Adventures in Pisa
We woke up today determined to made it to Pisa. We got ready, rounded up our friends and set out. We decided to stop and get lunch before we got to Pisa because we were hungry and thought it would be cheaper in Florence than in Pisa. So our friend showed us this amazing hole-in-the-wall panino shop around the corner from Orsanmichele (it literally was a hole in the wall). I had the panino with Tuscan ham, goat cheese, and arugula. One of the best parts was that it was only €2.50! We’ll definitely have to go there again because it was truly amazing!
We made our way to the Santa Maria Novella Train Station and were able to figure out how to buy our tickets at the self-service kiosk that thankfully was in English. So about a quarter of the battle is over at this point. But now we had to figure out where our train was, and we probably only had about 10 minutes before it left. We looked at the ticket and there wasn’t really anything that said which platform the train was leaving from. We thought it might be the one that said: “Pisato” since the word “Pisa” was in it. But I had a hunch that that probably wasn’t the right train so I went to ask a lady at an information desk. She said that it left from platform 1; problem: the lowest number platform in the main station was 5. Solution: you had to go down a little hallway/corridor thing and there were platforms 1-4! And to make me feel even better, there was a list of stops this train would make on its way to La Spezia, with Pisa being one of them. We hopped on and were on our way.
When we finally arrived, we bought our bus ticket to the “Field of Miracles” which was easy enough. However, finding where that bus stopped in front of the train station was another story. The sign at the Tabacchi inside the station said that the bus we needed stopped in front of the “Jolly Hotel.” Well it figures that outside the station, none of the buildings say: “Jolly Hotel” on them. So we start looking at signs to see where we should be to catch the LAM Rossa Bus and finally someone tells us that it’s across the street. We look over, and lo and behold! The bus is boarding. We dash across the street and hop on not really knowing where we’ll get off. Luckily, it was pretty obvious because there were tons of vendors and you could see the white buildings.
We hopped off the bus and walked through the Medieval city gates into the Campo dei Miracoli and eventually stood and looked at the buildings there and found, to our amazement, that the Leaning Tower, did, in fact, lean. We later learned that actually all of the buildings in the Field of Miracles lean to one extent or the other because of the water composition in the ground. After much contemplation, we bought tickets to see the Baptistry, the Cemetery, and the Cathedral for only €8. About half of us were hesitant to see the cemetery at first but then we figured it was only €1 more to do and we all decided it was worth it. Everything was amazing! Even the cemetery didn’t disappoint and I was one of the ones who was hesitant to go in (not because of the cost though but mostly because of time and interest). We even decided that we liked the inside of the Cathedral of Pisa better than the one in Siena because it wasn’t so gaudy. There was a beautifully sculpted pulpit similar to Siena’s and there was beautiful choir/monk songs wafting through the air. Compared to the Florentine Baptistry, the Pisan Baptistry was much more simple, yet still as interesting. It had the first sculpted pulpit inside by the father/son team who did the one in the Cathedrals of Siena and Pisa. Pisa’s Baptistry was much more humble but had incredible acoustic qualities. According to the Rick Steve’s book, a human voice can echo for about 10 seconds and that a person can sing a chord with himself if he sang a series of notes in sequence. We went to the upper gallery of the Baptistry and waited for the security guard to sing his half hourly “song” (which was really just a sequence of notes that overlapped because of the acoustics) so that we could genuinely experience this sensation. It was exactly as described and it was beyond beautiful. I don’t think you even had to have that good of a voice to sound spectacular in there. It was certainly worth the price of admission.
As typical of nearly every tourist who ever visits Pisa in almost the history of the world, we just HAD to stop and pose with the Leaning Tower. We each took turns making a pose and sometimes doing poses together. It was fun even though everyone kind of resisted it at first. We eventually wandered around the back of the Cathedral and lounged on the lawn before finding some gelato and lounging again. I saw an incredible amount of Yorkies on this trip. Yorkies in general are ALL over Italy! It makes me miss our doggies back at home, but I still just like looking at their cuteness all around town.
When we decided to finally head out, we began looking for a Tabacchi to buy our return bus ticket. Since it was Sunday, nearly every Tabacchi in the world is closed. I asked a kiosk man (in Italian!) where to buy a bus ticket, and he said to buy it on the bus. I knew though that if you buy it on the bus, it’s a lot more expensive, so we consulted the Rick Steve’s book for where there might be a Tabacchi and eventually made our way to what we thought was a Tabacchi as marked in the book, but was actually a taxi stand (it did say taxi stand but we misread…ooops!). We then asked a gelato street vendor where there was an open Tabacchi and he pointed us in the right direction. After buying our ticket, being sardined on a bus (also nearly dying from the doors opening onto us since there was literally no where to stand), and buying our return train ticket, we decided to just relax for the next half hour until our train arrived. We caved in and bought McDonald’s for dinner and feasted on french fries and baby cheeseburgers; it was delicious. We made it home and watched a little Avatar before saying goodbye to one of the friends who joined us. I downloaded my pictures onto my computer and began the process of editing them. I also worked a little bit on a brochure that I volunteered to help create for the open house that the school was holding on Tuesday. I went to bed early since I had to get up a little extra early to work on the brochure with a classmate.
All in all, it was a day full of excitement and spectacular sights. I don’t know why people say Pisa is boring.
Pisa, a set on Flickr.
A day exploring the sites of Pisa. And yes, the tower DOES lean (more than I expected!).