PISA

The Leaning Tower at night!

The Leaning Tower at night!


PISA

THE LEANING TOWER, THE BEST COOKING CLASS, WHERE TO FIND INDIAN FOOD & AWESOME BARGAIN SHOPPING


 GANDHI (RESTAURANT)

As an Indian, I am pretty critical of Indian cuisine outside of India or my mom's kitchen πŸ˜‚.  That being said, I was pleasantly surprised with the food but it definitely was not as good as the real thing.  After eating tons of Italian food however, it did provide some nice & necessary spice.

  1. RATING:  3.5/5
  2. PROS:  really great service, super friendly staff, spacious, good food, decent portions, well priced
  3. CONS: parking right outside of restaurant is limited and restricted

VILLA MARIA (LODGING)

  1. RATING:  4/5
  2. PROS:  great breakfast (fruits, pastries, eggs, fresh coffee, tea, meats), private bathroom, spacious room 
  3. CONS:  twin beds, staff is somewhat strict about quiet hours

CHEF PAOLO MONTI'S COOKING SCHOOL

Before our trip we scheduled a cooking class just outside Pisa with Chef Paolo that covered 10+ pasta sauces and 4+ different types of pasta. We so enjoyed this class and would definitely recommend it to other friends and family.

  1. RATING:  5/5
  2. PROS:  very thorough assortment of pasta sauces and pastas, recipes are printed out for you to take home, learn everything from chopping to making fresh pasta, get to eat your creations afterwards, wine pairings are included, food is delicious!
  3. CONS:  a little outside of Pisa (not that common of a location), 5 hours long course with lots of standing.
  4. NOTES:  reservations required, seriously one of the best meals we had in Italy.  The pasta carbonara was easily the top 5 pastas I have ever had in my life.  I wish I could eat it every day lol.
Chef Paolo teaching me how to make Carbonara.  

Chef Paolo teaching me how to make Carbonara.  

We had such a wonderful time learning from Chef Paolo & his team!

We had such a wonderful time learning from Chef Paolo & his team!

Later that evening after the class, we decided to stop by the Leaning Tower on our way home.  Like many of our friends said, the tower is pretty anti-climactic, especially at night.  It wasn't even lit up!  There also weren't any plaques or guides describing the history of the tower.  The architecture was definitely beautiful and ornate, but this was probably the least memorable experience during our Italy trip.

LEANING TOWER OF PISA

  1. RATING:  3/5
  2. PROS:  nice architecture
  3. CONS:  not that interesting, touristy (lots of people), not lit up at night

THE MALL

Another pretty well kept secret is Italy's outlet malls.  These feature all the best Italian name-brand designers (Prada, Gucci, Versace, Valentino, and others) at a fraction of the cost.  I spotted a beautiful Prada cross body for $595 and it was big enough to hold my wallet, phone, keys and makeup!  Another perk is that the VAT (tax) that you pay is refundable when you leave the country.  There are bus tours available from major cities to visit this outlet - we just drove ourselves there in our rental.  This is about 30 minutes east of Florence.  

  1. RATING:  4/5
  2. PROS:  lots of great brands at really good prices
  3. CONS:  tour buses come in at around 10 AM so be prepared to deal with lots of tourists, long lines and the tizzy that comes with discounted Prada....