Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Extended Travel Report: Italian Holiday 2015 - Day 5

On Day 5 we had another cooking class, this time it was centered around pasta. We learned to make 3 types of pasta that day: tagliatelle, gnocchi (a personal favorite!), and ravioli.

As with the previous class, the driver picked us up at Pontedera train station and brought us to Ca'Solare.
On the way to Peccioli

Some hay bales

We arrived a bit early so I took more ground photos of Ca'Solare this time.

The lush landscape of Ca'Solare

Outside the kitchen


The view from Ca'Solare

My friend standing by the gorgeous pool

We were joined by this other couple, Nick and Anna from London and the translator was Lucca, all of whom were about the same age as us.
Materials for the cooking class

Lucca, our translator

Hard at work
It was unbelievable how simple yet delicious the ingredients were.

Making the pasta

Ravioli and tagliatelle

Time went by quickly when you were having fun and before we knew it, it was almost 3pm. We originally wanted to go to Carrara after the cooking class so we decided to skip the coffee and left.
A plaza near Pisa Centrale

Corso Italia

Corso Italia

A typical cosmetic store in Italy

However, we had a change of heart since we'd read that the marble quarry closed pretty early and we were worried we wouldn't reach the place in time.

Instead, we went back to our apartment and did some shopping at PAM. We got a little carried away that our total purchase amounted to 90 euros! At the apartment, I practiced what I learned from the Tuscan cooking class and cooked us some dinner.
The chopped ingredients

A really great olive oil

Drowning the chopped ingredients in olive oil

Chunks of veal added

Chianti from our host

Chianti poured in

Our dining area

Our very Italian dinner!
Buon Appetito!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Extended Travel Report: Italian Holiday 2015 - Day 4

We hit up Florence on Day 4. As usual, we walked all the way to Pisa Centrale station even though technically we could board the train from Pisa San Rossore station which is by our apartment but we just wanted to explore Pisa as much as we could.
Piazza Dei Cavalieri, Pisa
On the way to Florence

The journey took about an hour and we naively bought one-way tickets, thinking Santa Maria Novella station would be just as mellow as Pisa Centrale or Pontedera - Casciana Terme stations. Boy, were we wrong.
Approaching Santa Maria Novella train station

Santa Maria Novella station
Just outside Santa Maria Novella station

The minute we stepped off the train at Santa Maria Novella, it was clear the station was a major hub, much bigger than Pisa. It was crowded and hectic, and frankly it reminds me a bit of the Jakarta Kota train station in Indonesia. We hurriedly got out of the station and headed downtown, only to be greeted by more crowds.
Palazzo Vecchio
Duomo was truly spectacular. Pictures can't do justice, I'm telling you. The feeling was really majestic as we walked up to it and it was peeking out from behind the buildings.

The Majestic Duomo

Marzipan shop

Sephora in Florence

Popsicles shop

Sadly I really couldn't stand the crowds so after a couple of obligatory pics, we moved away as fast as we could.

Next up was Ponte Vecchio, an old bridge known for its gold jewelry shops. It was also packed with people so we hurriedly walked through it and on to Piazzale Michelangelo.
Entrance to Ponte Vecchio

Locks on Ponte Vecchio

On Ponte Vecchio

A View from Ponte Vecchio

A monument on Ponte Vecchio
Once we made it through Ponte Vecchio, the crowds became much lesser and it was much comfortable. One caveat though: the path to Piazzale Michelangelo was quite steep which is why there were less people there.

Quite a chore but infinitely much preferred to crowds in downtown Florence.

A steep ascend to Piazzale Michelangelo
Just before we reached the top, there was a Rose Garden. Since it was early Summer, the roses were in bloom and you can start to see the vista. There was a trubadour outside the entrance and when we were there, he was singing the Italian version of 'Night in White Satin' which is one of my favorite songs, which enhanced the ambience considerably!
View of Florence from the Rose Garden

Rose Bushes

Lemon Tree

And finally, we reached the top! It was freaking beautiful, words just can't express.
Behold, the Majestic Panorama of Florence

Restaurant at Piazzale Michelangelo
After soaking up all the beauty of the sweeping panorama of Florence, we started our descend back to downtown Florence.

This time around we bought tickets from Florence to Pisa San Rossore because we were quite tired from having climbed the steep pathway to Piazzale Michelangelo. Here's Pisa San Rossore, I love how mellow the station was!

I bought a small pendant from one of the shops on Ponte Vecchio on our way back. Not something of the fanciest materials but I like the design, very 'Florence' or 'Italian', I think which will make a good memento of my first trip to Florence.