I woke on cue just after 6:00 am, but rolled over and snoozed until just after 6:30 am. The estimated drive time to Pisa was about 3.5 h and Majella had suggested that we had no need to hurry ourselves along. After we had showered we went for breakfast. There was just one piece of cheesecake in evidence this morning and I assumed that it must have been from yesterday but went ahead and ate it – along with the rest of my selection – anyway. It tasted no worse for being a day older. Joel tried the apple flan but found it not to his liking.
After breakfast we finished our packing, checked out, and pointed TomTom toward the address of our next hotel in Pisa. It took TomTom a few minutes to get his bearings and calculate a route. We were out the gate from Villa Stucky and on the road a few minutes before 9:00 am but were amazed to find the main street, so quiet the previous couple of evenings, blocked off to traffic with a crowd milling around a variety of market stalls that had sprung up over night. We turned left along a side road and found the car park behind the shops was also full of stalls. We pulled into another side street and parked, determined to investigate. Many of the stalls were large vans that had fold out awnings under which the business was conducted. There was enormous variety – including several fruit stands, a couple of fish stands selling a wide variety of items from crustaceans to snails in addition to more regular fish, stalls selling kitchen goods, clothing, shoes, curtain fabric, and more. Majella picked up a couple of gift items. I bought a shirt for €5, a pair of sandals for immediate wear, and a leather belt, which was instantly trimmed to length, to replace one that I had been wearing for years but which was now too long because of my weight loss. It took us about 40 minutes to satisfy our curiosity and then we were off again on the road to Pisa.
We had allowed TomTom to save 3 h, at an eventual cost of about €20 in tolls, by plotting a path using toll roads so we followed a route through the Mogliano countryside that took us to an autostrada access near Venice Mestre. That was slow going for much of the way in traffic but once we had bought fuel and entered the autostrada we made good time towards Bologna and were in that vicinity shortly after 11:00. Majella had visions of looking at the old city of Bologna so we left the autostrada there and headed for Bologna Centro, following the signs with TomTom pleading sotto voce for us to turn around. We should probably have listened to him because it was not long before we were caught in a road works induced traffic snarl outside the central area of Bologna. We navigated that and got close to the city but traffic was heavy, we were not sure where we were going, and parking spaces were apparently all occupied. Eventually we wound up the volume on TomTom and let him lead us out of town and back toward the west bound autostrada, looking for a supermercato where we might buy some fixings for lunch but failed to spot one along the way. Just before we reached the autostrada entrance on the western side of Bologna we spotted a turn towards what looked like a newer residential area. We turned in and soon found a supermercato but then discovered that on Mondays it was not open until 2:00 pm. We were beginning to wonder whether Nick’s 1995 report that there was “no food in Italy” might be correct. Further scans of the neighbourhood failed to locate an alternative source of food, so we allowed TomTom to lead us onto the autostrada thinking we might try another town along the way.
About 15 km up the road Majella spotted a turn to Sasso Marconi and headed off the autostrada. Past the toll plaza it took a little while to navigate our way to what looked like a pleasant enough place except that it did not appear to have a supermercato or any other place that we recognised as likely to sell the makings of lunch. Nick’s theory was looking more and more likely to be correct. We did find a piazza with some seats in front of the local church with an open parking space in front. We stopped there and managed lunch from the fruit and other bits and pieces we had in the car. There was no sign of a public toilet so Joel had to wait until we found a patch of shrubbery by the road a little way further on the way back to the autostrada.
I had taken over driving at Sasso Marconi and took us the rest of the way to Pisa. The road over the mountains as far as Firenze was punctuated by numerous tunnels. The longest was no more than 2 km but negotiating those and slipping by the almost uninterrupted stream of trucks in the right lane without impeding too much of the faster traffic required a good deal of concentration. From Firenze to Pisa was easier driving until the last section beyond the autostrada where the traffic became heavy. Along the way between Firenze and Pisa we were treated to a view of the nurseries around Pistoia that had so amazed us on our previous trip.
In Pisa, TomTom led us to the address for the Hotel La Pace, despite our having to deviate more than once for road works. We did not spot the hotel at first but were lucky to find a parking space in the area in front of the railway station and walked back to find the hotel and check in. Our room on the fifth floor was something of a surprise. The suite has 2 bedrooms, each with a double bed so Joel has his own room. There is also a walk in robe and a balcony with a view that takes in the tops of the cathedral and the famous tower. Free Internet access is available at the rate of 4 h per day. The only problem to be solved is parking because the streets in the local area have paid parking at €1.50 per hour from 08:00 until 20:00 daily. We will work that out as we go.
Majella had paid for an hour of parking when we first pulled up so we used that to get the luggage in and take a short rest before heading out. We took the car to a supermercato to pick up a few things, including a bottle of wine that we planned to enjoy later in the evening, and then took a short drive in the local countryside, arriving back near the hotel just after 6:00 pm. We parked, with enough credit to take us past the 8:00 pm limit and went back to our room.
After another short rest, we walked up the street toward the river Arno, a little way along the river and then back through town. We stopped at l’Arciere, a restaurant in a quiet side street, for dinner. Joel had Pizza Messicana and managed to finish the full pizza with the aid of some Coke. Majella had bruschetta and was a bit surprised to find that in place of the slice or two of bread with tomato topping she had 5 slices of bread with various toppings, including tomato, shredded prosciutto (we think), funghi, cheese, and olive oil. I had scallopine con limone and was a bit surprised that it was just the meat without any sign of vegetable material but it was sufficient – especially when I helped Majella finish off a couple of slices of bruschetta. Majella and I each had a glass of local red wine.
Here is Joel’s Jolly Junction with Joel’s report of the day:
We woke up at around 7.30 and got dressed. Then we got breakfast at the hotel. I had chocolate corn flake thingys, which is probably not their correct name, and a piece of apple flan. We packed up our things and checked out and then we went out to the car and tried to get TomTom going which took a few tries, bit we finally got him working, and we set a course for our hotel in Pisa. The road was blocked by street markets and we got out with the intention of having a quick look, and when we got out the first stall we went to was a fruit stall where we got plums because I like plums and strawberries, because almost everyone likes strawberries, because they are a deliciously light fruity treat.
Grandad got sandals at a different stall (they weren’t edible), and they have been squeaking on all the marble floors in Pisa so far. Then we walked a bit more and grandad decided to get a belt to replace his old one. After that we decided to go back to the car and got on our way to Pisa. After about an hour of driving, we tried to stop to look around for food, so we stopped at a supermarket but it turned out to be closed on Mondays until 2.30. So we had to keep looking and we went for another while until we got to Sasso Marconi and we found that everything was shut there for siesta. So we stopped and had a little picnic in the square with corny bars and fruit. We kept driving until we got to Pisa (well we probably stopped in between then but I can’t remember), and it took us a while to get to our hotel and we got a park and checked in and brought our bags up. Then we went down and had a quick drive around the city and on the way back Nanna got us lost. We parked and paid enough to stay parked until morning. Then we went upstairs and had a quick rest and got a bit more settled and after a while we decided to go back down and get some dinner. We were looking for about half an hour and we eventually decided on a pizza place in a back street. Nanna had bruschetta, grandad had some other thing (not sure what) and I had a whole pizza and there is proof that I ate it in the photo gallery. Then we went back to our room and wrote our diaries.