Today Dave and I went with my sister, brother-in-law, and niece to Pisa. We were initially going to take the 11:27 train, but because we arrived at the train station in Florence at 10:45, I decided to try to get tickets for the 10:57 train. The line for picking up tickets for trains that depart within 15 minutes is fairly short most of the times, but for some reason, people were standing up at the sportello (window) for long periods of time. I kept looking at the clock and shifting my weight from one leg to the other. When the girl in front of me was just about to leave the sportello, I ran up and talked to the ticket agent from over the girl's shoulder.
After I got the tickets, I had to lug a carry-on suitcase, which was on wheels but kept falling on its side, and run to the binario (track) where our train was supposed to depart from. I quickly stopped at another binario where I saw the yellow machine to validate the tickets. I ran to the binario and waved to them to get on the train wherever they were because we had only about a minute before it was to leave the station. They loaded all the luggage and when I finally got on board and sat down in the train, the doors shut and we left Florence.
We had an hour to relax before arriving to Pisa. I played a few games with my niece while Dave, my sister, and brother-in-law read books.
We were fortunate that the taxista (taxi driver) in Pisa would take all five of us and all the luggage to the hotel. In Florence, we had to take two taxis. We were surprised and happy to find out that the hotel was less than 50 meters from the La Torre di Pisa (leaning tower of Pisa). The people at the reception desk suggested a nice restaurant for us where we had a fixed menu for 40 Euros. We ate two antipasti, two primi, two secondi, and two dolci. Surprisingly we were satisfied, but not full.
Afterwards, we walked back toward La Torre di Pisa and found out that the next available time to go up was at 7:30PM, so only my sister and her family got tickets to go up.
In the meantime, we decided to rent a quadricycle for an hour around Pisa. My niece got to sit in the front and didn't have to pedal while the four of us were able to burn off our huge lunch. They attached a map that showed how to take a small tour around town. It was difficult getting through some of the streets since they were extremely crowded with people walking. We had no little bell to ring to let people know we were coming, so my niece had to make beeping noises.
We arrived on a busy street with cars and no pedestrians and went over a creek. I found it odd that on the map we should've gone over the Arno river, but we didn't see it. We turned around and tried to go back downtown on all the senso unico (one way) streets back the way we came. We finally made it to a street I recognized on another map that the hotel gave us. I could barely read the names of the streets on the map, but just enough to get us back on track. We pedaled along the Arno in one direction, over a bridge, and back in the other way, and then over a bridge and back to La Torre di Pisa.
We made it back to the man where we rented our quadricycle about ten minutes early, but we didn't want to stay on it any longer, except my sister who thought we could enjoy it some more. Not only were we tired from pedaling, but we didn't want to get lost again either.
We walked through the open market that we passed while we were on the quadricycle and then went to a small outside terrace to have drinks. I was becoming sadder by the minute knowing that I'd have to say good-bye to my family and especially my niece.
Dave and I walked them to La Torre di Pisa and hugged them all good-bye. My niece didn't want us to go, but I felt it was the best time right before she was about to do something exciting and fun with her parents. I couldn't watch her go, so we walked away from the entrance where we left them. I buried my face into Dave's shoulder and burst into tears, hoping that she wouldn't see me.
We walked over to the statue where we told them we'd be so that they could wave to us on their way up. When I saw them at the very top of La Torre di Pisa, I took a picture of them.
We took a taxi to the train station and bought our tickets to go back to Florence. It is illegal to smoke on the trains, but sometimes at night, kids smoke in the area where the doors are. Unfortunately, because the trains aren't well aerated, the smoke lingers throughout.
We walked out to the front of the station to get a taxi and found over a hundred people already waiting. I thought we'd go across the street to pick up bus number 14 that goes down via Ghibellina, but we read a sign at the bus stop that announced that buses would stop running at 1PM on Sunday. We didn't want to go back to the station and wait for a taxi, so we decided to walk all the way home. The streets were crowded with people, so the walk seemed rather short.
We were happy to arrive at our apartment and get off of our feet. I was sad though that my family had left and especially my niece whom I've enjoyed so much spending time with. I'm looking forward to a future trip to the US just to see her again. I must admit that no matter how much I love living in Italy, the most difficult part is being away from her.
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