We got everyone up early and were out of the apartment by 8:40 to walk to the car rental office about 20 minutes by foot. We arrived to a rather long line, but within 45 minutes we were in our cute little car and driving. We were told to take the local road, the 222, so I turned on my GPS from the iPad and started following the directions. WRONG! The directions were taking us on the toll road. I kept going until we got to the entrance of the toll booths and decided to turn around (quite illegally) and head back toward Florence to find the 222. After stopping to ask a kind Italian woman in a gas station we found our road and were off to San Gimignano, a city built on the top of a hill in Tuscany.
We arrived right before lunch as it took us well over an hour to find our way. We walked around for a bit and then found a quiet restaurant on a back street. The reviews on YELP! were good so we went in. They served us some bread, which was nothing special at all, and we were a bit concerned that we would be disappointed. Noah ordered his usual Margherita pizza, Drew ordered some spaghetti, Ilise pasta with mushrooms and I ordered gnocchi. The food finally arrived and it was delicious! The cook outdid himself and the service was very nice. We left the restaurant feeling full and very pleased. Everyone says you can’t get a bad meal in Italy, and so far our experience has been the same.
We walked around this amazing little Medieval town that was started about 2,000 years ago. The streets were cobble stoned with no cars inside the town walls. The store fronts were all relatively modern, but the views from the outer ring of the city were spectacular. We just kept taking picture after picture. Even Drew and Noah thought the place was amazing, and for Noah to say that it must be pretty special. We walked around the town, stopped in a few shops and then decided to head to Pisa to see the leaning tower with our own eyes. The drive through the countryside from San Gimignano was just spectacular. Rolling hills with vineyards strewn as far as the eye can see. We drove for well over an hour and found ourselves at our destination, Pisa.
We were told not to spend more than a few minutes taking some pictures and leaving. That is pretty much what we did. We saw the amazing structure, which I can’t imagine wasn’t done on purpose. There is no way that anyone in their right mind would not notice that the foundation of that structure wasn’t level from day one. It looks like the creation of someone on drugs just messing with people. It does turn a working class factory town into a tourist village, so maybe they did something right, otherwise there would be no reason to visit Pisa. As we were leaving I was trying to get the GPS on my phone or iPad to start working so we could find our way home, but for some reason nothing was connecting.
We had 3 or even 4 bars on the phone with LTE and still nothing. We started driving hoping we were headed in the right direction. One sign for Firenze and we thought we were on our way, but that was the last sign and after two or three roundabouts with multiple options for which way to go and no sign on how to get to Florence, we stopped to ask directions. That didn’t help much until we found an old man who told us to go 2 – 3 km down the road then take a right and keep going. We ended up climbing over and through a mountain and found ourselves at the Autostrade, the highway to Florence. We wanted to take back roads, but it was already 6 pm and we were told the toll road would take an hour, so we took the toll road. The only challenge was that our GPS still wasn’t registering, and in the end it never did.
We arrived in Florence with no idea where we were. We stopped and asked for directions from multiple people and finally we understood where we were. We were nowhere near where we thought we would be and I started to find my way through Florence and back to our rental car office. It took us a good hour to weave our way through town and finally crossed the Arno River just at sunset. I keep saying that everything happens for a reason, and this must have been the reason we were delayed. The sunset over the bridge on the river was just awe inspiring. Drew couldn’t wait to take her camera out, and neither could I. We stopped on the bridge to take some pictures and finally dropped off the car at the parking garage we were told to go to if we got back after 7 pm.
After dropping the car we went back to the river to take more pictures and go for dinner, which we again decided on gelato. We have been making a practice of replacing one meal a day with this tasty treat, which we are all enjoying. Noah and Drew keep to the same flavors, mango, strawberry and banana, while Ilise and I have been changing it up a bit each day. In the end, it was a great end to a wonderful day in the countryside. Tomorrow we need to find a way to score some tickets for the Uffizi Museum and spend a day getting some culture.
To a life well lived!