Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pisa to Venice

Back when I was still planning our trip, I thought we might go from Rome to Florence via Pisa, that is, get a train from Rome to Pisa, spend the day there, then get a train on to Florence for the evening. Well, with the booking of trains a few days before we needed to leave Rome, of course I forgot that plan. And we didn't have time to visit Pisa while we were in Florence. So, we reversed the original plan. We decided to visit Pisa before moving on to Venice. Pisa is not far from Florence, about an hour on the train, so even though it is west of Florence while Venice is east, it didn't cause any problems.

We had a bit of a late start to the day because we knew we didn't have a time that we had to be on the train. Trains run regularly from Florence to Pisa so we decided not to book one. We had another breakfast from the minimart in our campsite — croissants, yoghurt, bananas, juice, cereal — and eventually got onto a train to Pisa. We got to Pisa about lunchtime and actually had some difficulty getting to the leaning tower, which we really shouldn't have as it's basically down one road from the train station, but we followed a sign that must have been moved and so took a bit of a detour! We got there eventually though and walked around the tower and its other associated buildings like the church and baptistry. We didn't go into any of them or up the tower, but it was fun just to see them and take photos — of the buildings and of the scores of people lined up with their hands up in the air, having photos taken 'supporting' the leaning tower! We got a late lunch close by — between the three of us we shared a huge pizza, salad and fries and Michelle confused the poor waiter by ordering lemonade, which he wasn't familiar with, explaining it as lemon soda, which he did know, and then changing it to pineapple juice when I ordered one! The prices were very good, as most Italian food is, especially considering we were one street away from the leaning tower, although the drinks were a bit on the exy side, also something we have found is typical in many places where the food is cheap!

After a few hours in Pisa we had to be on the train back to Florence in time to catch a train on to Venice. Fortunately we had no train problems there, although for some bizarre reason the booking system for the Florence to Venice train did not let us choose our seats and assigned us two together and one further down the train. We assumed the other seats must have been all booked, but the carriage was 90% empty, including the seats beside Andre and me. It was nice to be back on a highspeed train though, as the trains to Florence from Rome and between Florence and Pisa were all lower speed regional trains. We pulled into Venice's St Lucia train station at about 8pm as the sun was setting. I was surprised to find Venice was a little cool, something I had not expected for a coastal (island!) town. One of our first impressions after walking out of the train station was how wonderful it was to be in a town where we wouldn't be subjected to sirens as we had in Florence, Rome, Paris and London, because there were no cars! (An impression that was blasted to smithereens on our last day, which I will get to later!) 

In most of the places we stayed, after about a day I began to get a basic feel for the area around where we stayed and had some inner navigational ability. I never achieved that in Venice, other than the street and square immediately at the end of our street! But with a map we found our accommodation easily enough and got checked in. We headed out for a late dinner and found a place close by with pretty cheap food, but true to previous experience, the drinks prices were through the roof. Andre decided to try a beer  —  I think I've only ever known him to drink beer about twice  —  and actually quite liked it, but it cost 7 euros. My main meal cost 8! And they added a 12% service charge on! 12%! Needless to say we didn't go back there during the rest of our stay in Venice, which I will blog about later, as it is now past 11 and I have to go to bed!

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