Friday, June 20, 2008

Mike and Vanessa Tour Pisa

I was greeted by a BEAUTIFUL Thursday morning in Florence as the three of us started the last day of touring Tuscany together.

According to my Garmin GPS, my hotel was located only a short 2.1 miles drive away from their hotel. Their hotel was in a GREAT location, only 3 blocks away from the Ponte Vecchio on the same street as the "road" over the Ponte Vecchio.

Again, it may be the additional tourists renting cars, it may be more public transportation to accommodate the high season, it may be that the people of Florence get out more during summer, it may be the full moon we had the night before, it may be...

Whatever the reason, Florence, the city that my bride Laurie and I maneuvered around so easily last March, is now officially crazy for drivers! It took me 1 hour and 5 minutes to get to their hotel! It had nothing to do with the drivers, although the scooters were as obnoxious as ever, it was all about the high volume of cars and trucks vs. an infrastructure system that is woefully out of date.

The flip side is that Florence is still too darn gorgeous a city to miss under any negative circumstances!

The next leg of the kid's journey called for them to take the train at about noon from Florence to Pisa in order to catch yet another train to La Spezia, "The Gateway to the Cinqueterre". They are staying in the same hotel in Corniglia, the middle town of the Cinqueterre, where I stayed.

Instead of the train ride to Pisa, I volunteered to drive them so that we could both spend some more time together and they could then see more of the countryside and Pisa's famous Field of Miracles. By train, the Field of Miracles would have been a nightmare due to their luggage. 

The happy couple at The Field of Miracles

In the background from left to right, the Baptistry, the Duomo and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

This red wine was indeed miraculous so we felt it should play a part in our Field of Miracles experience!

A great picnic on the back steps of the Baptistry.

A toast to us!
Is that a ring on Vanessa's finger?


Our picnic entertainment was supplied by these two Italian kids rolling around on the Baptistry's grass area.

Around the Baptistry you will find the only grassy area where people are allowed to walk, sit and eat (NO FRISBEE!!!).

Around the Cathedral, no one is allowed on the grass and signs are clearly posted to that effect in Italian and English only. Many of the tourists who gathered here could either not understand either of these two languages or just ignored the warning signs all together as they stepped over the two foot high chain that acted as a barrier. It was funny to watch two local policemen blowing their whistles and shooing these transgressors in their attempt crackdown on this major crime scene. Fortunately, the people got off the grass after only one or two whistle blasts or the scene could have gotten ugly fast!


We did spill a drop of wine on this step that may now become a footnote to the Baptistry's history.

The inside of the Baptistry was ornate, imagine that!

Please tell me that is not yet ANOTHER gelato!

After saying our goodbyes at the Pisa Centrale Train Station, I decided to take the scenic route on the back roads of Tuscany on my way back to the airport in Florence.

Views like this are everywhere in the Tuscany region.

The town of San Gimignano in the distance.

I was REALLY in Tuscany!

San Gimignano

This is a very interesting town and unfortunately, I was pressed for time to get to the airport so I didn't get enough time to really explore the city but from what I saw, I plan to come back in July during my stay for Siena's Palio horse race.

I wonder if Laurie would like to stay at this Tuscan B&B?

Dinner with Coach Matteo

One of the great people it has been my good fortune to meet in Sicily is Matteo Belfiore.

Matteo took the three of us out to dinner after my long day of driving and flying to the Officina Gastronomica which translates into "The Garage to Repair Your Stomach"! It features great architecture, a very relaxing atmosphere and delicious food!

It is owned by Tiziana Persano's parents. Tiziana, you may recall from earlier posts, is the wife of our WR/Punter Salvo Persano. 

It was great to hear Matteo talk about his entry into American football, the early history of the Elephants and how he for the past 3 years has been translating English language articles on American football into Italian for a football website to help others learn more about the game.

The original Burt Reynold's movie "The Longest Yard" got him going on American football but his favorite American football movie is "Remember the Titans".

We had a wonderful evening, THANK YOU COACH MATTEO!

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