Olive trees on the tuscan countrysideWhen referencing Tuscany, Florence, & Pisa, I think of 3 completely different cities in Italy that I want to visit. This, however is a false statement, thank god for my dental hygentist! She explained to me that Tuscany is the Region of which many smaller cities reside including Florence & Pisa. Now that I had that cleared up it was time to start the planning process. J, a friend I was stationed with in Japan, was making her way back to America after her tour and made a little pit stop in Napoli for some fun, food, and travel, my 3 favorite things!

IMG_5767This is how the planning process went down. I literally googled cottages in Tuscany and after about 1 minute found the perfect place for us (this doesn’t always work out but in this instance it did) and used a very affordable way to find houses to stay in, instead of hotels.

IMG_1427 IMG_5667The original plan was to head over to Pisa on Saturday for a couple of hours and then in the afternoon head over to Florence. After talking to a few of my colleagues they instantly squashed that idea and led me to the first realization for a weekend long trip to both cities:

Pisa, Italy

Pisa, Italy


St. Croce, Florence

St. Croce, Florence

1. DO  Florence for the full day during the weekend and plan for Pisa the shorter day (2.5 hours is plenty of time to see everything and stop for coffee and a snack in Pisa).

building covered in fake money fake money O my icecreamDON’T try to meld them together. Florence will at a minimum require a full day to see the most visited sites and you should have lunch and dinner there, it is quite delicious food. Florence and Pisa are approximately 1.5 hours apart, which is not very close and it also depends on where you are staying, but if you only have a few days, go to Pisa on the day with the shorter schedule.

IMG_14422. DO rent a car for the weekend if you don’t already have one available. I did get free parking in both Florence and Pisa, so that was a huge plus.

IMG_1439DON’T put St. Croce for the Basillica into your GPS and follow it all the way to the location. I came out a side alley into the square and pretty much drove up to the steps of the Basillica which is not allowed. In fact a police officer started yelling at me and a few street vendors had to move their things so I could drive out of there and were pretty mad about it. You would think they would block off the roads so you can’t drive right up to the front steps, but I suppose that would make too much sense. Unfortunately there are no pictures of this event because it took us unawares and in the moment cameras weren’t the first thought in the situation.

Florence Basilica Dante's Inferno

statueWhile in Florence…

3. DO plan on walking everywhere. Every major site is within a few blocks.

Florence DuomoDON’T plan on taking the double decker bus tour. There is no need for that, hence the DO listed above. You can walk to everything you want to see and you will depict yourself as a ridiculous tourist if you ride that bus, or at least that’s what I thought about the people on it. Save the double decker bus tours for Barcelona or Foggy Little London.

IMG_5621 florence cathederal4. DO: stay in a Tuscan Cottage in the country side if you’re in the mood for a little relaxation. Nothing against staying in Florence, but getting out to the countryside and staying in a cottage amongst grape vines and olive trees, driving down an old dirt road to get there, well that just makes me feel happy and smile a whole lot. Then again I am an advocate of the simple things. Don’t get me wrong, Florence is a good place to stay, but when the sun rises on the Tuscan countryside, the hills sing, and its the perfect start to the day.


backgammon and wineDON’T stay too far away from Florence or closer to Pisa. We were able to get to our place in the countryside with an easy 20 minute drive, and Cammy my Camry had no problems on the dirt roads. In fact I don’t think any cars would. So from the center of the city to the Tuscan countryside in less than a half hour, you can’t beat that!

bails of hay 25. DO visit the Basillica. Here’s the thing, there are many many different cathedrals across Europe. Hell, they have one in pretty much every major city, if not 3, and then they have them in not so well known cities. When in Europe, Churches and Cathedrals are a must see because the architecture is always astounding and most times its worth it to go for a tour. When I saw the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona my jaw dropped from the sheer magnitude and scope of the project, one that has spanned over centuries.

So, when I say there is many different churches and cathedrals to see, sometimes it gets a little repetitive. For me, I no longer have to take a tour of every church. Walking up and admiring it from the outside is just fine. BUT the Basillica has something else to offer, it is the resting place for Michelangelo, Dante from Dante’s Inferno, as well as other very important people from centuries past. My coworker P likes to say that The Basilica boasts all of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Ha. The tour is well worth it and we barely waited in line.

Michelangelo 26. DO: visit “The David”, nuff said.
The David portraitDON’T wait until the afternoon to visit unless you have reserved tickets (the line for that is much better). We didn’t realize how many people go to see that man daily and waited for 2.5 hours in a line to get in to see him. We were only inside for about 20 minutes.  When we walked out I said, “Was it worth it?” and J and I both turned to each other and said YES in unison.

7. DO try some of the Italian foods in Florence. There are many outdoor restaurants down side alley’s that have umbrellas and great selections of fresh juice. I had peach, it was exactly what I needed after walking around in the sun.

IMG_1443DON’T choose a restaurant that’s too close to all of the main attractions as these are very touristy. Choose a place that is more low key, has an Italian menu written in Italian, and has a quiet feel to it. & have some wine.

8. DO
While in Pisa:

pisa courtyard9. DO get tickets to walk to the top of the leaning tower. Its nice and breezy up there and you can look out over Pisa as well as down on the church in the square with the leaning tower. You also get to walk to the top and since its a leaning tower its pretty surreal because you constantly feel like you’re sideways.

Holding up the leaning towerAnd don’t forget the typical “I’m holding up the leaning tower with my bare hands” pic, its a total classic.

Inside the leaning tower walking down pisaDON’T get too excited about the church in the square. There’s only one small area you are allowed to walk inside to view and although it was nice you can’t walk around, you just get to walk in one door and out the other.

Pisa10. DO walk farther away from the Leaning Tower to find yourself a sandwich shop. In fact go to one called L’Ostellino. It’s very small inside but they make really good sandwiches and are currently ranked #1 of 719 places in Pisa on trip advisor. Just look for the pig with the wig and you’ll know you’re there.

We ate half of our sandwiches there so we could cool down and then it was time to be back on the road because we were going all the way back down to Napoli and wanted to make it before dark.

Sandwhich shop Pisa IMG_5769 sandwiches and refreshment If you have any other questions don’t hesitate to leave a comment or email me using the contact form in the upper left corner on the home page.

Running through the grape vine

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