Re-tracing our steps, on to Florence

Day 6, 24 Aug 2001

Another long day of coach travel. This time we were to re-trace our steps back up the country, through Tuscany (Italian: Toscana), and on to Florence (Italian: Firenze). And just as we had a stop in San Marino on the way down, the return journey afforded a lunchtime break in Pisa.

Pisa - all in two hours

The Leaning Tower of Pisa The town of Pisa is, at first glance, a very small place. Had we been given more time to explore, we might have found whether there was more to this place. With only two hours, all we got to see was the cathedral, the famous leaning tower, another fine pizza lunch and the obligatory souvenir stalls.

The temperature was around 31 degrees Celsius, so a great many people took shelter in the shade, while others posed for the traditional 'I'm holding up the tower' photo.

After many years of desperate restoration to avoid the lean becoming an outright collapse, the conservation work had now been completed. The unsightly lead ingots that once sat around the base of the tower to stop it tipping over had gone, as had the retaining cables that had helped keep it upright while workers carefully removed earth from underneath one side. Even so, the tower's lean was much more pronounced than I had expected it to be.

Although restoration was complete, the tower was not yet open for people to climb, although at the time of writing, I believe this is not the case - so go climb, if you dare!

Cherub Statue in foreground of Leaning Tower We were advised to avoid the restaurants right outside the leaning tower of Pisa and to try eating a little further away. Standard tourist money-saving advice really. So, what did we do? We sat at an outside table of a restaurant which directly faced the tower! The food was great (and at a very reasonable price too), the view unparalleled but the clock was ticking. All back on the coach then ...

Welcome to Prato!

We arrived at Prato at 5pm. Once again, we found ourselves outside the city that we were billed to stay in - Florence. While the hotel was closer to Florence than our last hotel was to Rome, it was countered by the shabbiness of the hotel itself and the attitude of the staff (welcome to Prato was not a phrase I would expect from the grumpy porters). The room smelled damp - like someone had spilled a bucket of rancid water on the carpet and not bothered to clean it up. We had a big damp patch on the wall which, had I kicked it, would probably have resulted in a big hole in the wall! Not good.

Still we wouldn't be there long. I wasn't going to let it dampen my spirits, so instead I dampened myself in the outdoor swimming pool (also a bit on the grotty side, but never mind).

Skipped dinner, but went for a liquid refreshment later. At 10 pm I bought a bottle of lager, but when I went back to the hotel bar for another I found it was already shut - at around 10:20pm! Cracking service at the Palace Hotel in Prato, eh?