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About Me

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  1. We've got a flight home from Pisa at 17.50 today, but that meant we had almost another full day to spend in Italy. We needed to travel back in the general direction of Pisa to be in the right location for the flight in the evening, so we decided to visit the coastal city of Livorno, which is around 15 miles southwest of Pisa. We had another fairly early trip to the train station, catching a train at 09.28. Everything went smoothly this morning and we were soon on our way towards Livorno The journey was straightforward; about 90 minutes on a direct train. When we arrived in Livorno around 11am we found that the train station is located on the outskirts of the town, so we had a walk of a couple of miles ahead of us to get to the centre of town and the sea. The first sign that we were getting close to the centre was when we chanced upon this large square. Not far from the square we found Livorno's cathedral. It wasn't quite as impressive as the cathedrals we've seen in Florence and Siena this week! Shortly after that we got our first glimpse of the sea. Livorno is a port city and we could see there was a big cruise ship in town. We walked along the coast for a while, towards a lungomare footpath. The area around the port was a bit industrial in places, but other parts were pretty. We could see there were ferries coming in and out of the port as well as cruise ships. When we got to the end of the lungomare there was a large square with a chequered floor. The views of the coast from here were really lovely The best views in Livorno may be when you're looking away from it Once we'd finished enjoying the views we walked back towards the town and found a restaurant for one final meal in Italy. I had a lasagne which was really good Then it was back through the town to the station, for the short train ride back to Pisa and the flight home. We've had a lovely weekend away and really enjoyed the Italian sunshine This is a part of Italy well worth visiting!
  2. We had planned to make a day trip to the town of Siena today and that meant an early start. Although it seems like there is normally one train per hour between Florence and Siena, on Sundays the timetable is less frequent with the result that there is a gap in trains between half 8 and half 11. We decided our best bet was to get the 08.28 train and set off towards Florence's main train station well in advance of 8am to give ourselves time to buy tickets and find the correct platform. It was lucky that we did because when we got to the station and attempted to buy tickets for the 08.28 from the ticket machine, we were greeted with a message saying that the train we wanted had sold out I'm quite baffled by this as I didn't think it was possible for regional trains to sell out in Italy! It could have been a disaster, but it seemed like tickets were still available for a slightly earlier train, departing at 08.10. We hadn't expected to be at the station early enough to catch this one but we were - just about - because it was approximately 08.04. We faced a battle against time to get the slow Trenitalia ticket machine to sell us tickets, then locate the correct platform for the train. It turned into a bit of a sprint across the station, weaving in and out of the hordes of people with suitcases who filled the concourse, but we made it in the end with about 60 seconds to spare. Phew! What we hadn't had time to do was to validate our train tickets. That's quite important in Italy so could have presented us with a problem. Fortunately, Tim had a pen in his bag and was able to write the time of the train we'd boarded on the back of the tickets. When the inspector came around to check them, that turned out to be sufficient The journey from Florence to Siena took around 90 minutes. When we arrived and exited the station in Siena we were initially a bit unclear about where to go but everyone else who'd got off the train seemed to be crossing the road and entering a large shopping centre, so we opted to follow them. That turned out to be a good decision. The town centre of Siena is situated significantly uphill from where the train station is and by entering the shopping centre we were able to travel on a series of escalators and travelators which took us up the hill with little effort. I think there were at least six escalators in total, so it was quite a hill! Once we eventually emerged into the daylight again, we had a beautiful view of the countryside surrounding Siena. We passed through what looked like a large gate into the old town. Once we were through the gate we found ourselves walking down the narrow streets of Siena. We passed little squares... ...tiny churches... ...and the odd statue. It was all really beautiful. As we walked we noticed there were lots of green and red flags adorning the streets. We assume this is the local city flag. Some of the street lights were painted in matching colours too! At this point we heard what sounded like a loud drumming noise, so we decided to follow it and investigate. Following the drumming took us towards Siena's main square. A procession was passing along the far side of the square and that's where the drumming noise had been coming from. We've got no idea what it was about, but it involved a lot of waving of flags! The main square itself is enormous. The huge building at the centre of it is the town hall. Amazingly, the tower was built in the fourteenth century. It was designed to be the same height as Siena's cathedral, to show that the state and the church were equally powerful. We hadn't seen the cathedral yet, so we continued our explorations. Eventually we got our first glimpse of it at the end of a narrow street. It's hard to be impressed by a cathedral having just seen the enormous Duomo in Florence the day before, but this one is pretty amazing too. It has a really beautiful facade... ...and we could see some gorgeous stained glass inside too. The baptistry on the other side of the cathedral was worth seeing too. We walked around the town a bit further, passing a more modern brick church. The church itself wasn't that exciting compared to the others we've seen so far, but just around the corner from it we had a fantastic view. Not only did we have a spectacular view of the cathedral, but we could also see the tall tower of the town hall. The heat of the day was building up by this point so we found a nearby cafe to relax with a drink followed by a restaurant for a nice meal. I had pappardelle with wild boar ragu, which was amazing! After lunch we had a hot and sticky train ride back to Florence, where we arrived just on time to track down a sports bar to watch Leicester's final game of the season. Unfortunately, things didn't work out for them and they ended up getting relegated. We ate at the bar and then had a final walk through Florence, with some more beautiful views of the Duomo
  3. It was a lovely sunny day when we woke up in Florence this morning. After yesterday's very early wake-up we had a more relaxed start to this morning, having a bit of a lie in before heading out to explore the city. From where we were staying we walked through narrow side streets until we got down to the river Arno. We walked alongside the river for a while because we wanted to see the Ponto Vecchio, a medieval bridge across the river. It looks great when you see it from a distance, though from memory it is quite claustrophobic to walk across because it's lined with small shops! There were plenty of colourful buildings on the opposite river bank. We crossed the river by a less historic bridge and started to climb uphill. We were heading towards a square called Piazzale Michelangelo and the route there was rather steep. As we climbed, we started to get glimpses of the view through the trees. It was hard work climbing uphill in the sunshine, so we stopped partway up for a drink at a little outdoor cafe with a view. From there it wasn't too far up to the square and once we got there it was well worth the climb. The views of Florence from up here are incredible. While it's the huge dome of the Duomo which dominates the skyline, you can see lots of other churches and buildings too... ...and if you look in the opposite direction you can see the countryside outside of Florence as well. We stood there for ages admiring how beautiful it was. Then we climbed back down through the trees and found a restaurant in the old town where we had some amazing pasta for lunch. After lunch we set off to explore the main centre of town. We quickly found ourselves in a large square, outside the Palazzo Vecchio, which is Florence's town hall. As you can doubtless tell from the photos, this was a pretty busy part of town! We walked a little further through crowded streets and reached the cathedral itself. It looks just as impressive from this level as it does when you're up on the hill. And it's so large it's hard to fit it all in one photo! There was one more church I wanted to see and that was Santa Maria Novella, which is not far from the train station. It's an unusual church because it has an extremely ornate facade on this side, but then it's just plain brown bricks from all other angles. The heat has been scorching all day, so at this point we decided to head back to the apartment and cool off in the air conditioning for a while. It's been a lovely day in a lovely city
  4. Another bank holiday means it's time for another trip! This time we've headed to the Tuscany region of Italy, accompanied by Tim's cousin Baden, who has had Italy on his bucket list for quite some time. We had an early start to the weekend this morning with alarms set for 3am to enable us to get down to Stansted on time for our 07.45 flight to Pisa. Stansted was pretty busy - not unexpectedly, as this bank holiday corresponds to school holidays too - but we weren't checking in bags so we made it through the airport with time to spare for a breakfast in Wetherspoons. The flight was on time and before we knew it, we were touching down in a warm and sunny Pisa Pisa is one of the most unusual places I've ever flown to, in that you can walk straight from the airport into the town without needing to take any form of transportation. Admittedly it takes half an hour or so until you get to the part of town with the famous leaning tower, but it definitely makes a change from squeezing on to overpriced airport buses. After a bit of walking the streets began to look more scenic... ...and we soon found our first pretty square. We crossed over the river Arno, which runs through the centre of Pisa... ,,,and found our second pretty square. From there it wasn't far until we got our first glimpse of the famous leaning tower of Pisa It leans an incredible amount in real life, so much so that it's hard to understand how it's still standing. I struggled to capture it in photos, but Tim got some good ones. This is the second time I've been to Pisa. I remember being surprised the first time I came how many other beautiful buildings there are surrounding the leaning tower. We did a circuit around the vicinity of the tower, admiring it from different angles. Before we came I'd been debating whether I should buy tickets to climb to the top. I didn't in the end and when I got here, I was glad I think if you're on the top you must feel like you're standing at a really funny angle! The area around the tower was obviously very busy and there were lots of people trying to get the perfect shot. We were hungry after our early start to the day, so soon headed off to a quieter part of the town centre where we sat outside in the sunshine with some drinks... ...and the most enormous pizzas! The intention was only ever to make a flying visit to Pisa and so after lunch we set off towards the main train station, Pisa Centrale. For the bargain price of €8.90 each we were able to catch a regional train to Florence, which only took around an hour. The apartment we're staying in in Florence is around a kilometre from the main train station, so it didn't take us long to find it. It's nice and spacious We've got a big living/dining area... ...as well as two large bedrooms and two bathrooms. The one thing which is not great about the apartment is the WiFi; it seems inexplicably slow this evening, hence only a brief blog. Hopefully it will be a bit faster tomorrow and I'll be able to upload some more photos from Florence!
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