This morning we said our farewells to the blissful little town of Lauterbrunnen and headed onwards towards the place of pasta and Vespas – Italy!
It was another long drive day but it was still filled with excitement. During our lunch break we looked outside and spotted something we’d all been waiting for – falling snow. While there was plenty of snow on the Swiss Alps this was our first experience of witnessing it physically falling from the sky (you mean it actually falls from the sky in beautiful, soft little flakes?! *screaming ensues* ).
So we pushed our bowls of pasta aside and rushed outside. I think some of the locals thought we were crazy, because we went absolutely nuts for the snowfall.
After much frolicking and catching-of-snowflakes-on-tongues, we clambered back aboard the bus and continued on to Pisa.
While Pisa is most well-known for one certain architectural mishap, there’s quite a lot more than that going on in this little city.
Since the 1400’s Pisa has been a great place for education, with students from across Italy vying for a place at its prestigious university. There are also cafe’s, bars, Gothic Churches and lots of street life. Even though it was raining when we arrived there were heaps of people, and not just tourists, wandering around.
Because Pisa is so touristy, there are a lot of people around trying to sell you stuff. We were warned not to buy anything off the people walking the streets – because while they are allowed to sell, the buyer can actually get into legal trouble for making a purchase from them. Buyer beware at its extreme, I guess
As soon as we stepped off the bus we were swarmed with men who were trying to sell us selfie-sticks and umbrellas (the rain was a great marketing technique, but luckily I came prepared with umbrella in hand)
One guy looked at me and said, “Lady Gaga, Lady Gaga?!”
Um, yeah. That’s me… sure.
After a short walk from the bus-stop, over a bridge and around some corners, we came up to the leaning tower. The rain didn’t stop us from taking the classic tourist photos, that’s for sure. It was pretty entertaining standing back and watching people. One girl was standing next to the tower with her leg up in the air doing vertical splits… not too sure exactly what she was going for with that photo.
We milled around for a while and eventually wandered down a side-street to buy some gelato. Yes, that’s right – it was the middle of winter in Europe and it was freezing and raining and there we were unable to resist some gelato. But at three delicious scoops for 2 euros it was a pretty great deal.
Later on when we arrived in Florence we had an amazing dinner at our hostel. While our tour leader Chrystle had warned us that portion sizes in Italy were pretty big, I didn’t fully understand what she meant until that night. Apparently, a full-plate of amazing pasta is considered a mere entrée, and is to be followed by a selection of meats and salads and cheeses and sun-dried tomatoes, and finally topped off with some (more!) gelato at the end.
We were absolutely stuffed-full and practically rolled out of the hostel afterwards.
We went for a walk around Florence, which was very helpful with the digestion of our massive meal. I was completely stunned by the beauty in Florence, I have never seen a city like this. The architecture is absolutely amazing. I won’t show any pics from the walking tour as my night-time photography is not too great, but I will show some later from the next day.
Next on the list for tonight, though, was karaoke. I’d never been to a karaoke bar before, and what can I say – it was a great first experience. Our whole group turned up and took to the stage. We discovered that in Europe it is possible to buy drinks in 2L jugs, and that they free-pour the alcohol. At first I was a little shy to get near the stage but soon we were all singing away and jumping around like we were at our own concert.
I’m not going to lie, the jugs were great but THE STRAWS WERE REALLY DIFFICULT TO DRINK FROM. Seriously, those things were the length from my hips to my head and I had to stand up to take a sip.
If you’re going on a Topdeck tour I definitely recommend that you show up to karaoke night, there is nothing like singing 90’s songs and Katy Perry to help you get to know your group. Team bonding – success.
The next morning we had our official walking tour, and I’d just like to take a moment to point out the sheer awesomeness of these buildings:
The Baptistery is a very swell building. It’s made out of black and white marble and has the fanciest front-door you’ve ever seen in your life. The bronze doors are covered with relief sculptures that tell little stories, and to give you an idea of how intricate they are; the doors took 21 years to be made.
After the walking tour we dispersed for a free day in the city. Katie and I joined up with a few others who were planning on walking across town.
We wandered over Ponte Vecchio (Vecchio Bridge), one of the city’s most iconic sites. The shops that line this bridge are amazing, I have never seen so much jewellery in my life. Talk about bedazzling.
Having stopped to pick up some more gelato (yes, I know), we continued on our way to Michelangelo Square. The stairs were quite a climb, but we had gelato in-hand and the view was worth it.
While we were all happily walking and slurping on our gelato, Katie actually had a chocolate crepe in hand, and that was a different story. Let’s just say that it isn’t easy to walk up stairs and eat a slippery, sticky crepe all at once…
Afterwards, we headed back to Plazza Vecchio to take a peek at the replica of the statue of David. Now, we could have gone and waited in line for 3 hours to see the real version, but the replica – I felt – showed us everything that we needed to see (and some more that we didn’t want to see).
If you’re looking for a bunch of naked guys, Florence is the place for you.
It’s interesting to look at the statue of David and notice that his hands are disproportionately large compared to *ahem* the rest of his body. I guess that’s what you call compensating :’)
Have you been to Florence or are planning to go? What was your favourite part / what would you most like to see there? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. As always, thanks for reading.