Last Updated : 16/06/06
Tuscany, December 2005 - by Gazza
aaah, Tuscany... the land of Chianti and antipasti, hilltop villages and slopes laden with vines... but beer? Of course there is; do you think I’d be writing this if there wasn’t? We found some local (and not so local) beers and - surprisingly - some of it was excellent, and I mean excellent; I tasted some of the best beers sampled during 2005 in Pisa and some of the most average in Firenze (Florence) so here I am to tell you all about them and to pad the meagre gen out with pages of irrelevant gibber, so - in usual Scoopergen style - hey ho, here we go...
We visited Pisa and Florence on the 21st century version of the Victorian "Grand tour" on which we're currently embarked for a number of reasons;
1) I wanted to see for myself if the leaning tower really did look as if it'd fall on me if I stood underneath it (it does, although it’s been there almost 1,000 years so I felt reassured by this),
2) Florence (or Firenze to give it it's Italian name) sounded like an essential visit and it had the added incentive of hosting "Cow parade",
3) easyJet were offering a return for £35 from Bristol so it seemed rude to refuse it.
See what I mean? Anyhow, what follows is the usual dross you’ve come to expect from me complete with full descriptions of all irrelevant happenings plus the usual added mindless gibbering thrown in for no other reason than I know you all love to read it...
This trip may not seem the obvious destination for us by now pretty hardened Euro beer scoopers but we were looking for somewhere to go during the difficult month of December and Pisa fitted the bill well; we’d not done much of Italy and, after a brief spell of research, it seemed as though we wouldn’t go thirsty either with a brewery in the city and a few likely-looking bars to have a go at. That was that then, all decided, and only £35 return each!
Saturday 10th December 2005.
Bloody Militant Eyeties!!
This trip was a quick “in and out” three-day affair; I knew from my research that there was a brewery near Pisa with a tap in the town and one brewpub in Firenze but that was about it apart from a few bars which I hadn’t been able to find out much information on; we’d soon find out, I thought, as we arrived at Bristol airport for the first time in a long while owing to it’s awful location which had required traversing a whole ruck of B-roads to get there! We were a bit withered to hear some strange music wafting down from the departures area and, when we climbed the stairs, we were confronted by a full barber’s shop quarter belting out their stuff! Makes a change I suppose, although I must admit I’d have preferred to see Mortiis at the top of the stairs…
The flight over was smooth and easy, and we were treated to a glorious view of the alps under a setting sun which cast a golden-orange glow over the peaks and made the snow shine a bright copper colour which looked fascinating. Arriving at Pisa airport we were soon in possession of our validity for the bus into town; there is a train station stuck at one end of the airport, but the busses ran every ten minutes and were a lot easier to work out! However, we soon had a major stick inserted in our plan’s spokes, as there was a poster advertising industrial action on the trains on the Monday which was to have been our day in Firenze – a quick rethink soon rescheduled this trip for the following day and Pisa to be covered on Monday instead. Sorted!
Armed with gen from the superb “to and from the airport” website we knew there was a bus into Pisa (only 2km away!) but, after a few minutes of confusion, we decided that the bus routes must have been changed and it must be a No.1 into town and not the No.3 – but at least we knew there would be a bus! We made our way to the stop where a bus immediately arrived and within ten minutes we were alighting at the railway station; that must be the closest airport to a city I’ve ever seen, it had only taken five minutes for the entire journey!
Our hotel was soon located where some amusement value was to be had in the shape of the sole member of staff who seemed to do everything from man the front desk, answer the phone, check people in and dole out drinks at the minuscule bar in the lobby! Eventually, despite his running the place single-handedly, he managed to find a few seconds to check us in with, considering his working conditions, a tremendous amount of charm and warmth. We were allocated a recently refurbished and spacious room on the first floor with all necessary mod-cons and even some unnecessary ones, such as a bidet! After settling in and sorting out the packs it was time to hit the town and, hopefully, find some decent beer!
We stepped out into a damp evening and headed for the river Arno along Corso Italia, a busy shopping street with plenty of locals heading out of the centre clutching bags of shopping. When we reached the river the whole city suddenly seemed to explode into life; Borgo Stretto was festooned with lights and had an almost party atmosphere with throngs of people milling around and shouting in that peculiar way the Italians have; I think they just wander up and down the road all evening greeting everyone and checking out each other’s clothing!
As it was still early evening we took a short walk up to the famous tower to cast an eye over it and, as I’d expected, it just didn’t look real – nothing which looks as if it’s about to topple over at any second has any right to, really – and we gingerly tiptoed around it’s base lest we should cause any further subsidence to happen and be responsible for the destruction of one of the wonders of the world; this may sound a bit daft but, honestly, it’s such an improbable structure that it really does seem as if it will tumble onto you at any second, although it’s so clean and polished it looks slightly contrived… the torretta di inclinzione certainly is full of contradictions and contrasts but I was very glad that I’d seen the thing in the flesh, so to speak, and could venture this opinion from personal experience!
The whole are around the tower, the Piazza dei Miracoli, is a very well preserved set-piece of the tower, the cathedral and the associated baptistery; all of these buildings gleam in their white marble although, to my eyes, they have been “over-preserved” and manage to look a bit like a Disney version of the real thing even though they are almost 1,000 years old! We spent a while just wandering around the buildings, taking advantage of being able to photograph with no hordes of gawping tourists to spoil the view, until we decided it was time to go and scoop some beer and, almost as importantly, get some food inside us so we made our way back to the riverside and the brewery tap of Birrificio Artigianale.
After a pleasant walk through the ancient backstreets we arrived back at lively Borgo Stretto, turned down narrow Via Mercanti then first left into Via Case Dipinte where our target was situated; I’d read quite a lot about Orzo Bruno and it’s brewery, Birrificio Artigianale, and almost all of it was good so we had high hopes for something at least drinkable although I still wasn’t convinced the Italians would brew any beer of true quality. We found the bar almost immediately and bagged ourselves a table in the corner so whilst Sue studied the food menu I made for the bar to see what beery delights were on offer on the taps.
The sociable barman, once he’d ascertained by my appalling Italian that I was English, explained to me that there were four beers available; pale ale, red ale, strong doppelmalto and a winter special honey beer. Cackling with glee at the prospect of scooping a rare seasonal brew, I acquired glasses of the pale and red to ease us into the drinking mood before we tackled the the stronger beers and returned triumphant with my gains, not knowing what to expect from them, but thinking that they smelt pretty decent – the enchanting aromas of fresh, resinous hop and toasty malt were wafting from the glasses and I was almost salivating with anticipation of a hop-feast as I ferried them back to our table!
I lifted the Martesana pale ale (4.2%) to my nose and inhaled the citrussy, hoppy aroma – this smelt fantastic, I thought to myself – before taking a long sip. I will state here and now that I didn’t expect too much from any Italian beer but this first taste of Birrificio Artigianale’s products was a revelation of Damascene magnitudes! The flavour literally exploded on my tongue with citrussy hops, lemon jelly, a huge bitterness, fresh biscuity malt and then a truly gorgeous lip-smackingly bitter finish with heaps of lemon and lime ending with a sappy, pine-needle twang; I must have looked shell-shocked as Sue asked me if it was OK…
“OK?” I gibbered, “It’s more than OK, it’s absolutely superb!”
After we’d quickly drained the classic pale ale I expected I’d not be able to taste the Valdera Rossa (5.2%) but how wrong I was. This beer was a classic red ale in all the ways those wannabe Irish ones rarely are – a huge toffee and hop aroma gave way to a lovely balance of sweet, treacly maltiness and bitterness overlain by toast, caramel, honey and a slight roast malt character. The finish was full of sweet caramel and toffee yet balanced with a poise that most brewers fail to realise; the interplay between the sweet maltiness and bitter hops was little short of stunning. The glasses drained and some food ordered, I scampered back to the bar for the other two beers in a state of mild shock at the quality of the beers we’d had so far!
I returned with the other two brews and settled down to taste them – surely they couldn’t be as good as the last two beers, which were certainly in my top ten brews sampled during the year? Fortunately the brewer of Birrificio Artigianale seemed to be infallible along Papal lines and the next beer (Gorgona 7.2%) was rather good too. A lovely rich toffeeish doppiomalto beer, it was redder than the Valdera yet had an extra dimension to the flavour brought on by the alcohol which manifested itself as a warming glow in the finish which, with the extra maltiness from the decent ABV, I reckoned gave the aftertaste a “big toffee-malt hug of a finish” – you can tell by my rampant Protzisms that I was totally under the spell of the brewery by now!
The final scoop was Montemagno (7%) a seasonal winter beer brewed, as the barman enthusiastically informed me, with “honey from “bees round ‘ere!” and smelling stickily gorgeous. My tasting notes say “Superb deep golden brew, sweet and honeyed yet crisp and dry. Goes down a treat with a full, enveloping honey and bitter finish then a warming alcoholic glow” so presumably I liked it… we were so impressed with the beers we carried on drinking for another four rounds, something we hardly ever do on a first day, and when the food arrived we were very taken with that too – Sue had a toasted panini stuffed with gorgeous fresh pesto and salad whilst my local cured ham and cheese platter was superb, as was the Balsamic vinegar I liberally anointed everything in sight (including the table) with.
We finally decided it was time to get some doss so, reluctantly, paid up the surprisingly small bill and said good night to our very sociable barman who, just to rub in that I’d missed it, gleefully told me there was a chocolate stout in the cellar for the following week (cheers then!) before making our contented way back to the hotel where the sole employee we’d seen thus far greeted us cheerfully then went back to his seventeen concurrent tasks in hand…
Sunday 11th December 2005.
Too little to do, so much time.
With the railways on strike the whole of Monday, our planned day to scoop Firenze (Florence) in, we had been forced to reconsider our move so were now spending the Sunday there instead; this wasn’t a great hardship as the trains ran to similar times and, by the weather forecast we had with us, we might even get a bit of sunshine to boot so, after helping ourselves to the huge buffet breakfast (which was mostly pre-packed stuff, unfortunately, but adequate enough) we set off on the short stroll to the rail station.
With the station so close (around 200 metres) we were soon in the queue for the ticket counter. I managed to buy two returns using my basic Italian and they worked out reasonably cheap too at only €10 each. The journey was uneventful and the scenery not that exciting although there were some nice enough bits nearer to Firenze with some customary vines straggling over hillsides. We had most of the carriage to ourselves and, armed with some snacks smuggled out of the hotel breakfast room, the journey passed quickly and we were soon standing in the huge concourse of the station looking at our first cows of the day!
The brewpub in Firenze didn’t open until 19:00 and it soon became apparent, after a good few hours of wandering around the city, that I’d allowed far too much time between our arrival and the opening of the pub! Although the city was a gorgeous riot of golden sandstone buildings and white marble it somehow failed to intrigue me in the same way Venice or Girona had done on our previous Italian visits; yes it was historic and interesting, but somehow Firenze missed my target… maybe it was the excesses of tourism which blunted my enthusiasm or maybe the place just wasn’t as interesting as the guide books make out?
By mid-afternoon we’d covered almost the entire city on foot and seen all the tickable sights such as the amazingly patterned cathedral, the statue of David (the copy outside, we weren’t paying to see the original when there was a perfectly good copy outside for free!), the old town bridge and many of the twisty alleyways lined with tall buildings as well as most of the cow parade bovines scattered throughout the city and we still had four hours before the brewpub opened! It was now clear that we could have enjoyed a lot more of a lie-in that morning but that was irrelevant now; we needed to find something else to do for a while.
We decided on taking a walk out to see some of the further-flung cows and ended up at a square whose name I forget situated past the old bridge with several cows en-situ. After having been almost barged off the narrow pavements numerous times it had become apparent during the day that the locals walked around in a personal bubble and didn’t notice anyone else around them – if you were walking towards a couple on a narrow pavement they would simply walk into you if you didn’t move into the road! I don’t think they were being intentionally rude (although they may have been towards us tourists) just oblivious to anything going on around them!
One amusing incident occurred when, out in the open air, I let rip a massive burst of flatulence which absolutely reeked and caused the tourists standing around us to shuffle away from what I suspect they thought was a leaking drain! I was most amused and laughed heartily until, dizzy through the exertion of laughing, I almost fell over in the street; not that Sue would have helped me up as she’d rushed off and was standing a fair distance away due to the noxious aromas! And they say toilet humour is dead… what do “they” know?
All that wait for this?
We decided it was time to wander over and have a look at the Il Bovaro brewpub to see, by any miracle, if the opening times we had were wrong and it had opened… which, as booked, it hadn’t and was still in darkness with the grilles still over the doors. I must admit I wasn’t convinced the place was actually going to open at all by the look of it but after a good look at the monstrous Porta San Frediano gate opposite the pub we opted to pop into a local café for a reviving glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice as we were both exhausted and very thirsty from our miles of trudging around the city the last eight hours.
We sat in the sociable Café Alex for a good 40 minutes and thirstily consumed a couple of glasses of juice which were superbly refreshing and, after relaxing for all that time, we began to feel revived and ready for a spot of scooping so, having paid up, we crossed the road – avoiding the many Ape 50’s spluttering past – back to the brewpub which was preparing to open for the evening with lights on inside and the grilles removed from the windows. If you don’t know what an Ape 50 is, let me enlighten you; it’s a kind of motorbike-cum-car contraption with three wheels in a similar style to the Indian “tuc-tuc” and I think they’re highly amusing objects, looking like some kind of oversized beetle as they buzz around the streets ferrying goods and people where ordinary cars can’t go. There also exist diesel versions and even very rare 4-wheel variants seemingly named “Ape Poker” although I’ve yet to cross the line and start spotting them…
Inside the brewpub was dimly lit and a riot of bare brickwork and beer memorabilia with the shiny brewkit gleaming away to itself in the left-hand wing of the building. I ascertained there were three beers available; Riki (4.5% pale ale), Titan (6.3% red ale) and Axel (7.1% doppelmalto) so we sat back with the two weaker ones to see if they could possibly match the excellence and pure quality of the beers the night before in Pisa.
I suppose if we’d not experienced the superb Birrificio Artigianale beers then we might have been more charitably disposed towards these but then again I do try and maintain a detatched air when beer tasting and try to judge each on it’s own merits rather than against others; whatever, I wasn’t too impressed by most of the Il Bovaro brews despite wanting to like them – Riki was a pale, yeasty beer with a wheat beer character (bananas) then a dry, grainy and yeasty finish, whilst Axel was cloudy and amber with some graininess although the yeast masked most of the subtle malty flavours. The best of the three, Titan, was deep red and liquoricey with lots of coffeeish black malt and a bitter, grainy, coffee and chocolate aftertaste that made it very pleasant drinking and fairly complex; it’s a shame the others weren’t as good, but as tasty as it was the beer was in a different league from the Artigianale brews we’d enjoyed the previous night.
With a choice between going for the next train or staying for some more beer not a difficult one, unfortunately, we made our way back to the station for our train back to Pisa. By the time we got back we didn’t feel like walking too far and, anyway, the brewery tap was now closed until Tuesday so there would be no more delicious Artigianale beers this trip… with the rain now coming down we made a decision that getting soaked wasn’t an option and retreated back to our room for an early night watching the ludicrous programmes on Italian TV!
Sunday 11th December 2005.
Walking in the Rain.
Sunday dawned wet – very wet! The rain from the previous evening had intensified during the night and it didn’t look too promising for sightseeing so we went for some breakfast in the hope it would relent. Unfortunately by the time we’d finished a leisurely breakfast it was still pissing down so we decided to press ahead and explore the intriguing town walls (which still go most of the way around the town but are almost ignored by everyone in favour of the more obvious attractions) to see how much of them was left and if they were as complete as they looked.
Yes is the answer – the walls are almost complete yet ignored and hidden behind trees, buildings, other concrete walls… it seems as if this part of Pisa’s heritage has been dispensed with due to the more obvious tourist-magnetic attractions around the field of miracles. We eventually ended up just there, looking like two drowned rodents, but still found it full of hardy tourists braving the elements and taking the obligatory photo of themselves pretending to support the tower with one finger – one particular normal spent what must have been five minutes balancing his camera on a bin to take this rip-roaringly amusing and highly original self-portrait and, although we both willed the camera to fall into the bin or be snatched by some passing opportunist, neither happened; fate is no fun sometimes!
We snuck into the cathedral for a quick look around, but after seeing a mummified body and lots of candles the place suddenly closed and we were ejected back into the rain by a policeman – quite why a church has to close for a few hours in the middle of the day is beyond me, but I’m sure there’s a totally logical explanation. The tourist tat stalls alongside the field had switched from their usual fare of sunglasses, in a laudably public-service kind of way, to umbrellas and we were constantly implored to buy this or that brolly with some rubbish graphic of the tower leaning at an improbably angle but, being soaked already, we declined and decided to return to the hotel for a quick dry before hitting the bars.
We bought some food from a superb little shop (we’d probably call it a deli but it looked like just any other shop selling local specialities) including bread, soft cheese, chorizo and various other items before trudging back in the – by now easing – rain to the hotel. On the way we called in at a random bar for a coffee to fortify us and I decided to pour some sugar from one of those hand-held sugar dispensers into Sue’s coffee – but, rather unwisely, shook it to loosen the clumped sugar inside resulting in about half a kilo of sweet crystals almost burying the cup on the counter! Sheepishly, we drank up and left…
As good as could be expected.
Back at the hotel we dried ourselves off and sorted out our visits for the evening’s trawl around likely drinking dens and, by the time we were all sorted, the rain had finally stopped. We had a quick peek at the brewery tap just in case our info was wrong and it was open but we sadly ran up against the locked door, although a brief respite was provided by a car reversing into a bollard and smashing it’s tail lights! Investigated next was Birreria Bombababa alongside the river Arno which was also closed but didn’t look as though it lived up to it’s billing as a top beer place as the windows displayed adverts for hot dogs and Charles Wells beers – not a good omen!
We then walked along the riverside to a beer shop, Birra Point, at Via Porte al Mare 17 just over the river from the Arsenale although it’s claim of 500 beers proved a little exaggerated with 150 probably being more of a realistic estimate; the Italian selection consisted solely of Ichnusa although the Belgian bottles had some rather decent beers amongst their ranks such as St Bernardus. Our final throw of the dice was Brasserie La Loggia, conveniently on the way back to the hotel, and we were surprised to find it not just open but with a fridge stocked with all manner of goodies – beers from Mont Blanc, Amarcord of San Marino, Dark Star, Harveys, Einsiedler and Chemnitz amongst a very eclectic range.
Although the bar somehow made me think we were drinking in a pizza restaurant it was this or nothing so we bagged a table and poked around in the fridge for some winning beer, Mont Blanc Aislettes & Violettes (4.7%) and Spring Amarcord E Figoun (5.2%) being our first choices. The bar seemed to operate a strange service concept of “help yourself” whereby you rummaged in the fridge for some beers you’d like, deposited them on the counter, and were charged a random amount by the friendly but rather uninterested staff, all who seemed to be infected with H5N1 Avian flu such was the volume and frequency of their coughing – or it could have just been the fumes from the pure chlorine the cleaner insisted on mopping the floor with!
We persisted in our scooping despite these distractions and found the Mont Blanc “beer” to be revolting in a way I’d not tasted since Huyghe minty all those years ago; to recreate the taste in the safety of your own home simply dissolve half a pound of sugar in a half of water, add some purple colouring, then add a pack of crushed parma violets and there you have it! Luckily the Amarcord was far better (and the only brewery in San Marino, meaning I cleared the country immediately!) being an excellent honeyish, pale, richly malty and biscuity brew with more honey in the finish.
My next excursion to the fridge of delights produced more Amarcord, this time Rossa doppio malto La Puténa (6.5%), and Einsiedler St Peter’s Schwarzbier (4.9%); La Puténa was a deep red liquoricey and malty beer with a long toasty, grainy malt finish and very impressive whilst the Schwarzbier was dry and roasty and like chewing a lump of coal – or at least it’s what I imagine munching on anthracite might be like, I don’t make a habit of it you understand.
By this time the diseased staff were beginning to pack things away (it was only 20:30!) but we managed to squeeze another round in before they threw us out, namely Amarcord La Tabachéra (10%) and Harveys Imperial Russian Stout 2001 (9%), both good beers to finish an evening on; as we by now expected from the excellent San Marino brewery the beer was top-notch with peardrops, maltiness, a strong yet subtle flavour with an undercurrent of warming alcohol and a toffee-malt finish whilst the Harveys was amazingly complex with a pronounced bretannomyces “horseblanket” character to the caramel, roast and toffee taste although half way down the glass we decided it had just too much flavour and was probably brewed for Americans who, as everyone knows, have evolved with only half the taste buds Europeans possess and therefore have to make beers twice as tasty as we do. Honest.
With the Chicken flu-infected staff now holding what seemed to be a coughing competition and the eye-watering fumes from the caustic searing our eyes we admitted defeat and headed off back to the hotel, happy at least that we’d managed to have a decent drink on our last night, and surprised at the variety of beers on offer in La Loggia. Back in the room we drank our couple of bottles we’d bought from the beer shop before packing our stuff as we had an early flight the next morning back to Luton.
Monday 12th December 2005.
That’s all, folks!
We had time for breakfast the next morning where we discovered a really annoying fact – we could have had proper espresso coffee instead of the repulsive brown mud-like fluid dispensed by the machine in the breakfast room – so we had an extra cake to make up for it and two espressos just to get out money’s worth! With breakfast done, there was only time for a quick stroll to the rail station to catch the No.1 bus to the airport and by 11:00 we were flying out of the small airport straight over the city giving us a great view of the sights, predictably bathed in glorious sunshine, before a picturesque route over the snow-capped alps and thence back to Luton. That was our last trip for the year complete and we’d certainly covered a varied collection of places but already I was planning the next year’s visits; I hate to be without at least one flight booking to look forward to!
Tuscany isn’t really the destination of choice if you want to scoop hundreds of beers, but on the strength of the Birrificio Artigianale brews we sampled it’s worth a visit for these alone they were that good. If you want to do some “culture” (Florence and Pisa) then you’ll be pleased to know that there are at least some places where you can drink small brewer’s beer without having to resort to multinational shite although the best advice is don’t go expecting too much and you should be fine! Seriously, go and try the Artigianale beers, they are some of the best I’ve ever had and deserve a far wider audience than they have currently. Italy does have some good beer, but you need to know where to look for it!
How to get there (and get around there).
Pisa airport (PSA) is slowly attracting more budget flights as the cheap airlines expand their networks ever further afield; easyJet fly there from Bristol, Ryanair from Doncaster/Sheffield, Liverpool, Stansted and Prestwick, Jet2 from Belfast International, Leeds/Bradford, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh whilst Thomsonfly depart from Coventry, Bournemouth and Doncaster/Sheffield. Florence (Firenze) is mainly a flag-carrier airport although Meridiana go from Gatwick for semi-reasonable prices or you could try and get a decent deal from Alitalia or BA – yeah right; this could be the time to spend those air miles!
The airport is only 2 or 3km from the city itself, surely one of the closest airports to a major city anywhere, and it’s easy to reach Pisa; take the No.1 bus from outside the arrivals area (it leaves from a sort of green shelter like structure) to the main rail station (it also runs through to the field of miracles if you want) every 20 minutes or so; tickets available from the information office in the airport and also from machines at the bus stop for €0.85, a right bargain. You can also get a train from the station which is part of the airport complex for around €1.10 to Pisa (quite frequently) and (8 times a day, about 1.5 hours) €5.50 to Florence. I think there is also a coach to Florence which runs approximately every 75 minutes but we didn’t see it.
Unfortunately neither city has trams, so it’s buses all the way I’m afraid. Pisa is fairly small and easily walked around but there seemed to be a multitude of buses if you need to use them; usefully the No.1 from the airport goes to the rail station and then on to the field of miracles (where to tower is) so you may only need to use one bus when in town! Firenze doesn’t seem to have as many buses and is a fair bit larger so a lot of walking may be in order to see all the sights although I’m sure if you look at the ATAF website you can work something out.
Getting between Pisa and Firenze is very easy using the reasonably frequent trains which only take around an hour to cover the 50 miles or so between the cities and costs a measly €10 or so (Dec 05 prices). There is a coach from the airport but to be honest the train is so easy (unless they’re on strike!) that I’d not bother…
There's more beer than you'd think in Pisa but it's hard work to seek it out. There’s a micro called Birrificio Artigianale in Bentina (close by) and they have a brewery tap called Orzo Bruno at Via Case Dipinte 6/8 in the old town, about ten minutes from the famous tower, which opens Tue-Fri 12:00-15:00 and 18:00-00:00, Sat/Sun 18:00-00:00 and closed Monday. It has extremely sociable staff but the beers were the surprise; full-bodied, tasty, characterful and above all hoppy; the pale beer in particular was stunning. Four brews (unfiltered and unpasteurised) were on the taps; Martesana (very hoppy pale beer, 4.2%), Valdera Rossa (full, tasty toffee-ish red ale, 5.2%), Gorgona (even fuller, sweet and delicious doppelmalto brew, 7.1%) and a winter special with honey (Montemagno) at 7% that was just sublime. The food was also excellent with a tasting tray of local cheese and dried hams for €5 (with bread and luscious balsamic vinegar) or toasted panini for €4.
As for bars in Pisa, internet searches turned up two; Birreria Bombababa at Lungarno Mediceo 52 (just over the main bridge over the Arno, turn right and it's 50 metres along the bank on the left). We never found it open and it didn't look too promising ("hot dogs" adverts in the windows etc) but I've no more gen than this, unfortunately. Another was Brasserie La Loggia at Piazza Vittorio Emanuelle (at the SW side, just behind all the hoardings) which seemed to close at 20:30 but had some decent beers in the fridge - Harveys IRS, Dark Star Sunburst and Espresso stout, some Mont-Blanc scoops, 4 of the very good "Amarcord" brews from the Spring microbrewery of San Marino (the only brewery in the country!) and a few Einsiedler of Chemnitz beers amongst a very eclectic selection. The experience was a bit like drinking in a pizza takeaway but well worth a try and not too expensive either.
We also found a beer shop, Birra Point, at Via Porte al Mare 17 (over the river from the Arsenale) which sold a decent selection of Belgian beers (Abbaye des Rocs, St Bernardus amongst others) but nothing Italian except Ichnusa! Worth a look though and excellent for the area.
As for Firenze, well, it has a brewpub - Il Bovaro at Via Pisana 3 next to the immense Porta san Frediano. It brews 3 beers on the very visible plant situated in the left-hand wing of the building, Riki (4.5% pale ale), Axel (7.1% amber) and Titan (6.3% rosso) all of which, unfortunately, were disappointingly average (too yeasty for me except the titan, the best of the lot). Il Bovaro opens 19:00 until 01:00 every day and is a 15-minute stroll from the main station, Firenze SMN, just south of the river Arno - aim for the massive stone gate and it's just at the other side of it. If you get there too early, the Alex bar over the road serves up a reviving freshly-squeezed orange juice for EUR2.50!
For more information on Italian scoops, consult Maxbeer; there is some decent Italian beer around, you just need to do a bit of searching...!
© Gazza 16/06/2006 v1.0
|Alps from the
Phot : Sue.
|Il Bovaro brewpub, Florence||Il Bovaro brewpub, Florence||Scooping huge San Marino beers in La Loggia||The sights of Pisa from the air !|
|easyJet to Pisa 10/12/05||Firenze 11/12/05||Firenze 11/12/05||Pisa 12/12/05||13/12/05|