Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Road Trip Logistics: Pisa Hotel, Groceries, & Tom Tom for Western Europe

After resting up at Casa San Tommaso hotel, we hit the road in our Fiat 500 rental (I want one now!) and headed to Florence.

We would definitely recommend staying at Casa San Tommaso in Pisa. We paid €74/night, including parking and the ZTL (limited traffic zone) charge, for a double room. The hotel was a stone's throw from the Leaning Tower, restaurants, the city's main shopping area, and parking was easy peasy - right in front of the hotel's front door. As far as Italian hotels go it was fairly modern, with quaint exposed beam ceilings, and big, gorgeous shuttered windows that opened onto the street below. Bella!

During our road trip we stopped at grocery stores wherever possible to stock up on the basics - bread, olives, sun dried tomatoes, cheeses, juice, water, wine - in an effort to cut costs. Our first grocery store stop was just outside Pisa at a Co-Op, which had very little preserved or 'junk' food. The only dry thing in the store was pasta! And shoppers carried little personal barcode scanners to tally up their purchases and speed up the check-out process. How cool is that?

Before leaving Malta we attempted to cut costs by downloading and printing Google Maps directions to and from every single stop during our trip. Our stack of directions was thick and cumbersome, and I was skeptical that I could guide Mike through five countries using printed Google Maps directions alone. Although the EU recently put through caps on cellular data roaming charges (making it much more affordable to check your email while travelling throughout Europe) we also didn't want to use the data-chewing Google Maps on our phones unless absolutely necessary. So. We caved and purchased the Tom Tom for Western Europe app on our iPhones for a cringe-worthy $89.99. And it was worth every penny. We'll post about our Tom Tom experience separately, but if you're considering spending any time on the road in Europe, we would highly recommend taking Tom Tom along for the ride. Or in this case, Tim: the British-man-voice who yelled at us every time we took a wrong turn. And on this road trip, there were many wrong turns.

- Jess

date: september 1
distance travelled: 100 km/62 mi (Pisa to Florence)
weather: overcast, temperate
toll/highway charges: €0!


  1. I love this post and wish more people would post on their trip logistics and the costs of food, lodging, tolls, etc. Your Fiat rental is adorable!


    1. Thanks! And you're in luck, there's plenty more logistics coming :)

  2. The logistics are always interesting and like Jenna said, a lot of people pass over it.

    I must say that I'm a bit surprised at the TomTom app. We rented a TomTom GPS while driving in Spain & hated it! We had always used Garmin before and we found it much more intuitive and vowed to never go back to TomTom. Perhaps the app is better than the actual GPS!

    1. I'm a Google Maps girl so I didn't find it very intuitive to navigate the app, but I liked that the app didn't attempt to pronounce street names (distracting) and, since I was the navigator and Mike was the driver, I could take advantage of the plan ahead, browse map, and favourites features. It was also useful to have in app form vs. the standalone GPS because we could use it when walking around new cities. But I've never used Garmin, so I'm biased :)

  3. Wow, $90 for an app sounds ridiculous but I am so glad it made itself worth the while!!! If you travel lots and have the phone, hey why not. :) I loved going through your Pisa pictures, the tower was comical to me and its fun to see your point of view. I've been a reader for quie some time now but I just started following you! (Idk how that could be!?)

    1. Hi Taylor, thanks for following along! The app is quite pricey, but less than buying the Tom Tom GPS on it's own. And it saved us a lot of headaches and squabbles :)

      Looking forward to following along on your adventures too, thanks for leaving a link!


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