A Weekend in Tuscany

27 Feb

Yes I realise how incredibly middle class this post sounds, but I promise there will be no mention of Chianti tasting, yachts, or anyone called Tarquin.

Before I tell you about my little adventure, you get to hear about how on Friday I finally managed to get to Rome after many weeks of false starts. Catching the early 6.50 Regionale Veloce with Tina, we got in by about 8.30 so we’d have enough time to see a few of the main sights, although Rome isn’t the kind of place you can see in just a day. We’re planning on returning to tour the Vatican and see all the other sights we missed out on, although we managed to cover Piazza San Pietro (but not the inside of the Basilica), via della Conciliazione, ponte Vittorio Emanuele, the Colosseum, as well as many cathedrals and piazze. I also got to experience the underground system which doesn’t really compete with London as it doesn’t actually stop at many of the places you want to be near. Sort it out Rome.

Basilica San Pietro

Basilica San Pietro

What I really liked about Rome is how much more open and spacious it feels than many other capital cities. Most buildings don’t go above about 5 floors, and the main roads are fairly wide so you don’t have that claustrophobic overcrowded tourist feel that you can get in some places in London. The fact that we went on a Friday instead of the weekend also helped as there were relatively few people around.

Me on a ponte

Me on a ponte

Fascist architecture

Fascist architecture

La Colonna Traiana

La Colonna Traiana


Il Colosseo

The next day I had to get up obscenely early to catch the 5.41 train from Spoleto to get to Lucca, via Florence. If I’m conscious that early on a Saturday I prefer to be ‘still awake’ rather than ‘already awake’, and to be having a far better time than shivering on an empty platform. The journey to Florence took about 2 1/2 hours, and I managed to get some sleep despite the fact that every time I looked up the 2 nuns opposite were still staring at me. I hear they can smell atheism.

When I got to Florence, I found that my connecting train was delayed by a few minutes, so I headed to the station’s bar (in Italy a bar is a café during the daytime) to find some food. The system was a bit confusing because people seemed to be turning up at the pastry section with prepaid receipts and claiming their food but I had NO IDEA where they were getting them from. I tried loitering for a while to work it out, but being English my default setting is awkward and embarrassed so in the end I gave up and went to check on my train time. By this point it was delayed by 50 minutes and I was getting pretty hungry, so I womaned-up and decided to just go to a random till and ask. It turns out you go have a look, pick what you want, go back to a till, pay, go to one area to get your coffee, then go to another to get your pastry/panino. But of course.

By the time I finished eating, my train had been cancelled entirely, but thankfully a lovely station guard took me personally to the help desk to sign off my ticket so I could go to Lucca changing at Pisa for no extra charge. I got in touch with Jo and we decided we might as well have our Pisa day trip then, despite the horrific weather (sideways rain and wind). I’m not proud of it, but I got the standard tourist leaning tower shot, now I can die marginally happier.

Oh the shame

Oh the shame


Around mid-afternoon we decided enough was enough, Jo had broken another umbrella, we’d rather go back to Lucca and sit somewhere where the insides of my boots wouldn’t get wet (what do I do to shoes to cause this?? I’ve only had these ones 2 months!) That night we had an early one, mainly for my benefit because I start to go a bit funny if I’m awake for more than 18 hours, then awoke fresh as daisies to see a free mini classical performance the next morning. Got to get my RDA of culture in somehow.



View from the walls

View from the walls

Jo's street

Jo’s street

Lunch was pizza (giant calzone) followed by a bit of exploring while the weather was still good, which didn’t last long. In the afternoon it brightened up a bit so we walked round the famous city walls which were lovely in the sunshine, and I imagine even nicer during summer. I’ve made a mental note to go back to Lucca on holiday sometime. On Sunday evening dinner was unlimited free food when we bought drinks at a great bar (the alcoholic kind this time) just outside the city walls. I didn’t have to head back until Monday as I had a couple of days off work for the elections, which I’m not going to comment on because politics here are ridiculous.

Sights of the day: Bumper I’ve-neglected-this-section Edition

By my apartment there is a riverbed which is completely dried-up most of the time, and where I happened to spy a cow and a donkey hanging out. I have no idea how they got down there, as from the walled sides it’s probably about a 5 foot drop down, and it took me a good 10 minutes of walking around to find a spot where the wall was low enough by the roadside for me to climb up to be able to talk to them in the first place (small girl problems). I’m not sure if I was witnessing an Italian farmyard version of Homeward Bound, but I wish them both the best of luck in their endeavours.

Cow Donkey

I don’t know whether these vehicles serve a specific purpose but I often see old men riding round town in them. They look about as safe and just a bit faster than if you decided to get around by running down the middle of roads in busy traffic.


I bet you’ve all been missing the obligatory shots of European bathrooms! Well fear not, they’re back. This weird one was found in a (café) bar in Pisa…I think it’s supposed to be like a makeshift bidet. Why would anyone ever feel the compulsion to use one of these in a public toilet??


Aaron I hope you’re reading this as it’s mainly for you and your love (obsession?) for Koalas. It took Jo and I moment to realise this sign meant ‘come’ in the Italian sense (like) as opposed to the English meaning. I still don’t think it’s a very catchy to name a café “Vegan like a Koala”, especially one in the middle of Pisa, but there you go.


For those who didn’t already know, Italians are a bit OCD. Their level of everyday clean is my version of weekly (at most) clean, and most students’ version of ‘shit we’re moving out tomorrow and we want our deposit back’ clean. This means that when you go to the fruit&veg section at the supermarket, you have to put on one of these fetching plastic bag glove things. It has fingers outlined on it so you know where to put your hand.


Other exciting discoveries at the exciting newly-refurbished supermarket nearby include these snazzy trolleys which don’t have that much capacity…


…and the fact that hypodermic syringes are freely available in the plasters section. When I asked Tina why you would need them, she suggested they are for things like if you have a backache. Now I’m all for self-medication for minor ailments, but if I ever have a backache bad enough that I think I need an injection, I’d probably head to the doctor’s rather than the toiletries aisle. That’s just me though.



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