After our travels through Assisi and Siena, we made our way to one of the destinations our group was looking forward to most – Florence. With three birthdays in the group to celebrate, it was sure to be a big couple of nights.
We took a short walking tour on our first morning and then set off to explore the city. Florence is a very wealthy, opulent city – pretty obvious from the numerous gold shops and high end fashion boutiques. Still, it had great shopping (even for my budget) so we spent the morning wandering around the shopping district. The afternoon was spent sweating in a laundromat, washing all of our clothes from the trip so far. Not quite the glamorous side of Florence, but it had to be done.
We had time that evening to head to the Duomo and have a drink outside before we headed off for a big family (tour group) Florentine steak dinner, followed by karaoke to celebrate the birthdays in our group. Apart from the brawl that broke out in the lower part of the bar (we were in the balcony) it was a pretty successful night and it’s safe to say the coach ride the next day was an incredibly quiet one.
The highlight of Florence was our Tuscan winery tour of Villa Buonasera. Christian (owner) took us through his wine cellars and told us how he runs the family business. A second-generation winemaker, their winery specialises in rose and red wines. We were lucky enough to dine al fresco at his home on the winery and taste four of his wines, with four food courses to match (cooked by his lovely mum in the kitchen). We feasted on bruschetta, salads, pasta, bread, cheese, cold meats and poppy seed cake while sipping wine under the Tuscan sun. It was a definite pinch-me moment to be sitting there and listening to him speak about his family, love of wine and the Tuscan region.
I loved Florence (mainly for the shopping to be honest), as well as the beautiful winery tour. If you’re looking for leather or gold, head for Florence. It was a bit of a different story for some people in our group though, with mixed up room bookings, busted air con units in 34 degree heat and power cuts leaving clothes stuck in the laundromat washers. Jeremy and I definitely got lucky.
After Florence we visited Lucca on our way to Pisa. Lucca wasn’t anything special in my opinion. We did visit on a Sunday, so it was fairly quiet, the stores were mostly closed and we were running on 4 hours sleep – which may have tainted our time there a bit. Not somewhere I would recommend visiting though. If you want day or half day cities to visit, Assisi and Siena are the ones to put on the list.
Pisa however was a different story. I didn’t quite realise that the grounds surrounding the tower were so beautiful. Perfectly manicured lawns (keep off the grass signs everywhere) surround the tower, as well as little markets and multiple gelato stands. It was a cool place to visit, but an hour is all you need there. Once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it.
My last Top Deck blog will be up soon! We finally have wifi in our flat so posts should be a lot more regular now.