A while ago my sister-in-law Jo and myself decided we want to go on a weekend away together (and we owed her a birthday present!), and as neither one of us had been to Pisa or Florence that’s where we decided to go. After a lot of research around flight prices and what airport to fly from (see my previous post on budget airlines here), we eventually decided to fly into Milan and rent a car to drive from there, while not saving us time saving us a fair amount of money.
After a 4am start to get to the airport on time we arrived only be be told our flight was delayed (thanks Ryanair), so we sat down to enjoy a proper breakfast rather then something quick to take on the plane. After a relaxing start, we finally made it onto the plane where they quickly informed us that the runway was too busy and we’d be stuck there for another hour before taking off. Due to Ryanair’s ridiculous thing where they separate your seats in order to try and get you to pay to sit together, we ended up on opposite ends of the plane, and spent the next hour texting each other about how everyone else was kicking off because of the delay.
Eventually we were off and pretty quickly landing in Milan, where we got to spend the next hour and a half in the queue for customs (the joys of travelling within the EU on a Canadian passport), before heading over to get our rental car. Once all the paperwork was sorted and signed, and a final pee break was had, we were in the car and starting our 3 hour journey to Pisa.
We had done a bit of planning and had booked ourselves into the 6:45 time slot to climb the tower of Pisa, thinking we’d have plenty of time to get to Pisa, drop our stuff and the car at the hotel, and get to the tower as we (were meant to) land at Noon. Yea, that was before Ryanair decided to give us a 4 hour delay and we got stuck at customs, so it was a looking like it was going to be pretty tight. Out went our thoughts of a nice scenic drive, stopping for lunch and to take pictures along the way, and instead I put my foot down to try to make it. And despite it being terrifying due to the crazy Italian drivers, we were set to make it, just barely.
We managed to get into Pisa and find our hotel with about 25 minutes to spare. Jo jumped out and went to check us in and see where the car park was, and came out a few minutes later to tell me to follow the road down and turn as the car park was on a one way road, and we were at the wrong end. I was feeling pretty good at this point and started down the road, ready to turn right, then right, then right again to get to the one way. Unfortunately, the road was closed and I can’t read Italian so couldn’t read where it told me to go. I ended up trying to follow the sat nav, which took me into a complex (that I don’t think I was meant to be in), where neither me nor the sat nav could find the way back out. Jo called me to ask where I was, and I told her there was a road closure and that I was following the sat nav and I wouldn’t be too much longer. 10 minutes later she called again and I was still in the same complex driving in circles trying to get out. 10 minutes after that I called Jo on the verge of tears because I thought I was going to have to leave the car in that complex forever and we’d be walking back to Milan. Just as I was about to send Jo my location so she could walk to me and help me navigate out, I some how found the road out and was headed back to the hotel. Once there, I decided rather then trying to go around again, I was going to reverse down the road to car park from the wrong end. Uncouth, yes, but it worked.
Jo then explained to me that despite booking a twin room for 2 we had some very small twin bed, and the man behind the desk spoke zero English and (as mentioned before) we spoke zero Italian. After 5 minutes of trying to explain to him that we needed 2 beds as per our booking, he walked away and came back a minute later with a sign that said ‘NO Rooms’. Apparently they were full up, and we resigned ourselves to a night of snuggling. I still have my doubts about that, but we managed.
We were now 20 minutes later for our time slot, and there was a very clear ‘If you do not arrive on time you WILL NOT be admitted’ warning on our tickets. It was such a lovely, clear evening, that we decided to see if they’d let us in, and if not, we resigned ourselves to having to pay again for a new time slot. Luckily, after we explained about our delayed flight, the woman behind the ticket counter winked and said “I think you’ve lost your tickets, no? I’ll print you some new ones.” Before directing us to the bag check and entrance. Giddy with relief and thankful to finally be there, we started our climb up and were not disappointed.
It was a really weird sensation climbing up, as you can feel the tilt but you can’t see it. It really did feel like I was drunk when I was walking up and it made me feel like a was a bit car sick. I was relieved to get to to the top and we were rewarded with an amazing view just as the sun started to set.
After a slightly stressful day, this was a great way to end it before dinner out eating a massive fresh Pizza (yum!). The next morning we got up, took a few more pictures, and
made the hour drive to Florence. We had got a great deal through Secret Escapes, and we were able to stay at a hotel that would usually be out of our budget. Hotel Home was in a great location, the staff were helpful and accommodating, the room (and bed) big, and it came with the added bonus of a gorgeous roof terrace where we were able to spend 2 evenings chilled out with a bottle of prosecco and limoncello.
We made one mistake, and that was that we did not book ahead to climb the Duomo
Dome, which meant they were sold out by the time we got there and we weren’t able to. It’s definitely something that I would have liked to do; however, we made up for it by climbing up to the Piazzale Michealangelo and taking in the views from there.
We had great weather, other then some rain on Sunday afternoon (conveniently starting as we were touring some gardens with no access to anything inside), and the whole point was for both of us to relax and enjoy some time away together. With that in mind, although we did do a lot of site seeing we also did a lot of
sitting and people watching, eating, and drinking lots of good wine and prosecco. It was a really lovely weekend, even with our flight delay and Pisa parking and hotel issues. Monday we were able to get up and enjoy breakfast, and we set off head back to Milan with loads of time so we could stop when we wanted without having to worry about anything other then toll roads and other drivers! As always seems to be the case, there were no delays on the way home and we got back with no issues, where we were greeted by the cold, grey English Autumn.