Italy: Day 4 Pisa

We let ourselves sleep in a bit this morning. Around 8am we were up, showered, and made our way down to have breakfast. I had my first Italian cappuccino, which was amazing. I ended up having two of them before we left for the train station.

We were on our own schedule today. Nothing pre-booked, just plans to go to Pisa. Mom and Josh went to the post office to mail home some souveirs, while the rest of us wandered the shops near the train station. We met up at the station and managed the ticket machine, then found our way onto the train around 10. Bit of a bummer for this hour ride, as we were standing or sitting on the stairs until just before we got there.

We ate a lunch at McDonald’s when we arrived, then made the 20 minute walk to the tower. Seeing it for the first time, I felt a bit like a kid. Here is something I’ve always seen in pictures, seen the goofy tourist photos, and have always wanted to see for myself! We bought our tickets to climb the tower, and had a few hours before our time slot.

Josh had a picture idea using his gelato

Somehow we got separated from Tony and Josh, so I left mom and the kids sitting in the shade while I looked around the grounds for them. This was the only awkward part of vacation, only mom and I had set our phones up for international. Josh did after this, but I did find them near the cathedral. We got mom and the kids, then took a tour through the cathedral. I didn’t see one ugly church in Italy. Some overly decorated ones yes, but nothing ugly! We found another angle to take some more pictures too!

Tony’s idea for a picture was my favorite

Our turn to climb the tower came, so we stored all our stuff in lockers, no extras can go with you, and we started climbing. This was a head trip! Walking up didn’t always feel like up. When going in to the lean, it actually felt like going down, and out of the lean was like the steepest stairs of your life!

Mom and Chiara at the top

Chiara was hilarious. Once we got to the top, a bit ahead of mom, Chiara was waiting for Nana to get there. An older Chinese lady came around the last turn, and Chiara put both hands in the air and said loudly, “Welcome to the top!” The lady started smiling and laughing, asking while pointing at Chiara, “I take picture?” So Chiara is in someone else’s vacation pictures, and I’m sure she’s referenced as “the sweet, funny American girl”

Down the stairs was another experience. Downstairs should always be fairly easy, yes? No! While walking out of the lean, downstairs felt like you were falling backwards and going up. Tony was last coming down, mainly because we were both staying with Chiara. She had hands on both walls and was taking her time. A fun experience for all of us!

Souvenir shopping of course, and Tony was very happy with his leaning shot glass. Chiara found herself a hat she loves, it has leaning towers all over it. We slowly made our way back to the train station, bought tickets, and luckily had seats for the return trip. Our legs were done after the stairs!

We found a restaurant in Florence, on our way back to the hotel. Probably the priciest place we ate the whole trip. Very good, and I was proud that I was able to order my meal speaking Italian. Mom on the other hand told the waiter “merci” when he brought her food. They did have my favorite wine the whole trip though!

Back to the hotel, where we packed as much as we could. We wanted to sleep in as long as possible before our train to Venice the next day.

Italy: Day 1 Rome

Welcome to the Coliseum

Even rushing full speed from the airport, to the hotel, to the tour meet-up, we were a few minutes late. If you ever have the chance to go on a City Wonder tour, punctuality is key! They leave exactly on time. Luckily, they were able to squeeze us in to the next group, an hour later, so we had a gelato and caffeine break.

Sev, our tour guide for the Vatican portion of the day was amazing! He knew so many details and kept us laughing the whole time. My favorite line he used was when we were crossing the street to enter the Vatican. He said crossing the street in Rome requires a little faith, the cars will stop or they won’t. Which is true because the Italians drive like it is a competition and winning is everything. Its terrifying!

St. Peter’s Basilica

I had no idea the history of the Vatican. Starting as the Pope’s art collection, before becoming a museum, there is art from every era. The architecture, the statuary, the paintings, it was all so beautiful!

Sistine Chapel ceiling

We all were impressed with every part of this tour, even though we could barely keep our eyes open!

Chiara falling asleep on the floor of St. Peter’s Basilica

When we finished at the Vatican it was a quick trip to the Coliseum for part two of our tour. Tiziana was our guide for this portion and she was another delight. She charmed Chiara by calling her princess the entire tour, because of her Italian name and Italian descent.

Did you know it was oval?

The Coliseum was mind boggling. The size of it, the history of it, and there were details I was completely unaware of. I’m a little embarrassed to say I didn’t know it was oval. We were able to see the rooms where the slaves were kept, the ancient plumbing, and the fact that it’s still standing makes it all the more impressive!

It was a short walk over to the Roman Forum, to see more of these ancient structures and the tour ended there. By this point everyone was drooping, ready to fall in to bed. As we had skipped lunch, we were also starving!

On the walk back to the hotel, we found Pasqualino al Colosseo. Delicious does not begin to describe it! I had the tenderest steak drizzled with basalmic vinegar and I could hardly bring myself to share it. Stumbling the rest of the way to the hotel, up to our rooms, to fall into bed before 730. Approaching 48 hours awake, a walking tour that encompassed huge pieces of Rome, and we had all earned a good night’s rest.

Station 43

Station 43
Station 43 is an amazing little jewel tucked away in Solon, OH. It can be found at 39910 Aurora Rd. Solon, OH 44139 for those who want to punch it into the GPS. While in Solon for some training we’ve been doing a lot of eating out. I’ve been hearing raves from the other trainees about this place and decided since we’re almost through training I should get out and try it!
My buddy and I went out just the two of us and I was immediately impressed by the catering advertisement parked behind the building. There are two doors you can get in, front and back, if you come in the back, you can just walk over to the front door to the hostess station for seating. The catering ad should give it away, as well as the name of the restaurant, but the theme of it is firefighters.
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I think my favorite part of the décor was the turnout gear on the ladder. The little fire chief car on the ladder was also very cute! There was really too much for my to capture it all, but I got my favorites on my trusty S4. I learned from the website that one of the original owners was a firefighter, hence this beautiful tribute to the men and women in turnout gear and the canines that back them up.
I was originally told that it was very pricey, but I can tell you that it is not! It’s not cheap, but for the meal you get, it’s worth every penny! I ordered the Station Combo, which included a half rack of ribs (delicious sauce!), 6 wings, fries and coleslaw (you can substitute the sides with other choices, I went with onion rings). All that for less than $20!
The Station Combo
Doesn’t that look delicious?! I ended up eating everything except my ribs, those were my lunch the next day. The ribs were fantastic, hot and cold, with the meat practically falling off the bone.
I know I’ll be coming back to this place with my family. My wonderful husband, Tony, was a volunteer firefighter for several years in New York before we got married. I also have a lot of friends who wear turnout gear. If I can get my friend Christa and her family to come down to Ohio, I know that I’ll be taking her here for a meal, as her husband is a firefighter still.
If you roll through Solon, or come close enough and have a soft spot for firefighters, be sure to stop in for some delicious food and amazing décor. Let me know if you enjoy it!
Happy dining!
Restaurant’s full website is at http://www.station43tavern.com/