Florence and Pisa, Italy

[Sept 14, 2007]

So our next stop after Rome was Pisa, 4 hours away. You know there is ONLY one place where tour groups will go in Pisa, don’t you?

Unfortunately, that place is always very crowded, and there is no car park nearby, so our tour bus had to stop somewhere quite far away from the site, and we had to take a free feeder bus to get there.

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Feeder bus

Once we got off the feeder bus, we were greeted by Africans selling trinkets.

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Africans with trinkets

Seriously, I noticed there are really a lot of Africans in Italy. I have not seen that many black people in the previous European countries that we have just visited. In case there are some of you butt-hurt sensitive people reading this, this is not intended to be a racist remark, it is just an observation, like when we say there are a lot of Mexicans in Southern California, or when we say there are a lot of Chinese and Indians in Malaysia. There must be some history with this, history that I do not know of, nor am I interested to find out.

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More African trinkets

Anyway, the place in Pisa that we were going to visit, is a place surrounded by a wall. And the place is freaking crowded. Same old same old.

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Crowd and wall

So the place, is called, the Piazza dei Miracoli [Square of Miracles]. In this plaza, there are three notable buildings. The first one, with that dome, is the Battistero di San Giovanni [Baptistry of Saint John]. The second one, in the middle, is the Duomo di Pisa [Pisa Cathedral].

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Piazza dei Miracoli [Square of Miracles]
Now, Paul did try to explain the significance of these two buildings, but none of us were paying attention, because… who are we kidding? The only building here that we are ever going to be interested in, is that one at the far end…

Torre Pendente di Pisa, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, is very much like our very own Menara Jam Condong Teluk Intan [Leaning Clock Tower of Teluk Intan] here in Malaysia, except this one in Pisa is a bit taller, a bit bigger, a bit more tilted to one side, quite a bit older, and infinitely more famous worldwide. But apart from that, you know, very similar, very similar…

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Torre Pendente di Pisa [Leaning Tower of Pisa]
So, what do people do with this tilted tower? Well, isn’t the answer obvious? We take turns to take cliche photos with the tower, of course!

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Cliche pose of Pisa

You might think this is a simple feat. Except the place is bloody crowded, everyone wants the same spot for shots, and everyone does not want to be photobombed here. So you need to queue and wait for quite a bit.

In fact, we spent so much time here, way more than Paul the tour guide had planned for us to be, like, an hour more than he had planned. He actually got pretty agitated and frustrated with us. To make matters worse, when we made it back to the bus station, we saw the feeder bus were just leaving. The next bus was scheduled for 30 minutes later, and the walk back to our own tour bus was about 20 minutes, so Paul made us all walk back to the bus.

When we got back to our tour bus, Steve the bus driver was nowhere to be seen. Apparently he got tired of waiting for us, so he went off by himself to have some coffee instead. So it was our turn to wait for him now. Paul was a very unhappy man that day.

Well, I guess we cannot really blame him. We were actually going to proceed to Firenze [Florence] to spend the evening and he had planned a nice walking tour for us in that city, but because our schedule got delayed by almost 2 hours in total, we couldn’t do that walking tour.

Instead, we were brought to this Piazza Santa Croce [Holy Cross Square],

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Piazza Santa Croce [Holy Cross Square]
to see this, Basilica di Santa Croce [Basilica of the Holy Cross].

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Basilica di Santa Croce [Basilica of the Holy Cross]
And then it was really late, so that’s all we got to see in Florence before we went for dinner.

Now some of you might be curious as to why there is a lack of photos showing what we ate. The thing is, you see, the tour that I went on, because all of us were Chinese, we had this meal arrangement: free breakfast in the hotel, self catered lunch, and dinner in Chinese restaurants.

Chinese food in Europe, there is only one word to describe them: sucks. Which is why we hardly take photos of our dinners. You want to see how our dinner looks like? I’ll show you one now…

Now, this, is the entrance to the restaurant that we went to in Florence. It it wasn’t for that little red lantern hanging there, there would be no way anyone could know what this place is.

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And then, the food…

Please don’t comment things like “Oh wow, looks absolutely delicious!”, because, they’re not. In fact, they’re absolutely crap! Most of the Chinese food that we had in Europe, they might look the deal, but they’re all bland, tasteless crap. Even in Italy, where food is supposed to be a big deal and everyone is a food expert, but apparently this expertise is not extended to Chinese food. It is like the concept of seasoning is totally alien to all Chinese restaurateurs in Europe. You know, most of the time I really just wanted to yell that Gordon Ramsay quote at them: “Cooking needs to backed up by salt and pepper! You need to have some form of seasoning in your food! You f**king donkey!

Anyway, I have come to an end of my Pisa and Florence sightseeing…

28 Comments

  1. Personally, I think the Chinese restaurants may cater to the local population abroad [apart from the ones located in Chinatowns.] I had a really good meal at one particular restaurant in Canada, but I was probably the only non-Asian person there. Then, we went to another one and the food was crap – the sauce actually reminded me of turkey gravy.

    That was a lot of crazy madness just to see the leading tower of Piza. But, the cliché pic totally rocks – I have an imagine you singing ‘Put your hands up in the air, put your hands up in the air’ when the photo was taken! lol 😉

  2. Ugh I can’t stand the tours that bring Chinese tourists to Chinese restaurants. Don’t they think that Chinese people may want to try the local foods too? (Actually I think I already commented something like this in another post.) It’s too bad that you didn’t get to see more of Florence, because practically everyone I talk to absolutely LOVES Florence!
    I think we may go to Pisa too but honestly, I’m not too interested in just seeing a leaning building, haha.

    • I’m sure there’s more to Pisa than that leaning tower, but I think Florence is a better bet for an all round experience, I think.

      You know, (I don’t know about other countries) most Malaysian Chinese, they don’t really like real European or American cuisine. If there’s no rice for them, they get very grumpy. That’s why it’s all Chinese food if you go on tours. 😐

  3. It is interesting to hear the Chinese food there in Italy is bland. Here in Australia it’s the complete opposite – too much seasoning and whichever Chinese restaurant you go, more than likely you will experience the same salty seasoning taste.

    Did you get the impression the Chinese restaurants are catered to Chinese or Westerners? I’m thinking Chinese, dodgy restaurant that it looks like…

    • Basically not just Italy, the blandness is more or less the same with Chinese food in most of Europe. I don’t know why that is so. Well I think at least it is more authentic in Australia, since the Chinese population there is much higher.

  4. Yep, going to Chinese restaurants in Italy (or almost anywhere in Europe) is definitely not a good idea, haha. Seriously, with all the amazing restaurants in Italy… why oh why xD

  5. The moment I saw the name Pisa, I thought of the leaning tower. I quite like that group cliche pose. I think it’s cute 😀 Yup, I will never ever eat Chinese food in Europe or America.

    • Some morons told me earlier today that they thought it was PISA, the sports arena in Penang! >.< I think Chinese food in America is way better than Chinese food in Europe. At least you can still sometimes find sort of authentic and tasty Chinese food in America..

  6. the Pisa tower photo looks like those in the postcard, with nice blue sky and sharp focused image. Anyhow talking about Chinese food, I guess it sucks not only in Europe (as u mentioned) but also in some other parts of Asia…sometime ago I got the chance to dine in a Chinese restaurant in Nepal, it was run by mainland Chinese, but the dishes are real bland, simple and I guess I can cook better than that! Also, the Chinese noodles also sucks in Korea, I can’t finish even half of the bowl.

  7. Love that photo of you all with the tower! Nice trinkets! So many Africans there? The things at the stall look real interesting. I sure would want to browse around there.

  8. What an interesting post. How come you don’t mention the dates or year of your visits. Hop over to my post now and see what I mean.
    I would be grossly excited to see the Africans selling their native stuffs. I would browse for their skulls and voodoo dolls to charm SK Thambee!
    I would have fired Paul the tour guide for being a lousy ass hole.
    The leaning tower looks like a wedding cake in white icing. Our Teluk Intan tower is nothing to shout.

    • You’re right, I should’ve specified the actual dates. Will do add those info later today..

      I thought SK Thambee loves Indian dei, African not same lah…. hahahaha!

  9. i just remembered i have been to Pisa for the Leaning Tower, and then Florence and saw the statue of David.. the rest, i don’t remember a thing already.. you had Chinese, i don’t remember what i had, i just remember not all meals were inclusive, but many are optional (meaning you get it if you pay)..

  10. That entrance to the restaurant looks sleazy. I think whenever we go on tours, they think we’re Chinese so they’ll arrange mostly Chinese dinners (maybe this is to cater to the more elderly Chinese in the group who will not be adventurous enough to take any other type of food). But not all are crap though.

  11. No, the chinese food do not look delicious at all. Was one of the dish omelette/egg with tomatoes? what was the brown dish in the middle? All of you must have given Paul a lot of grey and white hair.

    Don’t tell me you all did not go see the Ponte Vecchio at Florence? Our tour just brought us to look at it from afar – did not even have a chance to walk near.

    Pisa, just went to take photo with the leaning tower that’s all.
    In Germany, the chinese food was tasty. Other European countries it was not. In Lucerne, can’t get chinese food so our tour serves us Western food, yay! but all the other old chinese people in our tour was not happy with Western dinner. Oh well, can’t please everyone.

    • Yes, that was an egg with tomatoes dish. That brown dish was tang hoon. I think you might like them, because they were all super bland!

      Nope, never went anywhere else other than Santa Croce in Florence. It was almost dark when we arrived. I guess it was really our fault, this one… LOL!

      Our tour, actually, although all Chinese, but is a students tour, there were no old folks at all. Still, old or young, Chinese will be Chinese, people like me who prefers no rice and all European cuisine, is definitely in minority. 🙁

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