Day Trip to Pisa, Vinci, Siena & San Gimignano

Our Day Trip
We decided several weeks ago that we should do another day-trip to have a quick look at Pisa and San Gimignano (another "sighting trip").
For EU47 each, we did a tour that included these towns as well as going to Vinci (supposedly where Leonardo was born, but this is not quite true) and Siena, as well as stopping for lunch at a winery and doing some wine & olive oil tasting. Not bad value.
We left at 7:30am from SMN station and went to Pisa first, where we had a hour to wander around the Piazza dei Miracoli where the Pisa cathedral, baptistery & leaning tower are.
This is a pretty nice place to wander and is very well looked after (I guess for obvious reasons!).
Obviously, the tower is pretty impressive, but whoever did the levels on that job has a serious eyesight issue!

It is interesting that everyone talks about the tower, but the other buildings there are much more impressive in their own spectacular way (the Baptistery and the Cathedral).
You enter through the old walls (which I did not even know about before getting to Pisa) and the whole area opens out into a vast grassed area where the medieval city used to sit - very impressive.

The day was perfect and there were not too many people there - it could not have been better.
So many people there were taking stupid photos of themselves holding up the tower and jumping around taking selfies - we took some photos of people taking photos of themselves. Some of them were quite funny.

We then headed to Vinci where there is an excellent museum containing a lot of Leonardo di Vinci's documents  and working models constructed using these drawings and other parts of his codexs. They are all located in two buildings, small but nicely laid out. The second building is on top of the hill, so you get great views of the surrounding countryside. It is a museum as well but I can't find out how to get there if you don't have a car.
Da Vinci was actually born in Anchiano about 3km from Vinci, but we didn't find this out till we came home! 

From here we headed to a winery near San Gimignano where we had a light lunch and tasted wine, olive oils (one infused with truffles) and aged balsamic vinegar with the food. The olive oil with truffles was tasty, but you could tell it could easily overpower any meal if you added too much.
Lyn was not tasting the wine, so I tasted hers as well as mine. The chianti was good, the heavier reds were no better than mid-range Oz wines (in my opinion), and the white we had was very dry and similar to a Sav Blanc back home.
They also gave a sample of their "Vin Santo" (dessert wine) along with the local almond biscuits that the tuscans eat with their wine. That was a pretty good wine with a taste of Muscatel grapes.

Siena was the next port of call where we stayed about two hours, but Lyn and I had been here a couple of weeks ago, so we did the tour for an hour (which was really interesting) and then found a good coffee and cake at Naninni's Cafe (The family of Gianna Nanini, the singer, own this chain of coffee shops).
We recommend this place when you visit Siena. 4 euros for 2 coffees and 2 cakes - couldn't be better!

The last stop of the day was in San Gimignano and by the time we got there it was dark.
We couldn't see a lot of the town, but it was interesting to see the buildings under lights.

Along the way, we found these two local characters in a couple of shops.
Wild boar is a delicacy in these area and these two shops sold wild boar in a number of forms - salamis, other cold meats and re-made sauces.
We got back to Florence at about 8:45pm - a good day, but both Lyn and I thought it was a bit long with too many towns crammed in. It would have been better to see less towns for a longer period as we seemed to be rushing from place to place.
Having said this, I guess that if you only have a day in Tuscany, this would give you a good taste of the region.
We will definitely go back to San Gimignano for another day at least, this time taking local buses.

Lyn's Week In Printmaking
This week I have been finishing off the Piazza Pitti print, trying to finish the mezzotint of John Malkovich pretending to be Jack Nicholson being the Joker (got that??) and having a go at a small aquaforte/aquatint on a copper plate using ferric chloride as the etchant. Sounds like a busy week, doesn't it?
It was also Ignacio's birthday on Friday, so we had to get him a small present and a card.
In 2 weeks I will be the only foreigner left, so I had better improve  my Italian language skills - some of the students thought that I would be leaving when Ben and Ignacio finish at the end of March and were quite surprised when I told them that I will be here for the rest of the year. Now everyone is trying to speak to me in English and making me speak to them in Italian!
I took Friday off so we could go on the day trip to Pisa, Vinci, Siena and San Gimignano, so I only had 4 days to try and do as much as I could.
Finished Piazza Pitti
Finished Bulino; I am going to print this with chine colle paper so it will be yellow and black
First 2 proofs of the copper plate, still needs lots of work
Carla missed her train because she couldn't clean up quick enough!
The Joker mezzotint, I may have to rock the plate a bit more on the top to get rid of the light patches
Today (Saturday) we cleaned the apartment and decided to catch a bus to I Gigli, which is a big shopping mall outside of Florence - sort of like going to Epping Plaza! It's near Prato, about 30 minutes from Florence. There was an Andy Warhol exhibition being held there, starting today, so we thought we would have a look at it (and it's free!)
We found the bus stop quite easily - we must be getting better! We couldn't validate our tickets as the machine was broken, so we got a free ride!
it was only on the way back that we found out we had the wrong tickets, because we could not validate them and the driver told us. The "bigletti" are only good for the "Commune di Firenze" (like our Zone 1 tickets), but because I Gigli is a bit out of town in zone 2, it is a different ticket and costs 2.5 euros. Now we know, but we were lucky that no inspectors got on during the outward-bound trip!
The exhibition was quite small, but the shopping centre was enormous! It was just like any large shopping centre in Australia, except the food court probably had nicer food!
When we feel the need for a shot of Western decadence, this is where we will have to come to!

A big jigsaw was laid out in the middle
There were a few screen prints of a cat called Sam - Andy must have loved Sam...
This is what you see when you walk in the entrance to the centre 
The famous Campbell's soup can

An Original "Sticky Fingers" record cover

Taken from the mezzanine
The large jigsaw seen from the mezzanine above
The front entrance of the shopping centre
We had an interesting time wandering around, it was so unlike anything else in Florence. At the big supermarket we looked for loose leaf tea again - we found some, but it is so expensive!  We had lunch and then caught the bus back to Santa Maria Novella before walking home.

Next weekend we are going to Rome. We finally rejoined Airbnb and found a nice place to stay in the university area of Rome, close to the metro system.
We can't get properly verified for Airbnb because we aren't on Facebook or LinkedIn which is a real pain!! We think that's discrimination, but what can you do!!
Anyway, the people in Rome will let us stay with them, so at this stage it does not really matter, but it is still very annoying.


  1. Love the Piazza Pitti print!. Can you explain a little more about 'finishing it'. Is it an overprinting process or do you just do some more work on the plate and print again?
    Sounds like you have your coffee preferences sorted now. Slowly converting to the European way.

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  3. You are certainly making the most of every minute. Your adventures are a point of discussion most weeks at class. Term 1 finishes next week. You'll definitely be thrown in at the deep end next term Lyn; nothing like immersion!

  4. I'm following your travels with envy! So glad you are having such a wonderful adventure and hope you get back to San Gimignano in the daylight. It is an amazing place. I've tried to add comments a few times but seem to be doing something wrong.....just a techno dummy I guess. Your work looks great Lyn; best of luck with next term. All well at RC x