I knew, before even arriving in Florence, that I would want to utilize my no-class-on-Friday, long weekend schedule to see a few other cities around Italy. Though I know I will come back some day, I wanted to make the most of the time I have here, now.
Lucky for me, Florence is relatively close to a number of exciting places to explore, and traveling by train is easy and inexpensive! Some popular weekend trips include Rome, Milan, and Venice. It’s also easy to head to Lucca, Perugia (for the best Italian chocolate) or Bologna for the afternoon. Some day trips that I have personally taken, within these short two weeks, have been to Venice, Prato, Pisa, and Siena. Though I enjoyed each of these trips for different reasons (Venice for its unique architecture and city layout, and Prato for the Textile Museum and delicious biscotti), my favorite trip was taking on both Pisa and Siena in one day. As Florence, Pisa, and Siena are all within two hours or less from one another by train, a group of us decided to tackle Pisa in the early afternoon and Siena in the late afternoon/evening.
We left Florence around 11a.m. and headed to Pisa. All we really wanted to see there was the Leaning Tower, so we planned to only spend a couple of hours and take some cliché pictures, pretending to lean on the tower, and grab a quick lunch. Upon arrival, we were surprised to find that the Leaning Tower seems to sprout up in the middle of nowhere. The city of Pisa is pretty small and lacks the hustle and bustle of Florence. It was definitely a worthwhile experience to see the famous landmark. I have seen so many pictures of it throughout my life, but it was surreal to actually be standing right in front of it. After taking our ‘leaning pictures,’ we stopped for some lunch at a cafe nearby where I felt it necessary to get pizza because the name of the city called for it. We ended up only spending about two hours in total there, which was the perfect, in my opinion. Beyond the tower, it did not seem like there was much more to be seen.
With bellies full of pizza, and the laughter brought on by looking at our recently taken ‘Leaning Tower’ pictures, we were off to Siena for the rest of the day! Our train took about two hours, and we arrived around 4pm. To get into the city from the train station, we took escalators up a giant hill. At the top, we were greeted with a gorgeous view overlooking the rolling hills of Tuscany. We spent the early evening wandering through the streets, admiring the way the setting sun cast shadows on the Medieval architecture. We finished our night in the Piazza Del Campo, a beautiful plaza with a central fountain, surrounded by shops and restaurants. We ate a delicious dinner at one of the restaurants there; sitting at a table outdoors, we enjoyed the friendly service and perfectly mild evening temperature.
As I sat on the train headed back to Florence, I decided that Siena was my favorite Italian city thus far, and that still holds true. It is like a miniature Florence, but missing the more touristy aspects, which makes it feel more authentic. I fell in love with its simple charm and picturesque setting. It is definitely a place that I intend to return one day.
Overall, the task of seeing two cities in one day was a major success. I returned to my Florentine home tired, but feeling very accomplished. In one day we were able to see a famous landmark, explore new places, and eat delicious food. This adventure was surely one for the books!