. It was a long and exhausting day...

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