Florence and Pisa – a two-city-trip in Tuscany

When we were thinking about a city trip with friends in April we evaluated a lot of different things such as hiking, city trips or small round trips, but in the end we decided for combining the Italian cities of Florence and Pisa into a one-week city trip. The two cities in Tuscany are known worldwide for their sights, culture and the surrounding landscape. But read what we experienced:

We took flights on Alitalia through Rome to Florence Airport and chose the B&B Hotel Firenze Nuovo Palazzo Di Guistizia (Tripadvisor) as it had a good location, not far from the airport, only 15 minutes by bus to the city center and a good value. We can definitely recommend this hotel as a good place to stay at a fair price.

As it was not far from the airport we were able to walk here by foot. It was not as easy as we expected, unfortunately airports are not meant to be reached by walking, but after crossing and walking along a main road with a lot of traffic it was possible to walk through parallel and calmer streets.

After checking in and taking a shower it was already late afternoon, so we decided to go to the city center to have dinner. The bus station was just a few meters away from the hotel, but the main problems were the tickets. There are no vending machines at the stations and there are no tickets available on many busses so there was no chance for us than not paying for the first trip. We would’ve loved to pay for the tickets but the bus driver was not selling any. Later on in the city center we were able to buy some so that this wasn’t a problem anymore. After walking a few meters through the old town of Florence we found the restaurant “Le Cappelle Medicee” (Tripadvisor) right next to the Chiesa di San Lorenzo. We had some good pizza and pasta here at a fair price.

Afterwards we found a supermarket where we got some drinks and snacks, passed the famous dome of Florence and returned to the hotel to end the day as we knew we had two days of sightseeing in this city ahead.

After a great breakfast again we took the bus to the city center the next day, this time with tickets. We walked from the main station to the cathedral of Florence, a huge and impressive building which is a landmark for Gothic architecture. It thrones over the city which its huge dome and the front is elaborately decorated with a lot of figures and ornaments. We also went inside where you have a great view onto the painting of the dome’s ceiling and get impressed by the size of this building again. The only thing we didn’t do was going up into the dome as the line was really long outside and we weren’t willing to wait for two or three hours. Anyways on a calm day when there is no long line, or with a Firenze Card with which you can skip the line it is definitely recommendable to walk up there as you have a great view onto the city.

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We left the cathedral again and headed south for the Piazza della Signoria. Already impressed by the cathedral the Palazzo Vecchio was looking a little small but anyways it is an interesting place. The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence and looks a little like a small castle. A tall clock tower and crenellations make it look powerful and strong. We entered it to see the patio but didn’t visit the museum inside except for the small part of old paintings and maps of Florence which are exhibited in a small part for free.

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Right next to it we found the Loggia dei Lanzi, an open arch building with historical sculptures exhibited. There is no entrance fee here so we took a look at them before walking on to the Arno River.

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Our way to the Arno lead us directly along the Galleria degli Ufizi which is in direct neighborhood to the Piazza della Signoria. The building has been an administrative building during the Medici Era after it was built in 1581 (the Medici have been a very powerful Italian family which was a political and royal dynasty and also bankers). Today it is home to one of the most famous art museums of the world, it was the No. 25 of the most visited art museums in the last year and the most visited one in Italy. We passed it and walked across the Piazzale degli Uffizi and arrived at the Arno River.

Already visible from here was the Ponte Vecchio, Florence most famous bridge. The bridge has been built in the Middle Ages and the shops on the bridge have been butcher shops at that time. Today the stores are occupied by jewelers and souvenir shops. Luckily during world war two it wasn’t damaged too bad, so that it is still in the same shape it originally was.

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We walked over the bridge with a little window shopping at the unfortunately quite expensive jewelers and decided to have lunch afterwards. We chose the nearby Pizzeria Le Delizie which wasn’t outstanding but did a good job for a quick lunch (Tripadvisor).

After lunch we arrived at the Palazzo Pitti. It is a huge palace with an attached garden and the Palazzina della Meridiana which is today the Costume Gallery. We bought tickets to enter the palace, there are different packages you can choose from, we chose to see the insight of the palace, the Silver Museum, the Gardens and the Costume Gallery which was 20€ per person.

The premises of the palace are impressive. The walls and the ceilings are painted and decorated with extremely detailed renaissance paintings, the rooms are huge and the furnishing is really tasteful in combination with that.

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Roaming through these rooms gives you an impression of the life style of the past rulers of Florence, their wealth and the luxury of their life in comparison to what normal people lived like these days. If you haven’t seen it with your own eyes and didn’t feel the atmosphere of this location you might have no idea of this.

The gardens of the Pallazo Pitti are also great. They invite to sit down, relax in the sun and have a lot of shade giving trees. If you walk up to the Casino del Cavaliere you even have a great view onto the landscape of Tuscany and some of its estates.

While walking through the park we also visited the Costume Gallery where past and modern clothing of rulers, officials and employees are exhibited. Quite interesting and again in a great atmosphere due to the rooms and the design of them. Every room has had its own use in the past and there is information on that found while walking through the building.

After spending more than two hours in the palace (you can also spend more time here if you decide to visit the Museum of Modern Art, too), we decided to return back to the hotel to have some break. We had lunch at the nearby Bar Carpe Diem! which we really liked (Tripadvisor) and ended the day with a beer in the hotel lobby before going to sleep after this day with tons of sightseeing.

After breakfast and buying an UNO card game for the coming days in hotels the next day we started with taking the bus to the Fortezza da Basso. Originally we wanted to check if it was possible to see the inside of it, but it unfortunately isn’t. So we took a walk around this big fortress which was made to defend the city from attacks and is home to concert and event halls and a restorer today.

As it wasn’t possible to go inside the fortress we decided to walk over to the central market of Florence. The ground floor of it is home to a traditional market with many merchants for fruits, vegetables, meat and Italian specialties. It reminded us of other similar markets we saw during our travels yet and was a crowded local market.

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The first floor was something special. It is home to a variety of restaurants, bars and small food shops with products from the region, like an all modern local food court. We thought it was great to have that combination of a market where fresh food is offered and also a place where you can taste those local specialties. We really liked it, unfortunately we weren’t hungry at that time so we had a coffee and left again, but kept this place in mind to return later.

We walked over to the cathedral again, but the line to get to the dome was really long, so we again decided not to go up there. We over to the riverside again and went to the other side as we decided to walk up to the cemetery Cimitero delle Porte Sante where a lot of important persons from Florence are buried and beside that you have a great view onto the city.

On the way there we stopped by at the Gelateria Vivaldi, a small café where we had great ice cream and a lunch snack at a fair price. They are serving homemade ice cream, coffee and lunch meals  daily, we really liked it and it is definitely recommendable to go here for a short break (Tripadvisor).

After this we walked on up to the cemetery, passed the Piazzale Michelangelo (which actually seems to be a huge parking lot) from where you have a great view onto the city.

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The Cimitero delle Porte Sante was quite impressive actually. It was huge, there we a lot of graves with small to large mausoleums and also really old grave from more than 100 years ago. It is quite interesting to walk through the graves, see pictures, names and dates of the people buried here, some younger, some older, many during the times of world wars in Europe and some of the grave have had really lavish decoration on them.

We took our time to quietly walk through the cemetery for some time and walked back down the hill afterwards.

As we were hungry now and already had plenty of pizza and pasta before (and guessed that it would be a lot more of that during our stay here) we decided to visit the local Hard Rock Café for some burgers. We weren’t let down, it wasn’t cheap (as always at Hard Rock Cafés) but we had a good lunch. We returned to the hotel for a break afterwards but we actually didn’t do much more this day, we only returned to the city center to get some snacks and drinks from the supermarket and relaxed for the rest of the day, not without playing some UNO for sure.

The next day was the day to go over to Pisa. We had breakfast and packed our staff and had plenty of time to walk over to Firenze Rifredi train station from where we took a regional train to Pisa. The ride took only about 50 minutes and was quite cheap (8,40€ per way and person). It’s the fastest, easiest and cheapest way to travel between the two cities.

After arrival at Pisa Centrale we took a taxi to our hotel for the next three nights, the Hotel di Stefano, a family run hotel near the main sights of the city with a good value and a decent rooftop terrace (Tripadvisor). We brought our luggage to the room, took a short shower and went over to the most famous sights of Pisa, the leaning tower and the cathedral. The tower is not as impressive as the cathedral, which is quite huge but it’s an interesting sight to see it leaning anyways. Funny are all the people trying to take those typical tourist pictures where they look like the hold the tower from falling. We walked around the spacious place, took some pictures and navigated through many many groups of tourists, even if it wasn’t high season yet.

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We had surprisingly fair priced lunch right in the Via Roma, just a few meters away from the tower and went back to the hotel to chill out on the roof terrace a little. On the way back we had some good ice cream at Orso Bianco (Tripadvisor) and tried to find a shop to buy sun blocker but it was unfortunately quite hard to find so we had to buy a quite expensive one at a nearby store for organic cosmetics. So better don’t forget sun blocker when travelling to Italy 😉

After some rounds of UNO and a few beers we decided to walk down the pedestrian zone where you can find a lot of local boutiques and international clothing retailers. We took a stroll from shop to shop until we reached the small Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II were a small market with food from different European regions was set up and we had a snack with great Italian bread, sausage and cheese. I don’t know if this market was a permanent establishment or just for some special occasion, but you should definitely look for it as there was a lot to taste!

We went back to the hotel and had dinner at Subway before we had some drinks at the Pizzeria Trattoria La Buca (Tripadvisor) which actually wasn’t a great place to go to, it took really long to get drinks and there was a high service charge added to every check.

As there isn’t as much to see in Pisa like in Florence we decided to go to the seaside in Marina di Pisa the next day.

It is quite easy to get there even without a car as a bus from Pisa Autostazione (not far from Pisa Centrale) goes there, it only takes about half an hour and the return trip is less than 10€ per person (you can buy the tickets at the station and pay cash or with credit card).

Unfortunately they raised an embankment with a lot of stones on the beach side, but we walked down the promenade and took a walk through the Parco di Migliarino, a forest that stretches along the city and is a really quiet recreational area. Interesting are the many art nouveau buildings and villas in the city which are in a quite good shape.

We decided to have lunch at a really good local seafood restaurant, the Batti Batti Blu (Tripadvisor) where we had different kinds of fish and desserts which were delicious and also made with passion in a family run restaurant. As the staff wasn’t quite good with the English language we had the luck that the cook himself presented the Italian menu to us and told us something about their dishes and specialties. In the end we paid about 20€ per person and had a great meal with a main dish, desserts and drinks, great quality at a fair price.

We went on to the beach were we chilled out for some time, watched the waves coming in and threw some stones into the water before we had some homemade ice cream at the Gelateria dal Capitano (Tripadvisor) right at the promenade street.

We took the next bus back to Pisa and let the day fade away on the rooftop terrace with some drinks and snacks from the supermarket.

On the followings day we checked out of the hotel after breakfast and visited the small Botanical Garden of Pisa for some relaxation before we took the train back to Florence.

We stayed at the sister hotel of the first hotel we stayed here this time, the B&B Hotel Firenze Novoli which had almost the same room and lobby interior so we had a good stay here with a great value and good breakfast (Tripadvisor).

As we already planned earlier we went to the central market to have some food at their first floor food court and it was great. We all had something different (pizza, spare ribs and a vegan burger) and really loved the food and atmosphere here, a good value. We also bought some limoncello (lemon liquor) and Italian wine here before we ended the day as we traveled back home the next day.

Our journey back home was easy and fast on Alitalia via Rome again. We had a great and interesting trip to those two cities in Tuscany which will definitely stay in our minds for a long time. The two cities are both different but have a lot to offer, we only met friendly and helpful people here and had great food. If you love Italian food and culture there is lot to discover here.

Now some information for if you like to go there, too:

How to get to Pisa and Florence?

Both cities have a small airport, we chose to travel to Florence because of the price, even if it is the smaller airport. You can fly to Florence (FLR) and Pisa (PSA) on Alitalia and their partners through Rome from many places all over the world. Different European airlines such as Lufthansa (through Frankfurt or Munich), KLM (through Amsterdam) or British Airways (through London) offer flights to the two airports as well as low-cost-carriers such as Germanwings, Ryanair, Vueling and EasyJet. The only intercontinental connection starts this August and is operated by Qatar Airways between Pisa and Doha.

You can also reach both cities easily by coach, train or car from all over Europe.

Where to stay?

 Both cities offer a great variety of hotels and accommodations, it is recommendable to use a metasearcher such as www.discavo.de, www.trivago.com or www.kayak.com to find rooms with a good value.

Thank you for reading, we hope we were able to give you some interesting insight into our trip 🙂 As always, you can contact us by commenting below or just dropping an e-mail to thealterlookout@freenet.de in case you have any questions or suggestions. Also don’t forget to follow our Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/thealterlookout ) and Instagram (http://www.instagram.com/thealterlookout ) to be always up to date about our blog posts and to see some pictures even while we are travelling.

Hendrik & Jardena

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