We were up at about 9:30am this morning after a good sleep following yesterday’s trials. We were greeted outside the hostel by a number of enterprising touts selling umbrellas as it had been raining and was still a little drizzly. Straight across the road is a little cafe where we popped in for a brioche and a real cappuccino – the best we’ve had so far. I guess if the the Italians (or Victorians) can’t make a good cappuccino then no one can.
The main train station, Firenze Santa Maria Novella (aka Firenze S.M.N.), was directly down the street, an easy 12 minute walk away. The station was very busy, with commuters going in all directions. We were familiar with the station as we’d been there in 2013 on a day trip from Caprese Michelangelo. The ticket machines hadn’t changed so we quickly had our tickets in our hand for the 58 minute journey to Pontedera, near Pisa.
Pontedera is the town where Enrico Piaggio had his aircraft factory before and during WWII. It was bombed to smithereens by the Allies in 1944 and, because there wasn’t much call for aeroplanes after the war, he asked his chief aeronautical engineer to design a two-wheeled vehicle to get the country mobile. So in 1946 the Vespa was born and has remained an icon of design, efficiency and practicality ever since.
The factory has long since moved elsewhere and a museum that tells the story of Piaggio and the Vespa has taken its place. On display are countless variations of different models built over the last 70 years. Each machine had a plaque telling the story behind it. I was particularly interested in the display of some actual machines that has carried its rider over extremely long and hazardous journeys. One travelled from Australia to South Africa via south-east Asia and eastern Africa, another from Alaska to Tiera del Fuego at the southern most point of the Americas and yet another that circumnavigated the world, covering 82,000 kilometres in the process.
There were also a number of models that were of a very limited run or never made it to production or were built to celebrate or commemorate special events. There was even one to celebrate the breaking of Richmond’s 37 year premiership drought. I kid you not. We’ll I might check that but that’s what it looks like to me.
The Vespa shop had gone to lunch so we left without any souvenirs. A little disappointing. After a very nice and cheap lunch in a little cafe near the station we caught the train back to Florence. Our noses led us in the direction of the San Lorenzo leather-goods market. It’s a permanent market set up over a few streets between the station and the Duomo. I have never seen so much leather in one place, all very nice and tempting. I bought a reversible belt for EUR 15.00 which I’d been searching for all trip. I paid AUD 60.00 for one that looks exactly the same at Myer in Bendigo two years ago, so I was happy. I also bought a magnetic money clip for EUR 10.00. I bought the same item from the Mercato Nuova in Florence on the aforementioned previous trip. I’ve used it every day since and it’s still going strong. I imagine I’ll get the new one out of storage in 10-15 years time when the current one falls apart.
Kerry bought some very nice lapin-lined leather gloves which she’d been looking for too. Any guesses on what lapin is? No googling allowed. She also bought a tasseled shawl made of hide. With the days purchases out of the way (Ha! Who are you kidding!) we wandered over towards and around the Duomo. To be honest it was looking a little shabby when compared to 2013. I guess it costs a lot of money to keep everything looking at its best. From there we walked towards the River Arno passing through a number well known squares and the artwork within and a number of not so well known streets with nothing in them apart from locals going about their business.
We stumbled across the Piazza di Santa Croce where we listened to a young soprano accompanied by an accordion and the Piazza del Signoria where the world’s largest display of men’s genitalia in marble can be found. Via the Piazzale degli Uffizi we found our way to the Ponte Vecchio. It was very crowed here. We watched as a couple of carabiniere chased away some touts illegally selling souvenirs on the bridge.
Turning for home we passed the Mercato Nuova and picked up a couple of tee-shirts before continuing on through Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza di San Giovanni past Il Doumo until we found a restaurant for quick and light dinner of pasta.
The phone was struggling to keep a good GPS signal amongst the tall buildings and narrow streets so that together with my sense of direction we ended up taking a longer then expected but no less interesting way home. The weather was warm and it was nice night for a walk anyway.