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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Italy Day 6: Finishing Up Florence

When we got off the train in Florence we didn't really have a set plan. Since our first morning train ran late we we sort of pressed for time. I would need to pump prior to boarding the train back to Rome and we wanted to find a place to eat steak for dinner. Florence is famous for it's HUGE steaks and I wanted to make sure Zach got to try one :) 

We decided to first go back to where David originally stood. When we first saw him I didn't realize we wouldn't be allowed to take pictures of the real thing so I wished I'd taken more of the fake :) You can read more about David here.
Close-up of his over-sized hands

It was MUCH less crowded than our original tour of the area on Sunday. We decided to go back to Santa Croce. We didn't get to spend much time there our first day and we wanted a few more pictures there as well. You can read more about it here.

Star of David at the top
Originally when we knew we'd be coming back to Florence we wanted to go inside Santa Croce. Since we were pressed for time, we didn't really know what to do. Why spend the money if we didn't have time to see it??? We were debating it when a guy walked up to us and asked if we were going to go inside the church. We told him our dilemma and he said that the whole thing took him about 20 min and that he had an extra ticket he bought on accident that we could have. So sweet of him! We took that as a sign so we went inside.

Galileo's tomb

Michelangelo's tomb

Machiavelli's tomb
(I had to do a research paper on him in high school so I thought this was neat!)

It was neat to be walking through the garden that we had only been able to see through gates on our first day in Florence

This was my view most of our trip...following Zach and that massive book bag!
Once we finished up at the church it was crunch time for some dinner. We knew we had to eat early as we had to catch a 6:00 train back to Rome and I'd need to pump before then as well. So far on the trip we hadn't run into many issues with the whole siesta thing. I may have mentioned this before, but in Italy people take a siesta from 2 or 3 until 7 or 7:30. Businesses, restaurants, etc will all often be closed during this time. Locals are used to this and will eat dinner after 7:30. Our bodies had adjusted, as we are used to eating on schedule with the kids at 6 every single night, but many times we had no issues finding places open during our typical "dinner time." Of course the ONE day that it was essential for us to eat early we couldn't find a single restaurant that was open.

We first tried to eat at places our Frommer's book recommended for steak but had no luck with any of them. As time ticked away we decided to just walk towards the train station so wherever we ate would be closer to where we needed to be since we were taking so long to find somewhere. We must have looked in 20 restaurants. A couple of times the doors to the place would be open but they would be EMPTY inside. I mean Italians are some trusting folks...I couldn't believe they would just leave their doors unlocked like that!!!
We were tempted to just steal this steak and make a run for it ;)
We got to the train station and still hadn't found somewhere that was open. We went into a little cafe (where you can grab quick bites, but not full meals like we were wanting) and asked a girl who worked there if she knew of anywhere that was open for dinner during this time. It's so interesting to me that it was 5:00 yet nowhere was serving dinner! Differences in culture right?!?! She suggested a place and it too, was closed. We decided to try ONE more street then just grab something from a cafe and call it quits. We got lucky!!! A place happened to be open for dinner! We were the only customers but we didn't mind :) AND they had the steak Zach had wanted to try!!!

A Florentine Steak is a T-Bone grilled over wood or charcoal and seasoned with salt or sometimes pepper then dashed with some olive oil at the end. It's also MASSIVE. We had to pay for this sucker by the weight...I can't remember how much it weighed. If Zach remembers I'll come back and add it :) It was mega huge though. And he loved it (thank God b/c it wasn't cheap!). It ended up being one of our most expensive meals (48 Euros) but I really wanted him to get to try this famous steak so I was totally fine with it :) I'm just glad we found a place!!!
Steak bigger than your head!
I had white pizza. And it ROCKED...the lighting is all funky though so you can't really see it. It had big chunks of all different types of cheeses. I also ate a good bit of Zach's potatoes. Italy is one of the world's largest producers of olive oil and oh my goodness it's SO GOOD. It makes all the food it's on delicious. I loved every kinda of potato we ordered :)
We were disappointed with the service of the restaurant. It worked out well that we could eat and even better that I could pump there comfortably, but our waitress was rude and straight up forgot to put in my pizza order. We had to wait forever! She did not get a tip. It was nice that it was an option here I would NEVER not tip. Waiters and waitresses aren't paid minimum wage so they need that money!!! Over there, they make more and places charge a service fee up front so there isn't that pressure to tip. I went across the street and looked in some shops while Zach paid the bill.

After dinner we looked at some little souvenir booths. Casey told us Florence was the best places to buy souvenirs. We seriously had NO LUCK anywhere with that. It's a country that makes a lot of money from tourism yet doesn't really take advantage of it as much as they could. Most of the big attractions didn't have gift shops at all and if they did they didn't sell much in them. Even street vendors weren't selling tons of things like they would over here. I mean if the Colosseum was in Atlanta you know they would have a blue screen set up before the entrance and would make you take a picture in front of it then make it look like you're fighting a battle as a gladiator or something and charge $20 for it. Then you'd leave and be forced into a HUGE gift shop where you could buy everything from towels, to t-shirts, to soap to food products with an image of the Colosseum on it. Italy needs some marketing help haha. It just wasn't like that there!!! While it was nice not to be bombarded with a bunch of touristy crap, I was a TOURIST and I wanted to buy some of said crap!!! I actually got frustrated by the whole situation. I promised Kye a prize and ended up getting him a Pinocchio. It was the only thing we could find. We also bought him and Britt both a t-shirt outside of the train station but that was it. I gave him my McDonald's toy as a prize and we ended up buying him some Italian chocolate at the air port. Poor Britt only had the t-shirt and she and Kye shared the Pinocchio book we bought on our first day in Florence. For us we found ONE ornament and it was at Pisa. We ended up buying a Pinocchio too b/c we can rig it up to hang on the tree and it had a little Italian flag on it. Other than that we bought the sunglasses and like 4 books (one on Michelangelo, the Colosseum, Florence and St Peters). Zach enjoys that kind of thing and they did come in handy for these blog posts. But that's IT. I mean 7 DAYS in Italy and that's all we bought! Kinda lame!!!

We had to wait a bit at the train station as our train was a little late. It made up for the time though! It was a SUPER SPEED train!!! The drive from Rome to Florence took 3 hours. This beast made it back to Rome in under 2. Pretty awesome :)

When we got on it was very much like airport seating except that you faced each other with a table between. Why don't they do that for airplanes? I would have napped but there was a group of 6 middle aged Americans practically YELLING they were talking so loud. People like them are the reason other countries assume we are all loud and rude. They were both. I can tell you their entire life story and all about one guys successes and failures in classical music bands. Super was so bad that Zach got out some ear plugs for both of us and we could STILL hear them. Beside hearing them, our view wasn't too great either. Two Korean girls were sitting beside me but across the aisle (Zach was across from me so he was kinda facing them) and they had some kinda of magical food book bag that just kept making more and more food appear. Zach said it all smelled horrible. While I can't smell, I can see and having to see them eat it was disgusting. They had this container FILLED with whole cherry tomatoes and were eating them whole. Like three or four at a time. And the juice was squirting out down their chins. I am scarred for life and will never look at a tomato the same again. I'm gagging writing this. They ate the entire container and an entire loaf of bread with some strange sauce they were dipping it in, and drank some thick milkshake yogurt looking stuff. And they were super messy about it and didn't wipe their mouths until the end. Gag gag gag, You can tell it was one of those things that was so gross I wanted to look away but for some reason I couldn't. I just kept on watching haha.
Our speed: 240 km/hr which is 150 miles per hour!!!
We got back super quick and felt pretty well rested! We headed back to the room, called the kids and finished watching Angels and Demons for our big tour the next morning!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Italy Day 6: Pisa! Pisa!

Day 6 officially marked the longest we'd ever been away from Kye (obviously Brittlynn as well). Aflac trips typically run 5 days, including travel time. Hawaii was 6. At this point on the trip I was ready to go home. Not that I wasn't enjoying myself, I was. But my heart hurt for my children. I was sick of pumping and wanting to nurse super super badly. We started to call them daily for a check-in on the day before. Typically we won't call much when we travel. I feel like it makes Kye misbehave because it reminds him that he misses us, ya know? But on this trip I needed to hear his voice. The time difference made it easy for us to call because we could call around 10ish at night and they were up from their naps. Perfect :) I loved hearing Kye's voice and even hearing Britt's baby noises made me happy.

When planning our trip one of the "must sees" was the Leaning Tower of Pisa.'s not that easy to go see and many people told me it wasn't worth the trip. I didn't care. We were in ITALY we were SEEING IT! I booked a train for Thursday to take us to Pisa early in the morning. We'd see the tower, have time to grab some lunch, then take a smaller train from Pisa to Florence. We didn't need to go back to Florence but it was on the way back to Rome so why not make another stop there and split up the trip? We'd have time there to re-see a few sites and grab some dinner before catching our evening train back to Rome.

At this point in the trip was when we didn't have hot water. It was miserable taking cold showers. I didn't pack a lot of warm clothes so I was wearing tons of layers to warm myself up. It wasn't the coldest shower of my life (I had one in Maine once that was MUCH colder!) but it sure wasn't pleasurable and I had some killer razor burn from shaving my legs in it :( boo! 

By this point we were also getting pretty sick of the daily breakfast selection ;)
This train was different than the one to Naples. It was more like an airplane with the seating...and it was practically empty so we had tons of space to stretch and be comfortable! I, of course, ended up falling asleep. So much so that I didn't really care when they announced we were having train issues and would be delayed by 2 hours. Our whole ride was 2 hour long and with the delay became a 4 hour train ride instead. Luckily we had books to read to keep us busy and some snacks and I enjoyed more napping ;) Zach had a GREAT attitude about it! He just kept saying how lucky we were that this day was the day of a train delay and not the Naples days as we had more time on this day than on those. We didn't feel stressed as we weren't really on any tight schedule or anything!
When we arrived at Pisa we had one mission: see The Leaning Tower. We checked out a map and followed the herd of people through the town. Of course the tower was at the opposite end of town from the train station haha.
It was a beautiful city!

Loved the easy-to-read signage!
We assumed this is the man the town was named for?

First glimpse!!!

The foundation for the tower began in 1173 by Guglielmo and Bonanno Pisano. It was completed in 1390 and is one of the best known Italian landmarks (it brings in 10,000 Euros in entrance fees DAILY). In 1185 the tower was already leaning when builders reached only the third level. This lean was due to a bad patch of shifting subsoil and it brought construction to a halt. A century passed by until 1275 when Giovanni di Simone took over the project. To correct the lean, his solution was to build a banana-like curce into the cylindrical structure that would help it reach a more vertical profile. The curve worked to some extent and you can still see it today. Unfortunately, the foundation kept sinking so the tower continued to lean!

In 1990 the tower's lean was about 15 ft off the vertical and the mayor of Pisa at the time ordered the tower closed to visitors indefinitely. Since then they have done a lot of different things to bring the lean back some and have succeeded in righting the tower a mere 2 feet closer to vertical. Even just that 2 feet difference allowed it to be safe for people to enter once again and the doors reopened in 2001.

When I was editing these pics I kept wanting to "straighten" them ;)

The lawn in front of the tower was covered with tourists, like us, who just wanted the famous "look I'm holding up the tower!" photo :) It's what we came for right??? We debated about going inside of it but honestly I'm SO THANKFUL we didn't climb anything on this trip. We did enough walking. And were satisfied with seeing it from where we were. No need to climb :) Don't these pics all look like we're standing in front of a blue screen?

Haha I was off on this one!
I wanted one more without all the random people in it :)
Our new trick when traveling: take lots of pics like this and complain loudly about it...
...then someone will volunteer to take one of us together :)

You can really see the lean!
The square around the tower was also very pretty
Another side of it
Beautiful church beside it. Don't you feel sorry for the other buildings in the town? No one cares about them!

You can kinda see the banana-like curve
Basically is was a 4 hour train ride, a 30 min walk and a 10 min reward. But it was worth it! It was SO cool to see in person. Afterwards we walked down and found a cute little outdoor restaurant (they are all cute and outdoors huh? I loved it! We were REALLY blessed with AMAZING weather...) that had free wifi and a decent bathroom. Worked out perfect...I pumped while Zach was able to check some emails on his Ipad :)
We didn't want to eat too much as we planned to eat a big dinner in Florence...
My second time having spinach and ricotta pasta but I loved it!
One of my favorite Italian desserts in the States is cannoli and I FINALLY saw some at this restaurant. Omg. It was BETTER than the ones at home. Zach even liked it!!! SOOO tasty. I wish I could eat it every day, no joke!
While enjoying our meal I saw a family sitting nearby with a tiny baby. I couldn't resist...I had to go see it. I've never been a big baby person. I LOVE my babies, but not really other peoples. I was missing Brittlynn (and Kye) SO MUCH that I HAD to see this baby. I really wanted to hold him like I've never wanted to hold a child before...but that would have been pretty awkward. He was only like 8 days old I think? What this family was doing in Pisa with an 8 day old baby I'll never understand. They def weren't Americans but they weren't Italian either. They sounded British maybe? The baby was ADORABLE and his mom was nursing him when I went to go pump myself. I felt like crying I was so jealous of her that she was nursing her baby. I wonder if she would have let me nurse him some? haha imagine that conversation. "hey can I nurse your baby?" Totally normal right? ;)

I know everyone's favorite part of my Italy posts have been bathroom pictures right? ;) I did want to show it though just for memories sake! I LOVED how most of the public restrooms had FULL coverage doors. No little cracks. I HATE it when, at the airport for example, I'm pumping and people can see me through those cracks in the doors. It's uncomfortable and awkward. This was nice and private!
I know the bathroom itself looks pretty gross but the toilet seat was kinda awesome. It had this feature where whenever you stood up it shot up and automatically sprayed a cleaning spray on it to clean it. I'd never seen anything like it before!
Again, a decent sink for cleaning everything after I finished pumping. It took me awhile to figure out that you turned the sinks on by a lever on the floor with your foot :)
After lunch we hit up some gelato while walking back to the train station. When I booked all of our tickets we booked a 1:00 train ride from Pisa to Florence. With the delay of our train into Pisa everything got pushed back but luckily the train from Florence to Pisa was similar to the one from Naples to Pompeii/Sorrento. It just ran constantly back and forth so we could catch it anytime, it arrived like every 10 or 15 min. It was nice not to rush and just enjoy ourselves!

More of Pisa

We walked up to the train station and, again, lucked out. There was another train leaving in a matter of minutes after we got there. We hopped on and were ready for Florence! We were actually nervous if it was the right train or not because it all seemed toooo easy. Thankfully the train conductor came and punched our tickets and said it was the right one. We had to keep a good eye out for our stop as they didn't announce them or anything and there are two stops in Florence. It was a little over an hour of a train ride but it was pretty to see more of the countryside and nice to be sitting down relaxing! It was FOR SURE the warmest day yet of our trip and one where we were doing a lot outside and walking a lot so the break was well enjoyed :)
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