Today was small stops and walks through some small walled cities and a drive through some mountainous terrain.
We started with “breakfast” that came with our B&B. Apparently 4 shortbread cookies and 2 croissants is breakfast in Pisa. 🙂 We sat there for a while thinking surely this is like some sort of bread plate before the meal…nope. It was the meal. Lol
Also, I learned that when you ask for milk for a child, they will bring you steamed latte milk at lava temperature. Italians don’t believe in giving kids cold beverages, they think that it gives them stomach cramps.
So after some googling, I figured out you have to ask for “latte freddo”. In this case, the waitress acted like she had an “a-ha” moment and quickly went back inside. Only to emerge with a tiny little coffee creamer crock of milk. Haha
So we laughed and improvised- pouring the 2 oz of cold milk into a water glass and then adding about 3 oz of the steamed milk and letting Norah stir it which she thought was awesome fun. She also got cookies for breakfast…so she thought the day was off to a great start.
We started out with a drive to the north side of Pisa towards Asciano to see the Medici acqueduct ordered to be constructed by Cosimo I Medici in the late 1500s.
The Medici family name and crest is all over everything in the area as they were the wealthiest and most powerful family of their day. Even though Florence and the area was a replublic of the truest kind- elected officials and no ruler or King…at the Medici family’s prime- no one in the area made a decision without the approval of a Medici. They were like the unspoken kings of the region through the 1400s but this status was initially achieved through kind acts, deep pockets, quiet demeanor and extensive education and business knowledge, not through military force or a takeover of any sort. They were also smart- the first famous Cosimo (Cosimo di Giovanni de Medici-it’s tricky- they named themselves all the same ha) knew the importance of humility and strategic alignment with powerful people and he often made loans without interest to the Vatican popes and sent exotic gifts to rulers of foreign lands. The history and life of the Medici family and its succession could span volumes but it’s enough to know that Cosimo “the Elder” was a self made man, who created an empire in banking by using his smart sense and with his 30 million dollar empire, financed a good portion of the arts of the Renaissance including many of the works of Donatello, Michaelangelo and many others.
He once said, “All those things have given me the greatest satisfaction and contentment because they are not only for the honor of God but are likewise for my own remembrance. For fifty years, I have done nothing else but earn money and spend money; and it became clear that spending money gives me greater pleasure than earning it.”
…and spend it he did. He started the first library in Florence, he commissioned the Duomo (I’ll show you that in a couple days), he commissioned Latin translations of ancient books including the complete works of Plato.
*Random fact- Italics font as we know it today, with its script form and slanted letters is almost entirely based off of the style of handwriting that the “transcriptionist” of the Medici family, who travelled all over the world copying texts and scrolls for their great library and the further education of Florence, used in writing these first books. One guy, spending months at a time in underground cellars and towers of monestaries copying and translating any book he encountered but couldn’t immediately just purchase and take with him, is responsible for the look of our modern day letters. I find that absolutely mindblowingly fascinating…
I picture a guy in a robe, riding in his wagon with his horses, with his chest full of Medici money for buying off anything of value that he could and another full of antiquities and books he’s collected for his return to Florence. Just the mechanics is amazing. How did they keep the books dry during weather? How many months did it take to travel these mountains and hills of the areas? Can you imagine sending someone out on a quest for books and that it would take you 5 years to see what kind of return you would see? Was theft a concern? In a time where no one could hardly read I wouldn’t think many seedy individuals would see much value in paper and leather… Was it an entire commissioned force, I wonder? With gaurds to protect the money and navigators to keep their bearings?
But I digress, So much the learn, not enough time.
Anyway- acqueduct. The acqueduct was ordered by Cosimo I (not the first Cosimo, but the first Duke of Tuscany) 200 years later after lots and lots of politics and struggles and murders played out.
By this time, the Medici still had money and definitely had fame and were actually part of the ruling class of the area.
The acqueduct carried water from the mountains in the distance all the way to Pisa. I loved the public fountain along the way, although I have no idea how old it is compared to the acqueduct.
We continued on to Lucca- “the walled city”. Also birthplace to Puccini, famous for his Operas. It existed since a Roman times- founded somewhere around 200BC and thrived because it was a perfect resting point from those traveling to Rome.
The walls existed but were really reinforced into their current form during the Middle Ages- 1200 or so.
The giant metal doors and retractable metal gates are just amazing.
Lucca is famous for its “tower houses”. Call it a …ahem… Show of power. The bigger your tower, the mightier your family’s power. Men…
This was so true, that if you lost your fortunes, they would tear down your tower. As a demonstration of your fall from greatness. But- those still standing today are a very cool architectural style to look at. A very distinctive style for the city.
We stopped in a little side street cafe for espresso and we hoped some proper breakfast, but anything hot or containing protein is just not to me found before lunch. Pastries, tarts, coffee. But that’s it.
The owner was awesome and he loved Norah. (In fact everyone here loves he little curly blonde wonder…we have at LEAST 30 conversations a day about her)
He sold a lot of random lights and techno type things….she thought it was awesome she got to have a “dance party” in the back room. Pay no mind to the wall of creepy mannequins on the back wall. 😳
Norah needed to go potty, so I asked if he had a bathroom and just like it was a totally normal bathroom pointed me around the corner. To this.
What the heck are you supposed to do with this??? Haha I mean… I KNOW…. But srsly? How do you explain this to a three year old who is barely using the real type?!
I told her we were gonna act like dog and pee on the ground. Haha then proceeded to try to hold her at a very weird angle and complete the deed. Needless to say, she peed her pants before we got there. Lol
(She’ll thank me for that info being shared publicly when she’s older)
We got cleaned up and proceeded on an hour drive to Pistoia. Not famous for much other than it may be the root of our word Pistol which seems to be where they were originally manufactured.
Let me google it… Yup. Where the first pistols were made.
We had pizza at the Cafe de Duomo on the square. My Italian is markedly improving as the days ago by. I don’t think anyone spoke English today until we got to our hotel tonight. And we survived, so I’ll call it a win. Although I don’t think anyone will give me any awards for my Italian anytime soon. Ha
That made someone happy
we travelled on to Bologna, up a little mountain for what was supposed to be a scenic view of the city. Too much smog to see anything unfortunately in the picture but it would have been beautiful.
We stopped for a wine and cheese snack at a little restaurant at the top
The main attraction was the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, a church that has been here since the 1200s
The really amazing thing about this church is the arched walkway that leads all the way from the city of Bologna up to the church. 666 arches to exact. Creepy.
I had seen photos of this before but didn’t even know what it was until we got there.
*i realize now that my photos are lacking, so here’s some that aren’t mine to show a little better:
All the way from the city to the top. And there were better people than me walking the entire thing.
There used to be a cable car to take you up to the top, but it stopped in the 1970s when they paved a road to the top
Lastly, we headed into Bologna for the night. It was a little grittier than I expected but nothing where I felt unsafe. Lots of Graffiti, very fast pace… Reminded me a lot of Belfast, which wasn’t my favorite place. We drove downtown and after a few narrow alleys and near death experiences, we found our hotel- Il Canele.
The only place on the only canal in Bologna (like a little mini Venice)
The hotel clerk moved a “tow away zone” parking sign to make room for our car. However I looked at the spot and thought No.way.ever. Would I fit there. So I told the guy he had to park it. So he did! He had to get out and move some scooters…he just started picking them up and dragging them around by hand…haha but he did it!
The room was very cool. Regal almost if we were in the early 1900s but man do the beds feel like they are from the early 1900s lol.
We went out walking down Via Independenze where all the shopping is towards the Piazza Maggiore, basically the old city center. I had to laugh at the giant Lamborghini logo lit up on the side of the building. Reminded me of the movie Idiocracy where they advertise the Gaterade stuff on the moon….
But it turns out there was a festival they were prepping for and it was sponsored by Lamborghini. We even saw them unloading the cars for the event.
The fountain of Neptune was really cool.
Even their public drinking fountain has major character.
There was a Disney store along the way and Norah had to stop and go to the “Inside Out” store since that the latest and greatest movie craze. We got lots of ideas for Santa.
The hotel clerk recommended a restaurant around the block called Victoria. We had the house red wine and sparkling water
An antipasto platter with mortadella, fresh mozzarella, Parmesan prosciutto and bruschetta. Norah had pizza.
I ordered “beef ribs” in a sauce. I received some sort of pork like steak… But whatever. It was good. Haha
Kegan had some sort of beef medallions and mushrooms. The Italians could teach the Irish a few things about potatoes. They were amazing.
We finished up with a little scoop of Nutella gelato from a “gelateria” we passed on our way back.
Norah was ready for bed quickly. Ha
So were we after a few glasses of wine. I quickly fell asleep but because of the time change, here I sit awake at 4am writing this 🙂
Tomorrow is the city of Revenna with some amazing art and architecture and we arrive in Florence in the evening.
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