Saturday, January 29, 2011

Under the Tuscan Sun...

I've never seen the movie, but I now share the love people have for Tuscany (...and it's sun).

As part of this New Year, we have decided to take advantage of holiday weekends. The CO (Commanding Officer) of the hospital James works for is rather sweet and gives them a "96" (96 hrs off = 4 days off) for almost every holiday weekend, so it'd be pretty lame to them go to waste! After all, we only have 2 1/2 years left (sounds like a lot, but it's really not...)!

January's "96" was Martin Luther King Jr Day, and since we didn't have flights previously book, a nice six hour drive to Florence was in order!

Giorno uno!
Was mostly spent on the road. It was a six hour drive, plus some minor detours. We lodged in a hotel on another base about an hour outside of Florence and 20 minutes from Pisa! So once we checked into our place, we freshened up and headed out to do the touristy thing at Pisa!

This part of the city has a wall around it, and unfortunately by the time we got there the sun was setting behind it, so we agreed we'd have to try again another day before the sun was setting...

But not before trying to sneak her into the back pack of course...

Now to the top!

After paying about 15 Euro per person (Sigh...), we climbed some crooked winding stairs...

To a romantically fabulous view at the top... well, this was almost at the top, but still romantically fabulous!

Ciao for now Leaning Tower!

Toscana Giorno due!

We drove to the Pisa train station to ride into Florence. We bought one ticket for the group, which was about 30 Euro, only to forget to validate our ticket and ended up with a 40 Euro fine! Grrrr! But we all chipped in money and called it a learning experience. At least we bought one ticket, because if we would have had five individual tickets and wouldn't have validated any of them, that would have been 40 Euro times 5 tickets- which is a whole lot more Euro than I care to think about losing! Needless to say, we are all now compulsive ticket validators... with the exception of maybe Chris who slept through the whole incident and thought we were messing with him when we told him what happened...
Hmm, maybe I should sleep on the next train ride...

An un-budgeted 20 Euro later, alas, we were in the wonderful city of Florence.

We found out that some friends of ours were going to be in Florence as well, so we gave them a call, met up at the local McDonalds (so American right), and headed to the Accedemia, which hosts the statue of David.

*Sidenote: We were told the Accedemia is expensive and that the line can be hours long, so you will want to buy tickets in advance online. Right before we left Naples, we went online to reserve tickets, which were totaling to 17 Euro a person. However, when we went to purchase them, the site wouldn't let us because you have to order them 48 hours in advance, and we were outside of that window. Bummer.

To get to the Accedemia, we followed our guide Matt (our friend equipped with a map) who lead us to a door that we thought might be wrong, walked up to a ticket window that we thought had to be in the wrong museum, and bought tickets for less than 7 Euro, which too seemed wrong. Turns out, we were not there in peak season, so it was a good thing we procrastinated and the website didn't let us buy tickets on line- we were there, and for less money! Strong work Matt.

Inside there are tons of paintings and sculptures, but like most tourists, we went strait for the David!

...Where you aren't allowed to take pics...


From this far back you can kind of see how his upper body seems to get a little bigger. This is because he was meant to be placed high up, and they wanted him to appear all one size, so they were trying to account for the high distance up that he would be, however, as you can see... Well, it was a good thought Michaelangelo.

After much walking around and naked-sculpture viewing, we headed to lunch. They put us outside under a canopy, and those of us who were more easy to please were in awe of the birds above:

After lunch we headed on to the Duomo.

A better look at beautiful the Duomo.

Next we enjoyed a leisurely walk through the city as we headed to Ponte Vecchio.

This is a bridge said to be built in the Roman times, as it first appears in writing dated back to 996. There are shops all across the bridge, mostly jewelry shops, and previously butchers occupied it.

But mostly, I think it's just really old and beautiful with a great view!

To end day two, we headed to a lookout point, were you can look over the city.

On the walk there, we saw some sites that we can safely assume are only legit in Italy.

Park however and where ever you fit...

Do not enter when carrying a large table...

And of course, what would site seeing in Italy be without a bunch of stairs to climb?

But, as always, it was well worth it.

Shout out to the Japanese group who took this pic and gave us a Polaroid of it from their camera... all with a language barrier. Love it.

Finally we headed back to the train and then car, got some Chinese (Asian, in honor of our new friends- totally kidding), and called it a night.

Giorno Tre!

After the hassle of the ticket and the parking garage, we decided it would be more worth it to drive into Florence instead of taking the train. Aside from not calculating the tolls, I think it was a success.

We parked outside of the Florence stadium, which was one train stop away from the major downtown area where we started on day two.

We stopped by Giotto's (bell) tower

and the baptistry, but chose not to pay to go inside on this trip (as we expect there will be plenty more opportunities for that). Then we attempted to hunt down other chapel that Michelangelo painted the ceiling, but it was closed. We did some shopping in the leather market (forgot to take pics), where I bought a gorgeous long brown leather jacket, yay! This was all in route to Santa Croce,

the resting place for the bodies of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli.

Here is Michelangelo's tomb, each statue represents each of the different artistic things he did (ie, painting, sculpting and architecture), but I can't remember which is which.

Here lies Galileo, but I completely forgot all significance of his tomb, whoops.

That was all for day three. We grabbed dinner just around the corner from Santa Croce, made our way back to the stadium and headed out for the night.

Giorno quattro

At this point, the time off was dwindling, so we had to head back south. But not without a revisit to Pisa, a green Tuscan drive, and a true Tuscan-town pit stop!

I was trying to wiggle it out, but it's just wouldn't budge...

"Chris, move a little to the left, here... I'll why don't I just move you..."

It was falling so I tried to shift it ;-)

Ahhh, don't fall on us!

I think we had too much fun with the gang in Pisa!
We hopped back into the car and were on to the tourist trap of San Gimignano!

An old and beautiful Tuscan town, that was way in the mountains,

And, we learned by experience, that it pretty much shuts down for the winter.

So we pretty much had the city to ourselves, kind of cool.

Of course, we did have to wait a few minutes to take over the well... but then we totally took it over...

View from the city...

I just thought this alley way looked cool.

And that was our "96" in Tuscany!
Love this pic of the drive home... the individual personalities...

Pocket Espresso anyone?

That's all for now... good lookin' out Dr. MLK!

And who knew Tuscany was a state, not a city?
Yeah, I totally knew that...



  1. Awesome photos! You're learning a lot about the Italian culture! That's awesome! Now send me some recipes!!! LOL I'll have to hunt down some crazy Italian grocery store around here. (Good luck with that, huh???) I adore reading your blog!

  2. Heather, your pics are amazing! I LOVE the one of you & James that the Japanese group took!!! Frame that please. AND the one of you outside the Duomo, and of you & James by the river, and-ok I'll stop ;)

  3. Haha Jen! I will gather up some recipes and send them over... It's probably more fun to go out and be served, but hey, a recipe is better than nothing right ;-)

    Hahahah Jessica, thanks :-) We will definitely be framing a lot of these pics!