This is soooo delayed but I’m trying to get some blogging done, while I’m sick in bed with a horrible cough that just wont go away. It’s one of the consequences of the quality of Manila air, especially when you are in the CBD, where it’s so convenient to walk everywhere, but there are so many buildings being built around us.
Okay now, back to Tuscany…
IT’S CHEAPER TO TRAVEL THROUGH PISA
Though Florence is the capital of the Italian region of Tuscany, we found that it is much more affordable to go to Tuscany via the Pisa International Airport than the Florence international Airport (Aeroporto di Firenze-Peretola and formally Amerigo Vespucci Airport). If you want to save on cost, fly to Pisa instead and go around Tuscany from there.
Pisa International Airport
BUY TICKETS IN THE STATION RIGHT BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Our host recommended this and I can agree that it was the least stressful option for us. Normally I like to plan ahead and book my tickets online, but the information on google maps and trenitalia don’t match and I couldn’t rely on the train schedule to be accurate.
This gave us flexibility and we avoided getting stressed out about missing our train. We bought the train tickets in the station and this gave us enough time to catch the next one going to our destination. They came at regular intervals between Pisa, Florence and Siena so it was never a long wait.
EVALUATE THE RISKS BEFORE RENTING A CAR
Initially, I wanted to rent a car so that we could easily get around Tuscany until I remembered how crazy driving can be in Italy. The roads are narrow, twisting and Italian drivers are fast, aggressive and skillful.
Parking is also a headache. I heard that it’s not really a big deal in Italy when they scratch their cars while parking and it’s sort of inevitable because of such tight parking spaces. This is so the opposite for Germans who are quite particular about their cars. I am the same way, so I’m glad I avoided the hassle of taking care of a rented car. After seeing all the scratched and dented cars in Tuscany, I know we made the right choice.
If you end up renting, make sure to spring for insurance so you don’t get stressed when the rental gets damaged.
A safer option (and cost-efficient if you are in a group) is to rent a car with a driver who is already familiar with the roads and driving etiquette. Read more about driving in Italy here.
TAKE NAUSEA MEDS OR USE SEA-BANDS
Be warned, TMI coming up.
I am prone to car sickness so I took (pregnancy-approved) nausea meds, but it didn’t prevent me from getting sick. Even TD – who never gets car sick – was not spared from dizziness and the urge to purge after we were driven from Chiusdino to Siena. We both looked terrible despite the luxe limousine service from Chiusdino.
Personally, we were less nauseous taking the bus. I think is because the bus is larger, it cannot take the curves as fast as a car. Being in a car was like getting my insides shaken. I’m not sure I would go back, only to avoid those roads.
YOU CAN’T HAIL CABS FROM THE SIDE OF THE ROAD
Get the number of a cab company so you can call for one when you need it. There is extra cost when you call for one.
The other option is to look for a taxi rank (pictured) and take a cab from there. Sometimes this is not so convenient because taxi ranks seem few and far between. So there were times, like going to the airport with luggage, that paying extra to get picked up by a cab was the simplest solution.
BUY BUS TICKETS FROM A TABACCHI
You cannot buy bus tickets on the bus itself. We made sure to buy bus tickets from a Tabacchi and had them with us, just in case we needed them.
They are cheaper when you buy them in a bundle of 4 instead of individually, then validate them as you use them. We didn’t take the bus often, because the bus schedule was not reliable and many times it was faster to walk, but it was good to have bus tickets ready, just in case you are tired and would rather use the bus than walk back to your accommodations.
Once you validate your ticket, you can use it as much as you want for 90 minutes, then it expires.
BRING AN ADAPTER FOR ITALIAN SOCKETS
Since we have electronics and chargers that were purchased in Asia, not all of them are compliant with the EU standard.
Italy has some sockets that have 3 holes, but the EU 2 prong plugs are compatible. It is case to case when you have a round base plug. The simple and inexpensive adaptor above was sufficient for us.
AVOID TOURIST TRAPS & TACKY SOUVENIRS
There are a lot of tourist traps with super tacky souvenirs. I would avoid those because you spend a lot for something ugly. In reality there are so many beautiful artisanal shops for food, stationery, leather bags… things that would truly give you joy or that you can use for a long time. I recommend buying those instead so that you aren’t just adding to the clutter in your home.
USE A STRUCTURED CROSSBODY BAG
When travelling I recommend a bag with…
- Sturdy shoulder straps which allow you to keep your bag securely in front of you, when you need to use your hands for taking public transport, paying, taking pictures, etc.
- A structured shape that easily lets you know when it’s being opened. Soft slouchy bags are easier for pickpockets to slip their hand into without you noticing.
- A zipper that closes it all the way.
To avoid becoming an easy target for theft. Wherever you are in the world, crowded touristy areas like Loggia dei Lanzi below are places where thieves prowl for easy targets, knowing that tourists usually bring a lot of cash with them.
Loggia dei Lanzi
#DiploTips: Always have the bag slung across your body in front of you. NEVER on the side of your hips or behind you. This makes you an easier target.
Also if someone is close to you in a crowded area or transport, don’t allow them to drape their coat, shawl, etc on top of your bag and block your vision of your bag. If you are in a crowded place or in a situation where you need to keep your eyes elsewhere (i.e. train or bus signs), have your hand draped over the closure for extra security.
If you are getting jossled, pushed, shaken, chances are you are already being robbed. They are just distracting you with the physical altercation so they can grab your watch, jewelry or bag.
WEAR CLOSED SHOES
Florence, like the rest of Italy, has small roads and sidewalks. And there is inevitably dog poop (massive ones!) that aren’t picked up by their owners. The hard Italian stone surfaces do not allow the poop to biodegrade into the soil, so we saw a lot of stepped-on dog poo and had to be extra careful. I can’t imagine having to navigate those streets with flip-flops or sandals. The thought of poop accidentally touching my feet sends shivers up my spine.
WEAR ORTHOPEDIC SHOES
Florence is definitely a walking city. It’s faster and more convenient to walk, than to wait for the bus, but Italian streets are hard and made of stone. Standing and walking on them takes a terrible toll on feet. Stone is unyielding and feet need flexibility because arches collapse while walking/standing. It’s especially important to wear shoes with:
- Arch support and soft insole to support a collapsing arch
- Soles with enough cushion to absorb the impact of hard flooring.
- 0.5-2 inch wedged heels.
- Proper fit – not too small/large, too pointy nor too wide/narrow.
Fashion shoes that are too pointed or too high may cause your feet muscles to cramp up, spasm and puts pressure on the balls of your feet.
I think this says it all: When Your Feet Hurt, Everything Hurts. Go for comfort and support to enjoy your days walking under the Tuscan sun!
Enjoy your time in Tuscany!
P.S. Isn’t pregnancy hair just glorious? I miss mine now that I have super short hair, but it’s just too hot in Manila for long hair IMO.
Read more about my fabulous Florentine finds, tips and tricks here. Hopefully, I will have time to add posts on our luxury escape in Tuscany too.