Thursday, May 9, 2013

Where is that tower, again? (Letter #5 from Italy: April 24, 2013)

We’re headed to Pisa. Before we left Canada, several people advised me to keep my expectations of Pisa low. “Get off the train, look at the tower, get back on,” was their advice. We will see for ourselves. When we tell Francesca we are headed to Pisa, she encourages us to spend a couple of hours. “There was a couple who stayed here recently – they were from New Zealand – funny people,” she says.  Judith pipes up, “I’m from New Zealand.” Francesca is quick to respond. “Oh, yes. But they were from New Zealand – and funny.” She says when she told them of the things they could see in Pisa, they looked at one another and agreed, “10 minutes.” We go with an open mind.

We deliberately get off at the Pisa Centrale station (rather than Pisa S. Rossore, which is closer to the tower, because we want to stop at a tourist information office next to the station and ask a few questions about the other destinations in our roster. Unfortunately, the Pisa tourist information only gives information about Pisa). However, we’re happy to walk to the tower from here and enjoy the sights along the way. We both agree it’s a lovely city, far exceeding my low expectations. 

Rick Steves’
Florence & Tuscany has been our constant companion, but we’ve read up on Pisa and tucked it away in my bag. We ask a passerby how to get to the tower. The points and says, “Go straight.” If ever there was a time it was impossible to get lost, this was surely it. We continue straight, figuring that at some point, a tower will become obvious (as towers are wont to do).

Every block we walk, we become ever more certain that we are getting closer. Finally, we ask another passerby. He points us back in the direction we came. I am distressed by the way he is waving his arm repetitively in a way that suggests we have far overshot our destination. We pull out trusty Rick again as we turn back and retrace our steps. At every block, we ask a different person, “Tower?” We refuse to get lost again.

Within a few minutes, we find it. Its clean white contrasts against the cloudless blue sky. It is truly impressive, in the unique way that only a building that leans five degrees (15 feet) can be. 

I pity the architects and builders; it began to lean within five years of the start of building (it was built over two centuries by at least three different archtects, Rick tells us. None could fix the lean). Not exactly the sort of accomplishment you want to include on the 13th century equivalent of a resume. However, one wonders how many tourists Pisa would draw if not for the architectural oddity.

After admiring the tower (we don’t feel the need to climb it), we visit the cathedral, the bapitistery (who knew there were structures built just for baptisms?) and a museum.

We head for the Pisa S. Rossini station, just a few blocks away (admittedly, even armed with a map, we happily accept directions from a few people along the way, including a sweet teenage boy who is clearly happy to be able to use his English to direct us). Our plan is to hop on the train, stop in Lucca for supper, then catch the train home to Minucciano. The best laid plans…

1 comment:

  1. Loving that I get to really take your adventure with you Mags! :)