Friday, April 26, 2013

Italy Part II - Vespa Birthplace, Pisa, Siena, Florence

We arrived in Florence San Maria Novella Train Station at 7pm. It was still bright and sunny thanks to the 15hours summer daylight. We had a hard time finding our hostel, Soggiorno Madrid, due to the same problem as the day before - know which bus to take, but not where to alight.

My friends learnt from a passenger that the bus run in loops so we will eventually get to our stop. I was not sure if my eyes were playing tricks on me but I saw the same bus service travelling in different directions. So in Florence, does bus loop service run in both directions? I don't know. I would prefer to keep an open mind on the possibilities, never to expect things to be run like how it is run back in Singapore.

We asked a lady for directions to Soggiorno Madrid but were directed to a residence instead, also called Soggiorno Madrid. After speaking to the hostel staff through the phone, we found the place. The place was actually near the train station!

Little stairs to our bedroom.


Nice and clean beds. Oh, we had bed bugs bites from the night before at Camp Rialto.
We had hot water. Half boiled eggs, Singapore style in Florence.

Whipping up some dishes with the hot water. Ravioli with Spinach and Ricotta cheese.

The place costed us only €23 per night per pax. Walking distance to the train station, private bathroom, kettle, clean beds and wardrobe, it was pretty worth it.

If you want to save money on bus fare, here is a tip. Don't bother buying bus ticket if you are travelling during peak hours. To travel on the bus, you are supposed to buy bus ticket from the Tabacchi shop and get it stamped with a validating machine on the bus. Once the ticket is stamped with the time and date, you can ride the bus for 70 or 90 minutes, depending on which city. You can change bus and take as many bus as you want, as long as it is within the time frame. Occasionally, the bus conductor will check your ticket, if you are found without a valid ticket, you will get fined.

We boarded the bus next morning to get to the train station. It was very crowded. One of us attempted to stamp the ticket and squeezed the way to the machines. One passenger waved as if to say no need. I think the residents there have some kind of concession pass. Unless the bus conductor is hard-on clamping down free-rider, I doubt he or she will actually do it on a crowded bus.

That morning we had a free bus ride and only used the tickets when we returned.

From Florence we could get to many places of attractions from there, Pisa, Siena, Pontedera. Why Pontedera? Because that is the birthplace of Vespa!

Soggiorno Madrid
Viale Redi Francesco, 1 - 50144 - Firenze
Cell: +39 334 6445032
Tel: 055 321316
Fax: 055 5121924
Website: http://www.soggiornomadridfirenze.it/english/



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Pontedera

Pontedera lies between Florence and Pisa, an hour train ride from Florence. It is a small city where Piaggio factory is and where Vespa was materialised more than 60 years ago. Unless one is a Vespa fanatic, one usually do not visit that place. So Pontedera is still a city pretty much uninundated by tourists.

Just outside Pontedera train station, we ate the best kebab amongst all the other kebab we tried in Italy.

I requested for a vegetarian kebab which consisted of veges and potatoes. The Pakistani gentleman who runs the eatery said in Italian, "I thought all Chinese eat meat."

"Except me," I responded. "Because I like animals."

I was not sure if he understood where I am coming from and my limited vocabulary did not allow me to express my vegetarian choice concisely.

Just outide our hostel, we spotted an Ape. Same as the one exhibited in Art of Speed.


Market just outside the Pontedera station. I guess we were probably the only foreigners there.
Piaggio Factory where Vespas are born.


Museo Piaggio - Piaggio Museum


Piaggio used to produce aircrafts before scooter. Hence you see the resemblance between the Vespa front wheel and an aeroplane landing wheel.


Vespa PX 125 T5 1985. Very similiar to the Excel model that I ride.

I am the sea. Mi corregga se sbaglio.

How the Vespa scooter has evolved over the last few decades.


Who says Vespa cannot go off-road?

Vespas used to dominate the International Six Day races in the 1950s.

International Six Days Race.
18-25 September 1951
Participation of 10 nations
Winning 9 gold medals

The History of the Wasp

In the centre is Giorgio Bettinelli, the renown Vespa adventurer.



A really cute Ape.





Vespa Montlhery 1950

Hamburgler! The vespa that recently went around the world in 18 months

From Budapest and back to Budapest.

Vespa for the giants.




Vespa as a canvas for art works.


Wouldn't the recoil throw the Vespa back?



A anatomy lesson of the Vespa engine.


Once, I asked my mechanic to change the belt for me. It runs by direct transmission la, Bodoh.

Got to bring spare piston and block for my big trip.

The carburettor, air filter, throttle cable.

Magnetic coil and the fly wheel.


Gilera


Archives gallery.

The workers at Piaggio factory of Pontedera with vivid wishes.

They used to make aircraft parts.

A message in Italian and Chinese in their guestbook - Greeting from Juvena of Singapore, I also want to travel to Pontedera with my Vespa after 3 or 4 years. See you again. I like Vespa very much.

Vespa gift shop
All the books on Vespa travels.
Some graffiti at a nearby carpark

View of Piaggio water tank from the train station.
Around the world free - in travel with the Vespa and with the bagpack.
Trying to imagine my Vespa so loaded.
10 donation to the Piaggio Museum & Foundation.

Directions to Piaggio Museum from Florence:

Address:
Museo Piaggio "Giovanni Alberto Agnelli"
Viale Rinaldo Piaggio 7 - 56025 Pontedera (PI)
  1. From Santa Maria Novella Train Station, take train to Pontedera C.T. which is around 55 mins away.
  2. Viale Piaggio lies parallel to the train tracks. From the ticketing booth and the restaurant side, take the underpass (Look out for sign in italian "Sottopassaggio") to get to the other side of the track.
  3. 10m out of the underpass, you will see Viale Piaggio and the Piaggio Factory is just in front of you.
  4. Turn left and walk straight until you see the entrance to Museo Piaggio.
For opening hours click here.


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Pisa

Pisa was just 20min train ride away from Pontedera. The first thing Yusra said when we alighted the shuttle bus was, "It looks so photoshopped."

After the sight seeing and souvenirs shopping, we contemplated taking a horse ride back to the Piazza. The whips used to command the horses made me uncomfortable. The rest wanted it so I have to compromise.


It looks very photoshopped before our eyes.








Arno River

Spotted this Spanish flag after Spain's victory over Italy in Euro Cup?

Siena

Siena is around 1 and half hour bus ride from Florence.








To get to Siena from Florence:
  1. The bus station, SITA Autostazione is within walking distance from Santa Maria Novella Station. 
  2. Buy ticket from Siena Mobilità. Two-way tickets maybe cheaper than one way tickets. Tickets in Italian is "Biglietti". To say two way, say, "Andata (Go) e Ritorno (Return)"

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*Remember to stamp the tickets when boarding.

Florence

Never assume the definitions used in other countries to be what you have always been taught.

I asked a lady for directions to Duomo and was told to take Tram D. What do we know of tram? Carriage that runs on thin metal tracks, like the one below.


We waited for very long time, no sign of tram.
Camwhoring while waiting for so called tram.
Then I spotted a mini bus with the alphabet D conspicuously labelled.

"Hey, is that Tram D?", I asked.

"Are you sure?" "That's a tram?" We were really confused and spent 20secs debating.

"Never mind, just ask lor." We ran to the mini bus and asked the driver. Yes, it was the correct "tram" to Duomo.

This was our tram.
Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore



I couldn't help taking photographs of Vespa and other interesting bikes.




View of Florence city from Boboli Garden.


View of Duomo from Boboli Garden
















Travellers usually say that the restaurants near tourist spots are overpriced and of low quality. I had my share of encounter in Florence. We were in need of a quick lunch before our train. I ordered a Canelloni because I have tried it before in Modestos restaurant back in Singapore. I loved it. Here I was in Italy where pasta originated, where the cuisine are popular around the world. My expectation was there.

The order took quite some time to be served. To my disappointment, it turned out to be harder than al dente at some parts and tasteless.

"Maybe it is how they cook it here."

It looked like it was frozen and reheated. I tasted another risotto dish that my friend ordered. Tasteless.

When we returned to Singapore, my friends all agreed that the best dish was still the kebab in Pontedera.
I think my dog's pasta is tastier than the Canelloni.
Italy Part I - Couchsurfing, Learning a Language, Milan, Venice
Italy Part III - Rome and Vatican City, Encounters with Pickpocket Syndicates
Italy Part IV - Pompeii, Herculaneum, Naples, Plastic bags as Decoy against Snatch Thieves
Italy V - Couchsurfing in Barile and the Remarriage Proposal
Italy Trip Aftermath

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