So, finally, the time had come for A HOLIDAY! A real-life, well-deserved, long-awaited sojourn away from the hum drum routine of life in Brindisi. Huzzah! I was nervous, however, as this is my first experience of holidaying alone. Those of you that know me (err…so all of you) are well aware of my inability to keep myself company, anyone who’s ever lived with me can vouch for that (although I am getting better with age). Even when I am alone, I choose the radio over a CD, just for the effect of someone talking to me. So anyway, as you can imagine, five days to keep myself entertained was certainly a daunting prospect.
Day one – Brindisi to Pisa…via those lovely people at Ryanair.
After being ripped off in the taxi (if there is something I like less than being alone, it’s being late or having to rush, but this time it cost me dear) I ended up waiting for hours due to a small delay to my flight. It would’ve been ok, but when it comes to queuing, Italians and English do not harmonise. Thankfully I was the only Brit there, for I could foresee a brawl.
Also, allow me a short rant here, but the whole ‘liquids allowance’ really bugs me. I don’t want to pay £20 to check a bag in for the weekend, but I would like to take some shampoo and hairspray in order to look presentable during my trip. And I don’t really want to have to buy those annoyingly small bottles to take with me – I want to use up the stuff I already own. Oh to be a man (or at the very least, a woman who doesn’t wear make-up). I had to say farewell to the 50ml of Herbal Essences left in the bottle at security and buy some more in Pisa – which I will have to leave in the hotel on my departure ‘cos the smallest bottle I could find is not small enough. Such is life.
Err, I’d just like to point out that I wrote this before I read Caitlin Moran’s column in The Times on precisely the same topic…great minds an’ all that.
Anyhow, touchdown to a gloriously sunny afternoon in Pisa (did I mention rain was forecast for the entire Easter weekend??) and I made my way to my hotel by foot (no, not because I’m now ‘anti-taxi’ (though I am ‘anti-Italian-taxi’) but because my hotel was a mere 20 minute walk from the airport – handy). When I eventually found the place I wasn’t quite sure what to think. Now I know I have champagne tastes, but I am aware of my budget this holiday, and 4* + lone traveller just does not make financial sense in this job. However, I was a little reticent to enter, despite the B&B’s positive reviews. To cut a long story short, the hotel was fine. Yes, it was in the dodgy part of town. Yes I had the attic room, into which I entered through a trapdoor. Yes I couldn’t shut the blind and had some noisy Chinese downstairs neighbours. But it was clean, and the bed was comfortable. And for one night it worked a treat (any more than that and I might not be quite so positive about it right now)!
So I had the afternoon to explore the small city of Pisa. And from 3 to 10pm that is exactly what I did! A leisurely stroll around the town, a couple of hours by the tower, reading my book in the sun, a pizza and a glass of wine later and I was ready to hit the sack. I’d got through it – an entire day (and most importantly, a meal in a restaurant) on my own. And to be honest, it was bliss. And I only got approached by one weirdo, the whole day. Score.
Pisa was lush, but people are right when they say one day is enough. Though I could easily spend hours at Piazza del Miracoli, lying in the sun, listening to the myriad of languages being spoken around me. And no matter how long you look at it, the tower still looks fake and toy-like. It’s wonderful.
Day two: Pisa to Firenze
Not even the impending rain could have dampened my spirits this morning – finally I was off to the city I’d been wanting to visit for as long as I can remember! My hotel is located right opposite Santa Maria Novella train station, so was not difficult to find. The staff were very welcoming, and although the room is very basically furnished, there is free Wi-Fi and MTV – what more does one need?! I have one of the rooms that shares a bathroom (though with how many other remains a mystery) which is essentially a wet room, with the shower facing the toilet. Weird, but again, clean so no complaints here!
After unpacking I set off for the centre to meet an old student of mine from last summer. The lovely Giacomo, who although leaving for a holiday that evening, came and showed me round the city for a couple of hours (most importantly, showing up just in time to rescue me from the over friendly Italian outside the Duomo…thanks Giac)!
Day three: Firenze
So today I just walked. For hours. I walked around the centre, across the Ponte Vecchio and up the steep climb to Piazzale Michelangelo. And that was it. One look and I fell in love. This really is the most beautiful city in the world, even in the pouring rain! I’ll let my photos speak for themselves.
Day four: Firenze…still raining
After a short two hour walk the rain just got too much so I came back to the hotel to eat chocolate and wait for the sun to appear. Finally the clouds blew away and I went out for another wander before I was due to meet Italian’s friend for a coffee. The ‘coffee’ turned out to be a motorbike ride to his friend’s house, a beer, some prosecco, coming back to town for a stroll and another beer! Happy days. It was wonderful to have some company – and of course they all spoke spectacular English. Speeding around Florence on a motorbike was also pretty special – it all felt so very authentic 🙂 Tomorrow’s weather is supposedly ‘sunny’ so another walk to the viewpoint beckons, followed by my tour around the Uffizi. Yippee!!
Day five: Firenze…oh, do I have to leave tomorrow? Do I??
The most beautiful of days and not only thanks to the weather. Another stroll to Piazzale Michelangelo (which, now the sun was out, was rammed. I wonder if I preferred it rainy but empty…) and further, up to a beautiful basilica with even more stunning panoramic views of the city and of the Tuscan countryside. I saw the oldest priest in existence (probably) and took some somewhat more attractive photographs ‘senza la piova’. I then collected my ticket for the Uffizi (no thanks to the arrogant and ufficious steward who seemed to enjoy my lack of knowledge of the complex system in place) and spent the next few hours admiring the medieval tryptics and iconography that I have had a fascination with since uni, and appreciated the Carravagio and Boticelli masterpieces on display. To finish the day I ensconced myself outside a bar and treated myself to a bottle of wine for one J Several chapters of my book and a sunburnt nose later, I dined on traditional Tuscan fare and packed ready to return the following morning.
I guess I could sum up the holiday as follows:
Kilometres walked: uncounted, but many
Pictures taken: hundreds
Italian spoken: basic
Gelatos consumed: two, very large ones
Motorbike rides: two, very fast ones
Breathtaking views beheld: one, I suppose, but I could behold it forever
Weirdos avoided: more than were welcome, but fewer than feared
Fun had: immeasurable
Some quotes about Florence:
“Everything about Florence seems to be coloured with a mild violet, like diluted wine” Henry James, American author
“In Paris you learn wit; in London you learn to crush your social rivals; in Florence you learn poise” Virgil Thomson, American composer