Pisa and the Leaning Tower
It is a good idea to visit Pisa first as flights into this part of Tuscany mainly arrive at Pisa airport, which is just a short hop from the city centre. Pisa is the capital city of the province of the same name and sits on the Arno River.
The leaning tower is in the Piazza dei Miracoli or “Square of Miracles”, which also contains Duomo (the Cathedral), the Baptistry and the Camposanto (the monumental cemetery).
The tower took about two hundred years to complete and, of course, was not originally meant to lean. However, bearing in mind the nature of the ground that it was built on it is not surprising that it did. After a seemingly endless period of restoration, the Tower was opened again to the public in 2001 and remains so to date. Tickets should be reserved in advance and visitors can expect to wait for up to two hours to climb to the top at busy times.
Florence – Michelangelo, Donatello and Much More
Florence is the capital of Tuscany and is thought by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
There is so much to see in Florence that the city can seem daunting on arrival. So it is essential to buy a good guidebook so that a visit can be planned to take in all of the major attractions. These are the key attractions that are not to be missed.
- The Uffizi Gallery (tickets must be pre-booked)
- The Museo de Bargello
- The Duomo
- The Ponte Vecchio
The Museo de Bargello is probably the best attraction that Florence has to offer, being crammed full of many famous works of art from the likes of Michelangelo, Donatello and Verrocchio.
For those that tire of too much history and culture then there is the colourful San Lorenzo market to enjoy. It sells a huge range of local produce including high quality leather goods at reasonable prices. It is also a good place to find inexpensive snack bars and restaurants. The Nerbone snack bar is just inside the market entrance and has a good choice of typical Tuscan fare and has been frequented by locals since 1872.
Florence is an expensive, and busy, city but rewards the tourist with a breathtaking number of stunning buildings and a real sense of history.
Getting there–Ryanair flies into Pisa from a large number of European cities. The best way to travel from Pisa to Florence is by train from the Central station. The fares are very cheap (about 5 euros for a single adult journey at the time of writing) but the train is very slow taking about 75 minutes to cover the 85 kms to Florence as it ambles through the rolling Tuscan countryside.
Accommodation – In Pisa there is a limited range of tourist hotels. It is advisable to stay near the central station (the Hotel Terminus and Plaza is a safe bet) so as to be convenient for the train journey to Florence. In the Florence there are numerous options. Although most hotels are relatively expensive the Hotel Argentina is in a good position and is well priced.
Getting around – Pisa itself is a small city and there are plenty of buses that whisk tourists around the city. Florence is best tackled on foot as the traffic in the city is horrendous.
Eating Out – The ubiquitous pizza and pasta restaurant dominates both cities but finding a good one is difficult as most seem to cater for tourists rather than locals. Eating in Florence can be very expensive but there are good local restaurants that serve basic fare at a reasonable price. It is advisable to check what the guidebooks recommend.