Florence was our next destination. It has a special place in history for Italian Renaissance. It is also the capital of the most beautiful Italian region, Tuscany and is in central Italy. Tuscany is famous for its scenic country side and towns like Pisa, Siena and Lucca.
We took a morning train from “Roma Termini” to “Santa Maria Novella”, SMN for short, the main train station in Florence. The fast Eurostar trains cover the distance in about 1.35 min.
Day 5: 22nd May, Friday
We woke up early to give a final touch to our packing and got ready to catch the 7.35 AM train to Florence. We reached the station at 6.45 AM, had our breakfast and then proceeded for the train. To our surprise we did not find our train on the departure board. From the train listing on the board we could see that the last train to leave was at 5.40 AM and it was already 7.10 AM by then. So we thought there is some problem somewhere that trains ware not running, and went straight to the enquiry. Predicatively there was a very long queue. We were growing impatient as the departure time was approaching and yet there were so many people standing in the queue before us. Finally it was our turn. To our utter disbelief the person in the counter said he was not even aware what was wrong, whether it was the display boards or the trains that was at problem. Suddenly we looked at the board again and found that it had started working and could find our train on the list. Only 2 minutes to depart by then. It was a mad run from there to the last door of the last compartment where the train attendant was about to signal the departure. We asked him whether we could go through the vestibule to our compartment to which he said that the next stop was Florence and we could take any vacant seat. And thus we reached Florence at 9.15 AM.
Our hotel was very near to the SMN station, after we checked in and finished the formalities it was 10.00 AM. We were interested in visiting Siena for its beautiful cathedral and town centre. There are frequent buses to Siena from Florence operated by SITA Bus. It takes about 1.25 minutes. Upon asking in the hotel reception we came to know that the bus station was quite near from the station and our hotel and could be reached by walking for a few minutes.
We reached Siena at 1.30 PM. We did not find any information centre near the bus stop and started walking. On the way there was a McDonald. We were already feeling the punch in the stomach and had to enter. Finishing our lunch we headed straight towards a church visible at the end of the lane and found an information centre opposite to it. Bought a map and found that there are not many attraction in Siena; all the places are quite close by and can be covered on foot. After visiting the church we located the Duomo of Siena and started walking in that direction. We passed through the narrow and steep lanes flanked by old houses.
The Cathedral of Siena is one of the finest examples of Italian Gothic architecture and is ornately decorated inside out. The typical use of white, green and red marble can be seen everywhere. We paid a fee of € 3 to enter the Duomo.
From there we went to Piazza del Campo, the town centre of this medieval town. There is a clock tower on one side. There are restaurants and souvenir shops and people were enjoying their drink sitting in the Sun. We too sat for some time and then headed for the bus stand to catch our bus back to Florence.
Day 6: 23rd May, Saturday
We had our date with the second wonder of our Italy trip, the leaning tower of Pisa. We took a train from SMN station to Pisa at 8AM and reached Pisa at 9.15 AM. Coming out of the station we saw a map of Pisa town on a board and could make out the direction to the Tower of Pisa. We started walking and finally reached the tower after 30 minutes walk. On the way we crossed the Arno river. When we arrived in the compound of the Tower, it was already crowded and the crowed was swelling every moment. To get some not so crowded pictures we had to put quite an effort. We too had our share of the customary pushing the tower pictures. Going to top of the tower was allowed but we could not go as taking a child less than 8 years in not allowed, the price was € 17.
We took a round of the Cathedral and the Baptistery. Wanted to spend some more time but could not, as we had to return to Florence. Hence started walking back to the station. We were hungry so had an Italian lunch in a nearby restaurant and took a train soon after.
Pointing the places in the map, we found all that we wanted to see were in walking distance. We started by marking a route and went to the Florence Cathedral first. Before actually entering the Cathedral we had our first sight.”The Gates of Paradise” of the Florence Baptistery. It is just opposite the Cathedral. The door has exquisitely made figures of bronze from Bible.
This Cathedral of Florence is also having designs made out of white, green and red marble. The floor inside the Cathedral is having very impressive marble mosaic.
We started walking again towards the Uffizi gallery and reached the Piazza della Signoria. There were people gathered in the piazza for a competition of flag show. We watched that for some time and headed towards Ponte Vecchio through the Uffizi gallery.
The Ponte Vecchio is a bridge on the Arno river. It now has Jewellery and Souvenir shops on either side on the bridge and is quite a unique site. After some window shopping that we did, we had gelati, Italian ice cream. We crossed the bridge and headed towards the bus stand for the bus number 12 to Piazzale Michelangelo. We had a panoramic view of the Florence town form there. The town looked beautiful in the twilight.
We took the same bus to the SMN station. This was the end of our Florence part of the journey.