Days 4-6: Into Tuscany

Our days in Rome are now just a memory, as we took the train out of Roma Termini station yesterday and spent last night and the beginning of today in Pisa, Tuscany (UPDATE: that was two days ago now, that we left Rome, as it is now tomorrow. The second Rome video is live on YouTube!) I’m writing this sitting at an antique table in a Florentine apartment that is unlike any place I have ever stayed in my life. Our time in Porto, Portugal last October was somewhat similar, but the high ceilings, tiled floors, and (I’m not sure what you call them, but for lack of the term) Florentine shutters of our new abode have redefined our concept of what a European apartment can be.

Florence, by the way, is uncommonly gorgeous. It isn’t any wonder why the Renaissance began here, along with pretty much the entirety of modern European history. We just spent the evening whipping around the hills overlooking the city on a flashy Vespa scooter, complete with a GPS display, which I thought would be ideal for the occasion of being here in Tuscany. Even with that handicap, making sure not to turn onto a one way street or into an area pedonale (pedestrian only zone) is a challenge when in the heart of town. The GPS came preloaded, however, with some tours to take us way away from the lively and atmospheric core of the city onto some roads that seemed to be from a different era altogether and whose narrowness necessitated signs indicating the maximum width of vehicle that could traverse them (a first for me). There was nary another motorist–nor even a soul to be found, until we were making our descent back into town and came upon a pair of cats who had probably just embarked on their evening adventures in what must be the ideal feline playground, what with its silent , winding streets sandwiched by medieval walls forming perfect parapets for stalking along whilst savoring views over Florence–on most of these serpentine showstoppers, which transported us to another world whilst only taking us a mere handful of kilometers away from the city center.

This all came on the heels of a visit to Pisa, which we only really planned as a stopover town between Rome and Florence, but in less than 24 hours it had made a significant play for my undying affection. True, the Tourre Pendente (Leaning Tower of Pisa) is a silly sole reason to visit (though it’s certainly a magnificent structure and the square where it sits, the Piazza del Duomo, is charming in spite of the throngs of tourists), but I could see returning to the city just to walk the streets of its old town and marvel again at how picturesque each one is. We walked this area both at night and in the morning and both times it filled me with vigor. Something about the energy stimulated me in a way that somehow even Rome didn’t. It’s hard to put a finger on. The youthful energy (the University of Pisa’s influence on the atmosphere looms large) was perhaps contagious, or maybe it was the ease of wandering aimlessly while taking in sights rare to see when seeking them out, or possibly the rustic little residential roads that we often had all to ourselves to take in with wonder. At night, students and revelers spilled out into the squares enjoying the same energy that fueled me on the late night portion of our brief Pisa wanderings. We visited a brew pub that seemed to be one of the hubs of the Pisa nightlife, Orzo Bruno. I tried their Belgian ale, called Yeti, poured by a jocular lad, and could understand why the place draws a crowd. The strong brew proved an excellent pairing with the walk home along the Arno, the river that splits the town. We slept well and woke to a gloriously sunny morning outside our bed and breakfast room windows. I captured quite a bit of footage of our ensuing walk through town this morning (which we capped with our first pasta lunch in Italy) which I plan to compile for a future video post.

While the initial days here in Tuscany have me wondering whether this is the part of Italy I will most want to revisit again (with the notable exception of some American bro who loudly asked his companions in the pizza place we visited, the delicious Gusta Pizza, why they were so aggressively anti-Trump–I won’t even get into everything wrong with this guy’s whole existence, let alone the people who were willing to go for pizza with him), Rome did give us a fond farewell before we had to catch our train out. Our first scooter rental wasn’t like the top notch Vespa we got set up with today a few blocks from our apartment; we picked it up near the Vatican (after our obligatory visit to the Museums) and it was one of decidedly lower quality rented to us by an obese, lazy (this guy asked me to copy my own driving license while succeeding in not moving from his stool throughout the course of our rental transaction) Sri Lankan man with Yoda-esque hairs coming out of his ears who told us, “Florence? There’s nothing to see in Florence.” He was wrong, obviously, but he was a friendly enough man who rented us a serviceable, if a bit worse for wear, scooter, that allowed us to experience Rome as many of the Romans do. Regardless of the make of the scooter (or the bells and whistles that come with it), Shino and I always seem to experience an elevated sense of joie de vivre when we ride one through (and around) a city–we are certainly looking forward to exploring the Tuscan countryside on our Vespa tomorrow. (And our visits to Lisbon and Porto last October wouldn’t have been the same without our scenic two-wheeled adventures.)

I know we only just scratched the surface (if that–perhaps “kissed the surface” would be more accurate) of Rome. And we will only really have the opportunity to do about that here in Tuscany, but Italy has taken us in with comforting arms thus far. Surely, we have more than ample reason to come back already. The bed down the hall is calling me. I cannot wait to sleep in this place!

Our arrivederci to Rome, soundtracked by “Hear Me Now,” by Alok e Bruno Martini, the song that has followed us everywhere we go in Italy thus far:

Until next time.

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