20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 11: Florence & Pisa, Italy

October 23, 2017
20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 11: Tuscan Tales in Florence & Pisa, Italy

A city a day keeps the wanderlust at bay...


By the 16th day of my 20 Days in 20 Cities and 6 Countries road trip I had already lapped up the imperial splendour of Vienna, been pleasantly surprised by the laid-back charm of Slovenia (Ljubljana, Maribor, and Bled), was profoundly moved by the tragic history of Bosnia-Herzegovina (Mostar and Sarajevo), had sampled some of Croatia's most compelling towns and cities (ZagrebPlitviceTrogir, Split, and Dubrovnik), revisited Kotor, Montenegro, as well as had a nosy in a few other small towns along the way. Needless to say I was knackered from having to pack up almost every morning, drive to a new city and and cross country borders almost every day, then hurriedly unpack in a hotel I knew I wasn't going to see much off because I wanted to squeeze in as much sightseeing as I could before leaving the following day (or the day after, it was lucky); rinse, repeat. 😵 After my 2+ weeks binge of all things cultural and historical my little mind was beginning to short-circuit, so I promised myself to take it easy on the Italian leg of my journey. 😚

To keep things tidy, I thought I'd group Florence (Days 17 & 18) and my short jaunt in Pisa (Day 20) into one post. These are my Tuscan Tales... 

I am still traumatised by my journey from Dubrovnik to Florence. 😱 Astonishingly, there were no direct flights that day so I was forced to fly 4 hours to Barcelona and then turn around to fly 2 hours to Florence. Honestly, as I flew over Florence I fantasised about grabbing a parachute and leaping out of the plane. I would've been seriously tempted to do so if I had known what an absolute nightmare Barcelona airport was that day. Having to clear passport control to transit from one EU country to another and have only one Immigration Officer on duty to process hundreds of passengers (half of which apparently missed their connecting flight)...ridiculous🙄

Having the wind knocked out off my sails from that frightful trip, by the time I finally reached Florence I could just about summon the strength to take a photo of the view from my apartment's roof terrace before collapsing in my bed. I didn't even mind going to bed hungry because I would rise early next morning to get my fill of all things fashion...



What did I say about forgoing food for fashion? It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make (some would say "nothing feels tastes as good as skinny feels" especially where high fashion is concerned) for The Mall. It's the destination for designer threads at outlets prices, with heaps of high fashion brands from Italian classics such as Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Prada, and Aquazzura to other international brands like Burberry, Alexander McQueen, and more. Think Bicester Village, but spread across acres in the Tuscan countryside. I forgo-ed (forwent?) the regular buses from the city centre and hired my own wheels to take me the hour-long journey to Leccio Reggello, which made for a far more comfortable journey. 

For the sheer size, scale, and selection of The Mall it's easy to spend an entire day there. The best place for lunch, tea, coffee and cakes etc. would be the Gucci Caffe on the top floor of the Gucci store. Although the minimalist, contemporary space is more like a cafeteria, the Gucci Caffe does have a good selection of tasty pastries,  coffees, and puddings. All of which are best enjoyed on the outdoor terrace with a sprawling panorama of the Tuscan countryside.



My thirst for a new purse now satiated, I left Florence the following morning and drove onward to Cinque Terre - where a hilarious (in hindsight) catastrophe happened - then to Portofino. But Cinque Terre and Portofino deserve separate entries of their own, so let's fast forward to the last day of my trip...

20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 11: Tuscan Tales in Florence & Pisa, Italy

...where I made a pit stop in Pisa to visit its most famous monuments.

20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 11: Tuscan Tales in Florence & Pisa, Italy

20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 11: Tuscan Tales in Florence & Pisa, Italy

"So let me set this straight - it's the leaning tower of Pisa, not pizza?"


If one is ever feeling particularly unfortunate, inept, or just plain "Go home ____, you're drunk", take comfort in the series of mishaps and seriously "me_irl" events that led to the infamous tilt of the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa. First things first, this medieval structure was never meant to look like a wedding cake knocked over by a tipsy guest - it was intended to simply be the campanile (freestanding bell tower) of the cathedral of Pisa. A delightful cocktail of poor planning, lackadaisical attitudes, and a meddling dictator contributed to the tower's signature tilt. A shallow foundation made worse by the soft ground of Pisa - composed of sand, clay, and deposits from the Tuscan rivers - made it clear from the get-go that the tower wasn't going to stay upright, but builders kept going until progress was halted by military conflict until 1272, before being postponed again by war until the early 14th century. 

Then in 1934 a chap called Mussolini thought that straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa would Make Italy Great Again...so he had hundreds of holes drilled into the foundation and pumped with tons of grout to stabilise it. True to the nature of most fascist regimes, the plan literally sunk - the heavy cement caused the base of the tower to sink deeper into the soil, resulting in an even more severe lean. For now, the Leaning Tower of Pisa has been somewhat straightened to a respectable 4 degree lean (displaced "just" 12 ft 10 in from the centre) but the tower is predicted to remain stable only for the next 200 years - by the early 23rd century the ground will start to give way and things are going to get shifty again. 🤣

20 Days, 20 Cities, 6 Countries - Part 11: Tuscan Tales in Florence & Pisa, Italy
Having spent nearly 3 weeks on the open road, by the end of this trip I was as wobbly as the landmark of my final destination, Pisa. But the travel diary of my 20 Days in 20 Cities and 6 Countries road trip is not over yet - still to come are my day trips in Cinque Terre and Portofino. 

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