Before heading to Florence, we had a comfort stop in Pisa's Piazza del Duomo which houses four monuments: cattedrale(cathedral), battistero(baptistery), torre (the 'Leaning Tower') and camposanto. Since it was only a comfort stop, it was short and I wish we had more time to take more pictures and buy souvenirs (Sorry, David apron). Surprisingly, with the pictures we have, we won the creative photo contest within our tour group. The prize was a Pisa keychain/bottle opener.
[caption id="attachment_787" align="aligncenter" width="701"] Cathedral[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_788" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Camposanto[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_788" align="aligncenter" width="350"] Leaning Tower (our winning picture)[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_788" align="aligncenter" width="350"] Lean on me[/caption]
PLUS (People Like Us)
This is our accommodation in Florence. I guess the "Us" in the name relates to backpackers and youth. Their breakfast/dining area doubles as a dance floor at night. They have a balcony where we had a surprise tapas and wine after we checked in.
Guided walking tour of Florence
This was led by a local tour guide. Florence has a lot of Piazzas along the route and they are closed to one another. This was also our first encounter with Italy's detailed architecture and sculptures.
[caption id="attachment_802" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Piazza della Indipendenza[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_803" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Piazza San Marco[/caption]
Palazzo Medici Riccardi: the house of the first bankers and who adopted Michaelangelo
[caption id="attachment_806" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Basilica di San Lorenzo[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_818" align="aligncenter" width="701"] Piazza della Signoria[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_819" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Galleria Galileo[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_820" align="aligncenter" width="701"] Ponte Vecchio with Topeng & Nina[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_1271" align="aligncenter" width="701"] Ponte Vecchio[/caption]
After the tour, we had pre-ordered dinner at this place. Pop had steak while I had chicken. The other option was two kinds of pasta (vegetarian). I have no comment on the food so I'll leave it to Pop if he wants to give a review.
Florence at Night
After dinner, we had free time to roam around Florence where we mostly took pictures of Florence at night and some group pictures. We almost got into trouble taking pictures in front of Medici house because we were noisy and a guard came out.:p
Questura and Mercato Centrale
So Pop can rest his foot, I had the morning to myself to do two tasks: have our passports stamped and do some last minute souvenir shopping.
The first task was a failed attempt and I'm not sure whether I should have attempted at all. This is because of an attached note with our approved visa from Italian consulate indicating a law requiring that our passport be stamped within a week of entering Italy (see below). Since our coach bus was not stopped at the border and our entry to Italy ran smoothly, I inquired at the hotel reception the nearest police station where I can go to have that done. He gave me the questura in Via Zara. Upon arrival there, I showed the policeman the note and he did not understand it because it was in English so I had to explain it using hand gestures and some keywords from an Italian phrasebook app I had on my phone. He pointed Piazza della Indipendenza on my map and was saying something about "Immigracion" so I went to Piazza della Indipendenza and looked for a building with a flag assuming that it would be the immigration office. When I entered the building, the lady does not speak English either. At this point, I realized that I should have at least google-translated the note before going about this task. Again, I had to explain what I was looking for using keywords from my phrasebook app. She had to call somebody else on the phone to ask if he/she knew what I was talking about. She then pointed me to the questura immigracion in Via Della Forteza. Finally, there was someone there who somehow knows how to speak English. However, he initially informed that the office for that is only open on Mondays in the morning and it was a Wednesday. (Italy, what is up with these once a week short office hours?!) . I told him that I was already leaving Florence that noon and I can't come back for it anymore. He later consulted his colleague and the colleague said that I don't have to do this. I asked if he could put it in paper but didn't bother. So I gave up and just took a picture in front of the building with and without me so I have some proof that I tried.
my lame evidence
I then went Mercato Centrale which the hotel reception recommended I buy souvenirs. The inside is a food market and the streets surrounding it has some "tiangge"-type shops. I just brought some postcards and patches and was not able to find stamps. Before heading back to the hotel, I bought bottled water which was not such a bright idea considering that we were leaving for Rome (at about 11am) where there are free drinking fountains everywhere!
[caption id="attachment_841" align="aligncenter" width="701"] Mercato Centrale[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_842" align="aligncenter" width="700"] back street of Mercato Centrale[/caption]