[This is a story back when I was doing study abroad in Paris in 2015. We took a week trip to Italy, and the first stop was obviously Pisa. We decided to stay only one night, meaning we landed after dark and left in the morning the next day. Even so, there’s more than a few observations in here. Again, it’s always fun to note what you thought was important to note. Old writings can be commented upon on their own, separate from the topic. In any case, enjoy!]
So we land and since I was the only one who planned for most of the trip, I had failed to print out maps to get to the hostel and thus relied on finding wi-fi. I printed out tickets, checked out prices, researched histories, but failed to get the maps. Anyways, we ask how much a cab is going to be, and they say 30 euros which is wayyy too much for the distance we are from our place. We look and it’s only a mile, and thus began our affinity for long walks.
We rarely took public transit or cabs and would just walk several miles instead. Never in my life have I been to an airport where you can just walk out the front door and literally a stone’s throw away is the city. We just walked out with all our luggage, walked down a main road, over the train tracks, took a left to this square, and there we were, at the B&B.
At our place, the owners clearly hadn’t seen many Americans, as they talked our ear off in broken English and in a 2-year-old’s level of Italian so we’d understand. As we awkwardly tried to make our leave as we were starving, they continued to talk, which was adorable and obnoxious simultaneously. (Yes, his name is Nicholas, as in Nicolas Cage from National Treasure. Yes we are in Pisa to see the leaning tower. Yes we are definitely American. What’s that your name is Filippo?!? Like Filippo Inzaghi? Oh my god!!)
[Americans in Italy can be the worst…]
We leave the B&B and oddly enough, Italy often reminded me of the American south: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina. It was a strange thought to have, as usually you think of it the other way around: Naples, Florida looks like Napoli, Italy, not vice versa. There were a lot of palm trees, the clay roof tiles, a certain humidity in the air. Even older buildings in Rome reminded me of the South, but more on that later, perhaps.
Palm trees are not even native to Italy, but they are scattered throughout every city we went. Another thing I noticed immediately is that Italian is infinitely easier to understand than French. I have never had an Italian class in my life. I have never really heard it spoken. I have never read an Italian publication. But the few words spoken to me were much easier to understand than anything in French over 8 weeks, which I put down entirely down to the fact that one doesn’t speak Italian, they sing it. That cliché is so true. They pause on the second to last syllable and let out so much air as to give you an extra moment of deliberation and figure out just what’s being said. French is the opposite. They intend to combine an entire sentence’s worth of sounds into the most succinct manner possible.
Anyways, onto the city of Pisa itself. We got there late, since our plane was delayed, and we were worried that we may not get to really get close to the tower. Fear not, you can fly to Pisa any time of day and still touch it. We came back to it again after getting some food and drinks and it was still lit up. But first: food.
We got dinner at this place the B&B recommended, and were told we must get pizza and so we did. I have never gotten anchovies on a pizza because it always seemed gross and was told as a kid it wasn’t good. Whoever thought to put fish on a pizza was an absolute genius. Somehow in the cooking the fish flavor just combines with the cheese and the whole thing is fishy goodness. It also helps that even this corner restaurant, an average looking place really uses delicious, fresh ingredients. And that Italy invented the pizza. That helps.
But we went to the north side of the city where the tower was. Now this might seem like a stupid comment, as it’s why people flock to Pisa year after year: really, there’s not much to do except see the tower. You might think from pictures and stories that “okay, it’s leaning, but no way it’s leaning thaaaatt much.” Nope that sucker is leaning a crap ton and having walked around the thing two, three times, it really is remarkable how it’s standing. It makes no sense.
Even cooler though, is that it’s not just the leaning tower, the whole area is an UNESCO World Heritage site, called Piazza del Duomo, or Square of the Dome. Italy loves domes for its buildings, including in Florence and Rome. In Pisa though, it’s the leaning tower (the bell tower), the baptistery (with the dome) and the cathedral itself. They were all incredibly pretty, and actually well cared for; the stone was all incredibly white.
The cathedral had all these columns on the front in layers, mimicked by the tower itself. There’s all sorts of cool stories about the leaning tower, but basically they started building, said oh crap! the soil is awful, kept building upwards by making one side longer, it started to really fall, so they put ropes and weights on it and took out the heavy bells, fixed the soil, and voila! it’s in its current state. (For four hundred years.)
Last quick thing about Pisa. There was a bunch of cool street art, and some graffiti. Some of the graffiti was hideous, but one was an outline of the Champions League trophy, with Milittooooo above it, so obviously done by an Inter fan. And the street art was literally on the street. They would paint these really cool scenes, and then they’d just wash away the next day. Anyways we took a 4 euro bus to Florence, an hour away, and off we were. The landscape was quite pretty, with lots of pretty high hills (mountains maybe!?)
Like what you’re reading on Italy? Check out some other related articles in: The Italy Chronicles!!