One of the most romantic parts of the trip for me (probably sounds strange?), but we arrived in the evening and walked to the Leaning Tower area. It was beautiful evening, no crowds at all, which made it special. We had the area to ourselves. We just walked around, enjoying the solitude, and the vast beauty and history.
We drove to Pisa from Lerici -- one of Greg's co-workers needed to deliver equipment to Army base near there, and she drove us to Pisa. The hotel you booked us into was wonderful. Perfect location -- close to Leaning Tower area and right across the street from the train station where we needed to be the next day for trip to Florence.
On the road Lerici to Pisa, we stopped at an Autogrille. Bought wine, cheese, chocolate & had a great lunch. Our Hotel you booked us in Florence was The Benivieni. Perfect. Excellent location -- 1 block from Duomo and very central to everything else. Bonus..... did you know history of Benivieni? It was built by the Benivieni Family in 1400's -- he was one of the most important poets of the Renaissance. It became a Synagogue 1882-1964. We got to speak to the owner, who showed us the door thru which Jews were hidden & kept safe during the holocaust. A copy of Poet Benivieni's portrait is hanging in the lobby of hotel -- painted 1510-1520. The original hangs in the Nat'l Gallery in London.
In General, I thought we did just the right amount of tours -- not too rushed, and enough time to enjoy alone time just wandering around and sitting at cafe's & gelato places. It was not rushed at all. We found the mornings and evenings the best for walking around and enjoying.... before all the tour groups became active. It was very very crowded with all the tour groups in the middle of day. I thought the world economy must be doing extremely well so many people being able to afford traveling.
All our tour guides were excellent. Spoke clearly, very friendly and good senses of humor. None of our tour were crowded -- just a few couples in each, so it was VERY pleasant and personal. The Food Tour was a KICK! Interesting to be on THAT side of the Arno River -- different than the part of Florence we were staying at. I will send you a pics from each of the stops of the Food Tour. Especially loved when we went back kitchen area of the Bakery.