Taking Farelli to Pisa

Taking Farelli to Pisa today so up at 7:30 sitting on the balcony writing this. A lot more blue-sky out this morning, which is nice. Still quite chilly.

We left at 10:45 to catch the 11:40 train to Empoli – Bob and Claire dropped us off.

About 10 minutes before the train arrived, Farelli declared she had left her plane ticket on the bed at Rodilosso. She searched her bag but it wasn’t there. So we quickly reworked the plan and Mirinda sat in a cafe while Farelli and I got a taxi back to Rodilosso (with me directing in my gradually growing Italian – “seconda sinistra“) where she dashed inside to find… it wasn’t there.

So, back to Castelfiorentina to pick up Mirinda. In time for the 12:33 train but the platform was empty. This was unusual! About 12:20 Mr Toscana (the stationmaster) comes out onto the platform and manages to communicate that the next train is not until 2pm.

Because its Boxing Day the trains are very few and far between.

Waiting for a train

Eventually Mr Toscana, gesticulated that the next train wouldn’t arrive until 2pm. After picking up our dropped jaws, we thanked him then headed into the deserted (except for lots of old men hanging around in strange little groups) Castelfiorentina.

We decided to have lunch and stopped in a cafe where we found a guy who speaks Englishand lived for 12 years in New York – his English was excellent and tinged with an American accent. Had a lovely salmon-y omelette and a couple of beers – Mirinda had salty chicken and roast potatoes. By the time we got back to the station it was occupied by a few in the know locals so we felt confident the train would arrive. And it did.

After about five minutes on the train, the ticket inspector came along and punched our ticket but Farelli couldn’t find hers. The guard said he’d come back as she frantically searched her suitcase. By the way her plane ticket turned up in the cafe when she had a really thorough search of her luggage. This is where train ticket had also gravitated. Obviously some sort of ticket love thing.

So we get to Empoli to find the next train to Pisa is in an hour and a half! Italian timetables have squiggly lines to indicate trains that don’t run regularly and this means on days like Boxing Day there’s very very very very very few trains… so I get sent to find coffee and Coke. Actually I was getting very irritated at this point and Mirinda sent me off to get over it.

Empoli seems to be the Asian capital of Tuscany. As I left the station, the obligatory Piazza was full of Asians but not in tour groups and not all Japanese. It was strange! Maybe there’s some connection between Empoli and the east. Anyway I walked around the medieval streets but Empoli was shut up tighter than a drum. The Cinema was open but there was only a queue. I walk back to the station. I did take a couple of photos and spoke to a lunatic woman which will now form my lasting impression of Empoli.

A fountain in Empoli

Eventually the train arrived for Pisa and we got on it. Not that you’d know it. There are no indicators on the platform. There was an occasional, cryptic announcement over the tannoy in which you glimpse words that seem to imply it’s your train (“…due binari…Pisa…”) but basically it’s just luck. It was the right train.

We got to Pisa just gone 4. We booked Farelli into a hotel on the river then walked up to the tower. It was beautiful in the final rays of the setting sun. I’ve always thought it was just a tower but it was originally built as a bell tower behind the cathedral.

Duomo, Pisa

The cathedral and the tower both compliment each other with that wedding-cake look and there’s a baptistery as well which completes the Renaissance chutzpah of the picture. There was a lot of people wandering around and a million souvenir booths selling what has to be the world’s tackiest souvenirs! By the time it got too dark to see anything we had found a pizzeria and sat down to eat. Of course we had to have pizza in Pisa. It was ok. The beer was better.

We then walked Farelli back to her hotel and continued on to Pisa station. The main street was very crowded though most of the shops remained closed. All very friendly though, not like London.

Our train back arrived dead on a 7:14. This train was not on the timetable. We thought we had an hour and a half wait at Empoli on the way back but the info guy at Pisa station assured us that the 7:14 would get us to Empoli in time to connect with the 8:02 to Siena. We arrived at Empoli just before 8.

A bit of confusion with which platform the Siena train was on – I got on a Pisa train but managed to hop off again… luckily. A kindly guard pointed us in the direction of the correct train which mysteriously sat on platform three with absolutely no indication as to where or when it was due to leave. We got on, fingers crossed, and it took us to Castelfiorentina where we met Bob and went back to Rodilosso.

Bob and Claire had another day in San G.

We sat over tea/coffee and my not very good Christmas cake then hit the beds about 10. Funny day. Hopefully tomorrow will prove a little more successful. We’re going to Volterra.

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