We flew into Pisa courtesy of Ryan Air. Our tickets were only about $50 per person--quite a steal. It was our first time of not reserving a seat, but still priority qued and it worked out splendidly. We arrived early, hopped in line and found seats just one row behind our usuals. We landed in Pisa around 9:30 or so, retrieved our rental car and meandered our way to our rental apartment. It was a lovely place, but not very private even though there were doors separating bedrooms, etc. The loft was actually two of the bedrooms, which adjoined the master bedroom via a large glass panel. Needless to say, every one could hear every thing. The seven of us also shared one bathroom, which was not ideal.
Day 1: We drove to Levanto and hopped on a train to Monterroso. It was about 30 Euro for a family of 4. When we arrived in Monterroso, we immediately found the beach, let the children play in the sand, get their feet wet and bask in the warm sunshine. The temperature was about 75 degrees. It was gorgeous. I, on the other hand, attempted to be wiser than most and clean off Mya's feet in the ocean. The ocean had other ideas for me. I was greeted by a huge wave, so soggy pants, socks and shoes it was for the remainder of the day. I was not a happy camper, but I guess, I got what I deserved?
We dined seaside, then wandered through the quaint little village. We found a playground, let the kids play for a bit, then walked some more. There is a train that connects to each of the five villages, but a popular activity is the hiking trails that also connect them. A lady on the flight to Pisa shared with me that there were a few that were "easy" and would take about 30 minutes, so with that information in hand, we opted to hike from Monterroso to Vernazza.
Let me just say that it brought back some painful memories of when we hiked the Great Wall of China! The steps were plentiful, uneven and steep. It was tough. When all was said and done, we hiked 3 km. in 2 hours time and enjoyed the most amazing views. It was a highlight for us all. Claire and Mya did so well. We bribed them with gelatto, which meant NO complaining. They just kept on a going. Pretty remarkable for two little ones. Many, many passers by commented on how well the girls were doing, calling them "bellas." We are fully aware of how fortunate we are. Our girls were amazing. Claire led the pack and kept me going more times than I can count. So, cross off hiking a mountain for this pregnant momma.
When we arrived in Vernazza, we found some yummy gelatto, wandered around, and enjoyed the view some more. It was nearly dinnertime, so we decided to eat some bruchetta (each topped with a combination of either tomatoes & capers, tomatoes & pesto, tomatoes & mozzarella, or tomatoes & hmm, can't remember the 4th one). Delicious.
After dinner, we headed toward the train station, stopping at a deli for some salami and fruit. The train took us back to Levanto, which then left us with an hour drive back to the apartment. It was a long day, but a very memorable one.
Day 2: We decided to drive into Florence. The train schedule was a bit funky in that there was a large break between 5:00 and 8:00 and we weren't entirely certain of our plan for the day. We wanted some flexibility to come and go as we pleased. It worked out well, until a race of some kind in the city center interrupted our plans to park near the Palazzo Vecchio. We ended up circling the area, trying to find an alternative route, but did not. To make matters worse, we were separated from our friends, so we were totally on our own. Thankfully I had a rough idea of what I wanted to see/do from my very brief research. We ended up driving near the Duomo, parking in a parking garage and walking from there. It worked out very well. We ate lunch at a great little restaurant nearby. I enjoyed the fettucini with lamb, Mya and Chris had some type of spaghetti or penne and Claire devoured her pizza. We all LOVE Italian food. After lunch, we headed to a museum, the Duomo, walked to find the famous carousel, the David, gelatto and a horse drawn carriage ride. The carriage ride was most definitely the highlight for our children. They were in heaven. Since we had accomplished everything we had set out to do, we headed back to Pisa around 4:15. Once again, we were tired, but fulfilled.
Day 3: Our agenda consisted of seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa. That was it. We had heard that we could see/do Pisa in about 40 minutes, so we took our time. Aaron and Erika ran to the grocery store, bought some eggs/breakfast groceries and we enjoyed a homecooked meal. It was yummy and nice to relax a bit before wrapping up our getaway. It was sprinkling off and on all morning, which was something we hadn't been missing. Those warm, sunny skies had been a welcomed relief from the cold, fall weather we left behind in Germany. Anyway, raincoats and umbrellas in tow, we were off. We saw the Tower, the Cathedral and wandered the kiosks nearby. Children under 6 are not allowed inside the tower, so climbing was not an option for us. We enjoyed lunch at a restaurant a friend recommended--Antica Trattoria de Bruno. It was a bit spendy, but very delicious. I stuck with what I knew, though with a twist--sliced steak and mushrooms with salad. Claire shared with me, and Mya shared with Chris who also had a different type of fillet. Both were very good. After lunch, we made our way back to the cars, returned to the apartment for a nap and ventured to the airport. Our flight wasn't until 10:00, which meant very tired families. We arrived home at 1:00. Getting out of bed this morning was tough for all of us, but we survived. I am guessing we'll be in bed early for the remainder of this week as we catch up or rest up from our vacation.