My husband taught a class in Pisa, Italy so I tagged along with him. For a week, I had to entertain myself during the day, but that was easy. After the class was over we drove to Sienna and Florence where we went to fabulous museums walked ourselves to death and ate fabulous Italian food every day. I think I will wait a few days before I check the scale.
First stop was Pisa. The leaning tower was about 3 blocks from our hotel. Here is a picture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa from the street in front of our hotel. The tilt is obvious. How would you like to be known as the architects of one of the most famous goof-ups in history? Of course, the Tower is still beautiful and is much more memorable than the straight ones.
Here is a fairly close up picture of the Cathedral, Baptistry, and Tower of Pisa. My husband's colleague in Pisa pointed out that there were actually 3 leaning towers in Pisa and apparently one student found all 3. From my point of view the Baptistry is a little off center as well.
Pisa is right by the sea at the stunning altitude of 1 meter. The soil is not all that stable. My husband pointed out that everything in Pisa leans. That is probably a joke. It is a lovely town. Galileo used to drop things off the leaning tower -- or have an assistant do so, so he could study the law of Gravity. He studied at the University of Pisa and the house where he lived while he lived at the university is labeled as such.
Leaning Tower and a bit of the Cathedral. Tilt is obvious. You can climb all the way to the top and I did. That probably used up one teaspoon of the pasta I ate.
The food in Italy is fabulous. Along the coast, as in Pisa, the seafood is incredibly fresh and tasty. And Italian red wine is always tasty and abundant.
Food and scenery and people in Italy can not be beat --- except Italians behind the wheel of an automobile all turn into maniacs! I had a ball. Where are you going VV. Sounds like you have a lot of fun ahead of you. I will add more pics over the next day or two.
I went to Lake Gardo years ago. It is a popular vacation place for Italians. We used to drink a chiaretto from Lago di Gardo as our table wine when I lived with my parents in Milano in 1966. I realize that was a very long time ago. I liked it, my parents thought it was too crowded and dusty. I am not too sure what I would think now, older and wiser. I did rather like it at the time.
I don't know Piemonte and Liguria but I do know Tuscany pretty well for an American ( also Lumbardy and Emilia-Romana).. This trip was totally Tuscany. We will be going to Bologna ( Emilia-Romana) in October. Both are fantastic.
Tuscany has everything. Since Florence ( Firenze) was the center of the Medici dominion, all of the remains of their wealth are there. Palaces, art work, and universities. There is so much to see in Florence alone that I can't guess how long it would take to see everything of interest. This trip DH and I went to the Ufizzi Gallery, one of the finest art museums in the world. We also went to see Da Vinci's sculpture of David at the Academe which also has some excellent paintings, but not anything like the number held by the Uffizi. We then went to a wonderful Cezanne show at the Strozzi Palace which is traveling, I think. I don't know if it will still be there when you get there. After that we went to the Bargello museum with wonderful sculpture by Michaelangelo, Donatello and many others.
If you are into art, the only places that compare with Florence are Paris and New York. Probably London, but I haven't been there and can't say for sure. I have one very strong recommendation, for Florence though. If you want to go to any of the museums, book them on line. It costs a little more, but it saves you many hours of waiting in line for entrance. ( They only let so many people in at a time for the protection of the paintings and even in March, there were an amazing number of people in the museum and in line.) The url for the booking company is:
It was from their web site that we learned of the Cezanne show which turned out to be wonderful. They also book museums from other cities. Even the Italians were impressed that we booked on line. They agreed that was the only way to go -- you don't have to wait in line.
I do have other recommendations, but my husband wants to use the computer right now. Dmail me if you have specific questions. I know some hotels and some restaurants, but we didn't follow a guide book. I will post more later.
If you feel the need for a break from all the art in Florence, I recommend a visit to the University of Florence Science Museums. The entrance is on Via G. la Pira, near Piazza San Marco. There are two excellent little natural history museums: the Museum of Mineralogy & Lithology has some extraordinarily large and beautiful crystal specimens, while the Museum of Geology & Paleontolgy has mammoth skeletons and tons of excellent fossils (including botanical ones). Buying a 6 Euro ticket gives access to both museums. The Botanical Garden is just up the street, turn right onto Via Micheli and about half way down it is the door (ring the bell for entry). It isn't the best maintained garden I've seen, but has an interesting collection of Drosera (Sundews) in one of the small greenhouses.
The Botanical Garden in the town of Siena is far superior. Small, but charmingly set on a terraced hillside, it has a large cool greenhouse containing some very large succulent specimens, displays of medicinal and native plants, an area of trees underplanted with naturalized bulbs, rock garden, fruit orchard, and bog garden. The entrance is on Via Pier Andrea Mattioli, near the church of S. Agostino, NOT at the end of Via Di Porta Giustizia where the tourist map shows an "Orto Botanico".
When traveling in Italy, the trains are great...except when they are on strike. I discovered that rail service is normal Monday to Friday, but the trains occasionally stop running at the weekend. However, as an alternative there is regular weekend bus service between major towns (it just takes a bit longer to get there than the train).
V.V., I think the closest resort town to Carrera is Massa (about 50 km from Pisa airport). Are you booking your hotels through an agent, or doing it yourself? I recommend a hotel reservations website, http://www.venere.com, which I have used for two vacations in Italy. It allows you to "shop" for a hotel, check out customer feedback, location, amenities, etc., before making a booking, and I guess the user fee is factored into the hotel rates because there is no charge to your credit card. All the reservations I made through venere.com were honored, no problems.