Living the Italian La Dolce Vita has always appealed to me. So when my best friend suggested taking a little trip abroad, I had immediately pointed at the boot-shaped country on Google maps. There was no objection, so we planned our route and booked our flight. In a blink of an eye, we were ready. Andiamo!
The idea was to explore the Pisa-Firenze-Verona triangle. Inside the country, we were traveling by train, which was surprisingly comfortable and clean compared to the Hungarian average. We found accommodation on Couchsurfing. I have used this site for over a year to find hosts in different parts of the world, and I have to say, I only have good experience with it. Now if you are not familiar with it, let me explain. On CS you can offer to host and to welcome fellow travelers in your home. You can offer your couch in the living room, the guest room, or an inflatable bed on the floor of your apartment – what you can afford to share. You can decide by profiles and feedbacks who you want to host, or who you want to be hosted by. There is no money involved, it’s all for free. Usually just for a couple of days, but you are moving in someone else’s home. Then why is this worth it for the host? They are mostly open-minded people who just enjoy hanging out with like-minded, interesting others. At least this was the explanation I heard most of the time. For the guests, the advantages are more understandable. You don’t have to pay for it, and if you are lucky, you have a whole separate room for yourself. But most importantly you will have an instant friend who can tell you about or take you to all the best places in town. During our trip, we played Dixit, walked around the cities, cooked together and went out for a party with our Italian hosts.
The first stop was Pisa. We spent 2 days here – but honestly, one is more than enough to see the main sights. When you are around and have extra days, it might be a good idea to visit Cinque Terre. In this area, you can find 5 amazingly colorful villages built on the cliffside.
Let’s get back to Pisa. The Square of Miracles (or formally known as Piazza del Duomo) is a magical place indeed. Sitting or lying on the grass, you can adore the surrounding sights, like the Camposanto Monumentale, the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry, and of course, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. There is something compelling about being girdled with all those impressive buildings.
If you have time, I suggest visiting the Orto Botanico di Pisa (a peaceful botanical garden). With its bamboo jungle and little ponds, and with the exotic flowers and cactuses, it is a place where just feels good to be.
In front of the garden, there is a little square where Pisa’s best panini place is hiding! The L’ostellino was suggested by a local friend, and for sure it was worth a visit (or actually two).
The old town of Florence is walkable, making it easy to wander around and discover hidden gems, cozy cafes, local stores and the impressive architecture of the city.
On the Piazza del Duomo The Santa Maria Cathedral, or just the Duomo – as it is ordinarily called – is a must see in Florence. It’s worth walking around from the outside and you can enter (for free) just to be amazed by the spaciousness of the Cathedral.
At the Piazza Della Signoria, you’ll find the copy of Michelangelo’s David (if you aim to see the original one, head to the Accademia). There is one more interesting detail here. If you look closely, you can spot a profile of a man carved into a wall of the Palazzo Vecchio. One of the legends says that it was engraved by Michelangelo himself, and it depicts one of his unpleasant acquaintances. This man is said to stop the master for long and barren chats when they ran into each other. Once when Michelangelo couldn’t get rid of this guy, he portrayed him with his arms behind his back while leaning against the wall. Pretty impressive, isn’t it?
Ponte Vecchio is a unique medieval stone bridge which has always hosted vendors. Today you will mainly find jewelry shops and art dealers there. From Ponte Santa Trinita you can have a perfect view to see it in all its glory.
The Piazzale Michelangelo offers a stunning view of Florence and the Arno River. It’s the best vantage point to capture the sunset over the city – with a bottle of wine (optional 🙂 ) you can observe all the sights turning magically orange. Getting on the top is easy, and it’s just 20 minutes by walk from downtown.
For a night out I suggest you guys the Locale – that place is wondrous. The interior is breathtakingly stylish. The walls are “made of plants” (in truth they were planted to compose a living wall), the ceiling is made of glass. It looks like a fancy glasshouse with all the types of booze you can wish for. The main attraction was when the waiter pushed a button, and ta-dah, the ceiling was open! Right above us, there was nothing but the starry night sky. By the way, the cocktails are great as well.
in Verona, of course, we visited the Casa di Giulietta which for me was slightly disappointing. The small courtyard was extremely crowded, the queue was tailing back along the street, all the people were standing in line either to get on Juliet’s balcony or to grab her boobs. They say, if you touch them, it will bring luck in your love life. It is a tempting promise, I have to admit.
In one area there is a wall filled with love notes and there is a door, where couples can place love locks — that’s cute — but I don’t really get the point of the chewing gum wall if you ask me, it’s pretty disgusting.
After visiting the scene of one of the most famous love stories of all time, we took our way to Piazza delle Erbe. In this picturesque and vibrant square, there is a market, where you can buy all the souvenirs you want. My favorites were the several types of colorful handmade pasta. There were farfalle rigate, pizzoccheri, and even heart & dork shaped – for the naughty ones 😉
With a huge, delicious gelato, we took a big walk and crossed the Adige River at the Ponte Pietra bridge. On the other side of the city, you can find a gorgeous park, the Giardino Giusti, and a Roman Theatre. Unfortunately, it was under construction when we wanted to visit.
Instead of it, we checked the Arena di Verona – which by the way was as well under construction. Anyway, we didn’t bother ourselves by the few cranes in the background. The amphitheater is still in use for concerts & opera performances. There was one play the evening before, and the whole place was still quite littered. Now this one was actually bothering.
If you want to have an authentic Italian breakfast, try Galleria Marconi Cafè. It’s a bit far from downtown, like 15 minutes by walk, but you can only explore interesting, authentic places if you let yourself get lost in the city, right? Here you can choose from among several types of traditional Italian bread (like focaccia) and sweets (cannolo – a must try!) and just sit and sip the exceptional cappuccino this place offers. The owners are such nice people! they fulfill special wishes, so you can ask for extra toppings for example. Since we had to wait a bit longer for our orders we got a Baci as a little thank-you-for-your-patience present.
Our week in Italy was stunning! Though all the three places are different in their mood – Pisa, the serene, Firenze, the stirring and Verona the romantic – they all worth to visit at least once.