Kathryn and Ken's European Vacation
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Day 43: Tirrenia (Pisa), Italy
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Day 36: Venice, Italy
Day 37: Venice, Italy
Day 38: Rome, Italy
Day 39: Rome, Italy
Day 40: Rome, Italy
Day 41: Rome Italy
Day 42: Florence, Italy
Day 43: Tirrenia (Pisa), Italy



Hotel Riviera Blu


Mostly sunny with a high of 21C


Day 43: Tuesday, October 17, 2006     Tirrenia (Pisa), Italy

Where the Hell Are We - Lost Again

It was cool in the morning, warmed up to 21 during the day and went down to 10 by bedtime.  We started the day with a delicious complimentary breakfast.  We had to walk two blocks to the other building and go up 3 stories to the lobby of our hotel to find the breakfast room but it was worth it as they had a huge variety of food for breakie.  We then went back to our room and packed up.  We had to walk two blocks east to Hertz to pick up our last rental car.  Because we would be dropping off the car in Paris, they charged us $500 for a drop-off fee.  When we pointed out that the car we were getting had French plates, they said it didn't matter.  As rental cars were at a premium we had no choice but to be ripped-off.

While I got the car, Kathryn went back to get the luggage.  Our room was on the 4th floor and, if you remember, the elevator was very tiny.  She was going to bring down two suitcases and wait until I arrived with the car.  Parking was at a premium around the hotel.  The streets in this area are all one way and, although it was only a couple of blocks from Hertz to the hotel, Ken ran into serious road construction and more one way streets.  With memories of Scotland in his head, he finally spotted a sign for the train station and managed to find his way back to the hotel after the 12-block detour.  He had to park the car half on the sidewalk in front of the hotel because there were no parking spots.  A local bus driver gave Kenny a "welcome to Florence" honk.  While Ken loaded the first batch of luggage - with help from an elderly Australian gentlemen who was doing his laundry next door, Kathryn went back up for the rest of the luggage.

We headed out of Florence through the green rolling hills of Tuscany on the Fi-Pi-Li freeway (short for Firenze-Pisa-Livorno).   We drove through Livorno, a port city on the Tyrrhenian Sea, then continued up the coast to Tirrenia.  Tirrenia is a seaside suburb of Pisa with a population of 3000 inhabitants.  Most of the houses and business are on the east side of the wide highway while the west side is filled with beaches, summer cabins, restaurants, bars and discos.  We checked into the Hotel Riveria Blu, a lovely place Kathryn had found on the Internet.  We had to book a reservation for in the hotel dining room which was served at 8:00 pm.

After checking in and dropping off our luggage, we made the 15 km trip to Pisa.  Like most famous monuments, it is more breath-taking in person than in photos.  Kathryn took the photo of the Tower of Pisa at left.  We then walked across the Campo dei Miracoli or "Field of Miracles", to the other side of the Tower.  We took several photos from this location but, somehow with the town's  Duomo (Cathedral) and Bapistry in the background providing optical illusions, it did not look as if the Tower was actual leaning very much.  We stopped here for a delightful sausage sandwich and enjoyed the warm sunshine while eating at a picnic table.  After a walk around the Piazza to check out the Duomo and Bapistry, we went back to our car and drove 110 km back toward Florence to drive along Chianti Road.  You many wonder why we didn't just do this out of Florence in the morning.  We had so much luggage and we didn't want to leave it unattended in the car as we had heard that luggage often gets

Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Ken is leaning on the fence in blue top and shorts

stolen in Italy.  Plus the drive back through Tuscany was beautiful and relaxing.  Chianti Road, as the SS222 highway is known, twists and turns narrowly through several small villages in the hilly terrain of Tuscany's famous wine region.  Chianti is the Italy that everyone dreams of visiting cypress trees leading to beautiful farm houses, hills lined with vineyards, rustic wineries, and olive trees set atop rolling hills.  The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful but the roads were so narrow we couldn't pull over to take photos.

Tuscan scenery on the Chianti Road

The Chianti Road is only 59 km long but, with the hairpins turns, ups and downs and roads which narrowed to one lane, it took us over two hours to reach Sienna at the southern end.  Our original plan was to visit the ancient walled city at the centre of Sienna but it was 6:00 pm by the time we got there and we had that 8:00 pm dinner reservation about 175 km away.  We thought we would take a quick look at the walled city and be on our way.  Unfortunately we had arrived in rush hour traffic and did not have a good map of Sienna, so we got lost on the narrow one-way downtown streets filled with pedestrians.  We did manage to drive by the walled city.  We got out of the centre core and stopped at a gas station for directions.  Ken asked the Italian gentleman "Do you speak English?"  His reply was "No, do you speak Italian?"  After a good laugh, it turns out we were only a couple of blocks from the A1 freeway and we were on our way.  We took the A1 to Poggo Bonsi (I love this name) and then the 429 shortcut.

Lost: Kathryn was the navigator for our holiday and there is nothing that she loves better than a good map - like the one we bought in England which showed every little secondary road.  Unfortunately, because we were only going to be driving in Italy for two days, all we had was an AMA map of Italy, Switzerland and Austria.  Also, Italian roads are poorly marked and what few signs there are do not have highway numbers on them.  The 429 was a slow moving road and we saw a sign saying Pisa pointing to the left so we decided to take it.  Little did we know that this was just a small secondary road.  We spent the next hour driving on winding roads in the dark in the Italian country side. with no idea where we were.  Occasionally we would see cars on the Fi-Pi-Li freeway in the distance or more signs for Pisa.  We eventually found our way to the freeway by luck and discovered that we were just 38 km from Pisa.  We arrived 15 minutes late for dinner but three other tables arrived after us so we didn't feel too bad.  The meal which cost 15 was a feast. The appetizers were buffet style and  included several different vegetables and pizza.  The first course was pasta followed by a second course of sliced roast pork.  Their was a selection of desserts but we of course had the ice cream.  We were also given a litre of bottled water and a half litre of red wine.  This meal would have cost 70 or more in Rome.  We went to bed with full tummies.

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Day 44

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