There and back again: Italy 2013

July 3rd:

Me and Adelle were at Cardiff bus station for 9, ready for our 4 and a quarter hour coach trip to Gatwick airport. Fortunately we weren’t flying today though as a four hour coach trip is by far enough travelling for one day.
After rushing for buses and planes last time around we decided that it would be easier to just stay in a hotel near the airport the day before we flew and on the day we came back.
Typically though, stuff still managed to go wrong. 
There was a slight delay in the coach journey so by the time we arrived at Gatwick North Terminal it was more a five and a bit hour journey. I was feeling a bit tired but at the same time so excited to get off of the coach.
I got off, stretched my legs and me and Adelle headed into the airport to buy some supplies for our stay overnight in a nearby Travelodge. It took all about five minutes to for me to realise that I had left my satchel on the coach.
Now there was nothing in it of great importance. A book and Adelle’s straighteners is everything but I needed that satchel back, mainly because I just thought I looked cool and kind of like Indiana Jones when I had it on.
So with some quick thinking I bolted towards South Terminal, which for anyone who has been to Gatwick, knows is quite a distance away. All the while I was on the phone to national express trying to get them to stall the coach with no success, part of me thinking I look liked Jack Bauer running through the airport and part of me thinking I’m going to get arrested.
I get to South Terminal and it’d already left. Gutted. However, I spoke to a guy at the depot and he said he could get the satchel to me the next day, before my flight, providing I meet the coach at half ten outside North Terminal. This is some what of a silver lining but I still felt frustrated and knackered by all this.
I met Adelle back at North Terminal anyway and we got a bus to the Travelodge. Once there, we crashed on the bed, ordered a pizza and watched The Hobbit, exhausted despite not even getting to Italy yet.
July 4th
After a good nights sleep me and Adelle were up and rearing to go. We got to North Terminal in plenty of time for the coach and I even started tracking it on my phone.
The coach arrived and I hung back for a while to allow people going home to put their cases on. Eventually I approached the driver and asked him for my satchel. He had no idea what I was talking about. With that, another national express coach with the exact same number drove right past, turned the corner and left. Here we go again. 
Once more I ran through the airport not even needing to think where I’m going by now. I got to South Terminal and it wasn’t there. I called national express and the guy explained that due to delays there were about three coaches with the same number about. Great. 
I called Adelle, fed up and sweaty and she’s got my satchel! Fortunately the right coach arrived and Adelle managed to get it. I was a happy man and looked forward to wearing the bloody thing now.
So I headed back over to North Terminal and met Adelle, by the time all this stuff was over with it was time to check in.
We arrived at the desk, so happy to be getting rid of our massive case and be on our way to Italy when the check in lady circled something on our passes. We looked and it said departure from South Terminal. 
By this point I’m thinking we’re never going to get to Florence. At least I knew where we were going though.
Half hour later we finally checked in and an hour later we were on the plane. 
Thankfully it was a pretty uneventful flight bar an annoying group of cackling, middle aged women who had clearly watched too much Sex and the City doing my head in every now and again.
It wasn’t a massively long flight though and before I knew it, we were landing in Pisa. So now all we needed to do was get a train into Florence and we managed to find a station pretty much directly outside the airport. After a quick change at Pisa Centrale we were finally on our way to Florence and could relax a little, or in this case a lot. You see, turns out there are so many different trains which take different amounts of time to get from Pisa to Florence.

What we assumed was one which took an hour, actually took about two. It’s not too much of a big deal because if you are going to be stuck on a train for two hours, Tuscany is the place for it.

Eventually we arrived at Florence and after a short walk over to our hotel I felt like I could finally breath and that my right arm is going to be massive compared to the left by morning after dragging our case most of the day.
About 6 o’clock in the evening, all we wanted to really do was have some food and chill out. On the way over to our hotel we saw a restaurant that Adelle had read about on trip advisor or at least so we thought, so decided we’d go there.
It was literally on the side of a busy road and perfect to kick start our time in Florence, soaking up the atmosphere with a bottle of prosecco and a pizza.

My first authentic Italian Pizza

After our meal we grabbed our first gelato of the trip and headed back to the hotel where we unpacked and did the mandatory mosquito check before crashing out. I slept like a baby.

July 5th
Our first official day in Florence. After a good nights sleep we were eager to get up and go explore the city. After a quick buffet breakfast consisting mainly of pastries and cereals with mystery fillings, we headed over to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the main church in Florence known also as the Duomo.
We payed ten euro each for a ticket which  gave us access to the main church and Giotto’s Bell Tower which is what we were more interested in due to the unmissable views you are rewarded with if you manage the 414 steps to the top.

Truthfully, I didn’t find the steps that much of an issue as there are 2 or 3 floors which break up the climb and give you a chance to admire the increasingly great views. However, the actual staircases are very narrow and claustrophobic, something we had been made aware of beforehand hence us getting there so early to avoid the massive mid day rush of tourists.

Once we made it to the top, we were greeted with views like this..

Defiantly worth the climb.

Once we had made our way back down we decided to have a look in the actual Church. This was extremely short lived however as the staff deemed what Adelle was wearing as inappropriate (a vest top and skirt which wasn’t even that short) and encouraged us to buy what basically looked like a long poncho. We decided against this though as in the short time we were there it didn’t look overly amazing.

Instead we thought we would go get some lunch. Again, Adelle when doing her research read about a place hidden away in an alley way where you could get a pannini and a glass of wine for 6 euro. Bargain.

Spoilt for choice
This is the extent of the places seating plan
After lunch we made our way over to Ponte Vecchio, a Medieval bridge with awesome scenery and a great atmosphere. We stopped off at Gelatissimo, a place we would visit again due it’s friendly staff and had some more beautiful tasting gelato.
 
Ponte Vecchio
We had a good hour or two at the Ponte Vecchio before going to the Uffizi gallery where we had pre-booked tickets. Now I like to think of myself as a cultured type of gentleman but the artwork in this gallery, as beautiful as it was, really didn’t do it for me. I mean it’s impressive to see these intricate and old pieces of art but I couldn’t help but find myself fighting back yawns for the 95% of the time there.

In fact I was more impressed by it’s toilets which had a fountain of water running down it’s walls to pee into than I was the majority of the art. Still, I think I did a pretty good job of at least looking slightly cultured while I was there.

Once we left the gallery, we headed back to the hotel for a chill and a change of clothes before heading out to find somewhere to eat. On our travels we found a restaurant called ZaZa which turned out to actually be the restaurant we thought we had been eating at the night before.

This was a fantastic place to eat, again with a great atmosphere as it was packed with customers. We sat outside and enjoyed on recommendation a bottle of their house wine. This was soaked up with plenty of bread before my Lasagne and mouth watering Tiramisu for dessert. Heaven.

One of the many Tiramisu’s I would sample in Italy

July 6th

Again we are up and out bright and early, this time for another gallery, Galleria dell’Accademia. 

Despite not getting much out of the Uffizi the day before, I was looking forward to this simply as it houses
Michelangelo’s David. Not far from our hotel, we picked up our pre-booked tickets and headed into the maze of artwork and statues. After a while, we finally found David which was by far getting the most attention from visitors and rightly so.

Considering I was more impressed with a toilet than art yesterday, I had to say that it truly is a fantastic bit of art. The amount of detail and sheer size of it (the statue, not his bits) just blows the mind. Me and Adelle spent a good half hour zig-zagging through fellow tourists to fully appreciate it.

It’s safe to say that this was the highlight of the gallery and once again, the uncultured swine that I am, found myself getting antsy once we had seen David. Never the less, we took our time walking through it and afterwards bought my mum one of those cool aprons with the statue on it.

We didn’t have anything else planned for the day so from then on just took our time walking through the streets, had some lunch and went for yet more gelato at Vivoli, easily the best place in Florence for it.

Tiramisu. Peanut Butter and Milk Choc

In the evening, me and Adelle got all dressed up and walked quite a distance to another restaurant she had read about. Al Tranvai. This was located in a part of the city where clearly very few tourists went and as we arrived a little early, we enjoyed some time in a local park watching the locals go about their daily business.

When we arrived at the restaurant which has beads for a door, we were the first ones to arrive. As we entered the family of chefs and staff who own it were sat at a table eating their evening meal before service. We were greeted with a massive Ciao and made welcome instantly.

This place was about as authentic Italian as you could get with all the staff being unable to speak very good English and no English menus. Fortunately, Adelle is excellent with languages and managed to advise me on what I would like best and order for us confidently.

The food was sublime and the wine was good too. This was easily the best place we’d eaten so far and we intended to go back there before the holiday ended.

After the meal, we slowly walked down to a bridge just down from Ponte Vecchio and watched the sunset. At that moment, with Adelle in my arms and a belly full of great food I struggled to think how I would ever leave Italy.

Part two coming soon…

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