Friday, 30 May 2014

Our Italy Adventure

We just got back yesterday from our trip to Italy and were greeted by the grey clouds and pouring rain!  This is sort of the reason many people like to go abroad for holidays despite the fact that we live in a beautiful country we just don't' know what the weather holds when we book for holidays at home.  I have had a lovely time, so have the children  however my husband is not so sure. He said it was not what he expected, (expensive, crowded, people being rude and too many beggars!) well to be honest he was right on some of those points but it didn't spoil my experience, well the prices did make my toes curl on a regular basis but then we knew that before we went.
We chose a city based holiday so I think that is perhaps the reason my husband didn't see the beauty he was expecting, of course the historic buildings were beautiful but I think he would have preferred a more rural setting. We stayed just outside Pisa in a hotel and though the hotel was lovely and had apparently won many design awards, as a person who likes the outdoors and a bit of freedom I found this a bit restrictive.  for a start there were no tea or coffee making facilities in the room! Anyone who is English will know how ridiculous this is, what no cups of tea when I want?  Going and ordering one whenever you felt like it would not be an option as the hotel prices were so expensive.  We did buy in juices and water for the children and kept them in the mini bar fridge but water is not always enough is it?  The grounds of the hotel were very beautiful.
These were covered beds you could lounge on outside, but the bar for this was overpriced on day one we ordered drinks for all for of us and it came to 10 euros but the next day the children had gone to the room out of the sun and we had a juice each but this time it came to 12 euros for two drinks!  Now how does that work?  The only reason I can imagine is that the waiter brought them over this time but husband ordered at the bar so I'm sure he would have preferred to carry them himself for such a huge difference in price.
Also the hotel room was quite dark and we didn't have a balcony so if  you were in you were in and this could feel a bit oppressive.  I would definitely go self catering if we went again and this is usually what we have done in the past but a hotel seemed like a big treat, obviously it's not so much of a treat as I thought. That caravan of ours must have changed me more than I thought (ha!)
We spent our first full day in Pisa and got a bus straight away at the end of the street, bought tickets at the new agents (tobacconist they say) and the bus came in a few minutes.
I didn't even know my son had taken this picture until I was loading them all on the computer just now.  We had just got off the bus and bought a map from the machine, we were trying to figure out where things were and then we just set off randomly walking anyway.
We decided against going up it, there was a very long que, I had read before hand that you would be rushed once inside and also very expensive again! I was happy to be there and seeing it with my own eyes I didn't feel I had to stand on it to make the experience worthwhile but I do realise lots of people think that way.
This is in the centre of Pisa, we found we didn't use our map at all after that initial first look, we just walked around found the tower by the street signs then just wandered. Always a good way to see everything I think but you can relax knowing you have a map if you need it. We wanted something to eat but not a lot as we had had a big breakfast and knew we would be having an evening meal at a restaurant so we found a bar away from the main tourist trap of the tower.  We sat outside and ordered a pizza and four drinks but when my husband went to pay at the bar a very rude owner said no you cant sit there and only order that!!  So he said come on we are going.  We found somewhere else and ate there.  This was one of the instances of rudeness we didn't like, however the restaurant we ate in near our hotel in the evening had wonderful friendly staff.
I  also had a look in the Desigual shop while I was there, and my husband thought I was very odd for wanting a picture taken outside a shop.  I love it, though I didn't buy anything way too expensive but look at that shop front, so colourful! 

For anyone who doesn't know Desigual is Spanish and based in Barcelona but they have stores all over the world but I have not been in one until now, I usually look online, in the UK the stores are in London so not near me anyway.  I walked around and oohed and arghed at all the lovely colours, dresses and bags then a sales lady came over to tell me that if I spent over 100 euros I would get a free holdall.  (not happening)
We went to Florence the next day, again a quick bus, then an hour on a train and we ere there. Very, very busy in Florence, beautiful  buildings but so crowded, you are literally walking into people and you sort of get swept along in some points.  We found it a bit more difficult to navigate our way around here as the street are so close and the buildings so tall you can't seem to get a good feel for which direction you are going. We found our way to the Medici chapel and museum which is somewhere I wanted to see and paid to go in there, I have been reading about Leonardo de Vinci and his connection to the Medici's  it was also good to see the statues by Michelangelo in there. Quite amusing I thought was that the ticket lady just threw the tickets on the counter at us! Rude again but you have to laugh. You were not allowed to take pictures in there though which was a shame as it was amazing.
Here are a few pictures of Florence...

What I did find was that it was hard to have much choice to eat when you are a vegetarian, I had pasta with tomato or margarita pizza, now I was expecting to be eating all different types of pasta with lovely sauces but as I don't eat meat I had only the choice of two things.  I did ask in one restaurant if they could do me some vegetable and pasta and I was told no just cheese with pasta, very odd.
Our last day we went to the city of Lucca, and we agreed that this was the prettiest place.  It is a walled city, once a fortress and the walls are now pedestrian walk ways with people running or cycling around the top. We walked around then down into the town for a look around, much more relaxed and very clean.
We were on top here and you can see some of the wall at the other side, this is the view outwards. 
This is the view down, once you cross the street you are in a maze of old buildings.  The town is enclosed by the wall.
We bought yet more pizza from a deli here and ate it on the steps. (must eat lots of fruit now I'm home)
It really is a lovely place Lucca and I would recommend a trip there if you are holidaying close enough ( we were an hour away by train).
Yes that is a bag in my hand I did buy something, I bought a little jacket from a shop which I think is probably their equivalent to our Select or something like it as it was very reasonable. No designer labels for  me. On that note though I looked in the window of Prada in Florence and the clothes were just plain ugly! I tend to think you like what you  like and the label has little to do with it. I said to my husband I didn't see one Italian charity shop, do they have them?
Finally how pretty is the airport? There were lots of these statues outside the building on the grass we checked in the bags then went and sat back outside to make the most of the sun before we had to come back home, this was at 8.15am yesterday. I'm looking out of the window now and the sky is full of grey clouds.
Now extravagant holiday over I will back to saving and keeping myself in check.  This was our first holiday abroad in about 5 years so well planned and saved for. Things I would do different, definitely self catering, a more rural location ( though close enough to get public transport) and we are thinking of maybe using the ferry or tunnel crossing next time.  I don't know if that will be to Italy we may try France (maybe take the caravan), but I would like to see Italy's Lake Garda one day, but that could be a longer way off. I think it's good to have things to look forward to, but I always like to make sure they are well planned, well within our means and at the best deal. 
Oh something I was massively impressed with was the Italian supermarket, we went in and bought some cold stuff to eat on our final night as we didn't want another overpriced meal out and the food on offer in there was unbelievable. A whole section just on olives, seafood, fresh produce just gorgeous, we bought all sorts a cooked chicken for meat eaters, spinach pie and salad for vegetarians, plus drinks and puddings.
We took it up to the hotel roof terrace and had a little picnic, we probably shouldn't have but oh well.  Like I said self catering next time.
We booked this holiday last September, hotel and flight separate and sorted all our own trips and transfers, we found the hotel we were staying in was now double what we paid.  This just shows that a bit of forward planning works.   On a final note I went and did all the food shopping for the four of us for just over a week yesterday in Aldi when I got back. I spent less than what it has been costing us for one family meal in Italy!!! Ouch.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely photos, I love the old buildings in Italy, and blue skies!! We went to Verona last year on business and loved it, I would recommend a visit if you go back to Italy. Not too busy, well apart from the day One Direction were playing in the Arena, there were thousands of teenage girls wandering around!


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