Today is a day trip to Pisa primary to see the leaning tower, and yes climb the 251 steps to the top. We had an 8:30 train, so it made for an early rise. We had enough time for a quick bite of the breakfast and some coffee. We walked to the train station since we did not have any luggage, it was about 15-minute walk, and the humidity was beginning to build.
Florence has been the warmest and most humid of all the places we have been so far on this trip. With all of the walking and climbing you are basically constantly wet, but that is the price of a vacation. Overall, we have been very lucky weather wise, and the only days it has really rained was the morning of Verona and part of a morning in Venice. The rest of the time it is either been sunny or partly cloudy.
The trip to Pisa was on a regional train, so the seats, while much more comfortable than NJ transit, were not as lush as the high-speed trains. It was about an hour trip from Florence to Pisa, Christina and Jerry nodded off, I looked at
the hills as they passed by, I did close my eyes now and then, but Jerry actually started snoring. Almost two weeks of traveling does take its toll.
We arrived at Pisa and first exited the train station the wrong way. After figuring out the correct exit we began our walk to the Piazza del Duomo. This is on the edge of the walled part of the city across the river from the train station. It was about a 20-minute walk (little over a mile.) We had reserved our time slot to climb to the top of the tower begore we left New York, you go up in about groups of 20 every 15 minutes or so. The tower is leaning so you don’t want to many people up there at the same time. The climb was first on the agenda, Christina opted out. The climb itself really wasn’t that bad, it stairs were lower in height but slippery, but much less exhausting than the Duomo in Florence. There were several places to stop to rest and take pictures as you climbed. The only hard, will not hard but a bit challenging, was when you came around to the
leaning side, you instinctively went from the right side of the spiral stairway to the left because of the lean.
It took us about 15 minutes to get to the first level another 4 to get to the bell tower itself. The tower was originally the bell tower for the cathedral. There are seven bells at the top. Again, the climb was worth the view. We took several pictures then climbed back down to meet back up with Christina.
After the tower, we headed to the Batisterio and the Cemetery. We walked by the cathedral but not in, by this point in the trip they all look the same. The cemetery had frescos on the walls of the interior, one of which was in the process of being restored.
That was pretty much the visit to Pisa, we walked to Osteria Dei Cavalieri for lunch. This was a Fodor’s choice as it was away from the tourist area of the tower and a much more relaxed atmosphere. This was our one long lunch of the trip. Water and bread were part of the cover. In most places Italy there is a 2 euro cover per person, like
a tip but not really. They also charge for bread and of course bottled water. This restaurant included the bread and water in the cover so it was a much better deal.
I started with a glass of house white wine. Jerry has really been suffering with allergies this trip, so hasn’t been drinking any wine with lunch because of the allergy pills. We took our time with the menu, before ordering. The wine list was on a tablet, very hi-tech. They had three set menus, we didn’t order them, one from the land, one from the sea and even a vegetarian option. Vegans, your just out of luck in Italy. We all decided and ordered. Christina scaled back and only had a starter, soup and a salad.
Jerry had the following:
*Pasta fritta e prosciutto Toscana – Fried dough with prosciutto, it was pretty could the dough was like a savory donut dough.
*Ravioli ripieni de pecorine e pepe nero con fagioli e pomodoro – Pecorino stuffed ravioli with a sauce of beans and tomatoes
*Scamorza al forno con verdure grigliate – Oven baked scamorza (a white cheese) and grilled vegetables (yes there was
Ravioli ripieni di pecorine
Pecorino stuffed ravioli with bean and tomato sauce
eggplant but he just pushed that aside)
I had the following with more wine and some red wine with my entrée.
*Tagliatelline di past fresdca al el coniglioe e asperagi – Fresh tagliatelle pasta with a rabbit and asparagus sauce, they also added some sautéed local mushrooms. It was really a very tasty dish, light and pasta al dente.
*Soformative di formaggie e fungahi con creama di fagioli – Cheese flan with a bean and mushroom sauce, this was actually my starter
*Ossobuco – I had to have it before leaving Italy.
We all had semifreddo with toffee for dessert.
After lunch we walked to the Piazza dei Cavalieri to look at the buildings in the square a couple of palaces and a school dating back to Napoleon. We then leisurely walked back to the train station, stopping to shop for trinkets here and there, along the river and back over the Arno. We had about 40 minutes before our train left, so we just sat and waited, watching the people. I do have to make one comment on Italians, a great deal, not all, of them are
as rude as any New Yorker, and have the same bad transit behavior as New Yorkers, just shove your way past not caring if people are getting off or on or have been waiting longer than you.
The train ride back took about an hour and Jerry and I both fell asleep. We got back to Florence and back to the hotel with just enough time to freshen up for dinner.
I picked the spot for dinner tonight because based upon my research it was one of the best places to get a Bistecca Florentina. It was a big further away from our hotel than we anticipated but the walk took us through parts of Florence we had not previously been. We walked through the antique district and the area where the high-end hotels such as the St. Regis and Westin Excelsior were located. We did get a bit lost but figured out how to get there eventually. We showed up at the exact time of our reservation and shortly after they had opened.
The trattoria is very old school and I don’t think it has changed since it opened. The tables
are arranged in two rows on either side with an aisle in the middle that leads directly to the kitchen. Tables are shared with others. We had the perfect table looking directly in to the kitchen so I could watch them cook on the very hot coals.
The first menu given us was in Italian, I could make out pretty much what everything was in general, but certainly not the specifics, so we asked for an English version. I typically don’t like to request an English menu if what they first give you is Italian, so many places have them in both languages now, so you know you are in a truly local establishment, if they just assume you speak Italian and hand you the Italian menu. Most of my translations of the menu were correct, I know all the words for things I don’t want to eat, such an internal organ, etc.
While we were looking at the menu and deciding on what to order, I watched them cook some bistecca, the one they were cooking was huge.
The waiter was a very congenial young man and very patient with us. They did not have prosecco,
so we toasted with sparkling water. Christina changed her mind a couple of times, and especially after I watched the cook the what became the dish of the day, more on that later.
Christina had a simple couple of chicken brodo, this is a very traditional dish and very simple, the same broth is used for the tortellini brodo. Jerry and I split two starters; Crostini di Fegatini (chicken liver pate on toast). This is also a very traditional Tuscan starter; the liver flavor was a bit strong but it was still good. The second starter was Finocchiona (salame with fennel seeds), this again is a very traditional Tuscan item.
For the primi’s we each ordered a different pasta, Jerry had Tortellini with a meat sauce, Christina had penne with butter and I had Tortellini with butter. A note about the pastas with butter Christina was I believe expecting an actual sauce, this is not what was served, it was pasta al dente, with a slab of butter, you then mixed it in, added some parmesan and made your own sauce, like butter egg noodles, it was very simple and very good. Jerry’s meat sauce
was good, but certainly not a bolognaise.
With our entrees we all had inslata mista, got to get those greens in. Jerry had an Artichoke pie, it is not what you think, it was creamy artichoke in the center surrounded by a frittata (eggs) in the shape of a crust, how they did it is behind me. It was very simple and very tasty. I had the 500-gram (the smallest they serve) Bistecca Florentina, which I got to watch them cook. It is traditional to not ask to have this cooked a specific way, it just comes as it comes, which in my case was a perfect medium rare. It was very flavor, and not seasoned until the end with smooth salt, pepper and olive oil. It was better than what we had at Il Latini.
Christina had the chicken breast in butter. I watched them cook this dish (that at the bistecca were the most ordered items) several times, they get a small pan (large enough to accommodate two chicken breast halves, put it directly on the coals and then slather the chicken breast in melted butter, then sear the chicken on both size until perfectly browned
and the skin crispy, this of course locks in the flavors, they then add some more butter and move it to a lower heat to finish cooking. It is served in the same pan it was cooked in and comes out piping hot. At the table then then squeeze lemon on to the chicken, it instantly bubbles up and mixes with the butter and almost covers the chicken. When you bite into it, you get the wonderful crispy chicken skin, moist checking and delightfully lemon butter taste. It was truly the dish of the day,
With dinner we had a very nice Brunello di Montalcino.
We were stuffed to our limits and passed on dessert. We walked back to your hotel long the River Arno enjoying somewhat of a breeze. We did make a brief stop so Christina could get some gelato and then returned to our hotel to pack and crash.
The next day is a very early day as we have to get to the train station store our luggage and then off to our cooking class in the Tuscan hills.,
Step counts was 351, most of which were the Tower of Pisa
Dish of the night
Chicken in Butter
Dish of the Day the Chicken in butter and lemon
Cite of the day, the Tower of Pisa and the crowds trying to act if they were holding it up.
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