A leaning tower
September is turning out to be a good month. 2 trips in one month!
But perhaps even more ridiculously, I will only be in England for three weekends out of the next 12.
That is either particularly good holiday planning. Or the worst idea ever. We will see.
A rather chaotic Friday and back off to Gatwick. Nice and easy and flying off at 7pm to Pisa.
2014 country number 16 – Italy (but not a new one, I was last here 2 years ago (!))
We spent a while faffing around by the gate. The airbridge was broken. So they rustled up a set of steps and a bus. After waiting 10 minutes in the bus for it to fill up, we drove about 50m. Only to stop again and be let off. No joke. We could have walked in less than a minute. Totally pointless!!
It was all fairly quick getting through and we were outside within 5 minutes.
It’s really handy that the airport buses cease their service at 8pm. And you are landing at 9.40pm.
Yes, great that.
So the only option is a taxi. I have greatly documented my huge dislike for getting taxis (see my pages on India, China, Budapest and in particular Istanbul) as they inevitably end in disaster. So I was dreading this one.
We didn’t get off to a good start.
The driver didn’t recognise the name of the hotel initially, after showing him to address he proceeded to shout at me ”yes, yes, yes, yes”. Ok then….
We ended up driving the most direct route (thank you google maps for tracking us!) and it cost EUR12. Which was very reasonable. He even tried to give us our 40c of change. How lovely. Totally hassle free! Very pleased!
Our hotel was also amazing. Huge room. A spa bath. A balcony – with a Pisa tower view! And right on the gates to the tower complex.
Literally could not have been closer.
Turns out the large tower grass area – the Piazza del Duomo – is open all night. So we popped out to go and see in the dark! The area has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 and isn’t just the tower. There is also a huge cathedral, an (also leaning!) baptistery a cemetery and then the tower. Of course it was pretty cool!
But really. We come all the way here to look at a building because it’s bendy?!
It was good. And fairly quiet.
Saturday 29 September 2014
Up early today to beat the crowds! And we didn’t have far to go! It was fairly quiet. No big groups at all. So perfect for pictures. And of course a picture holding up the tower…!
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a free-standing bell tower. Construction began in 1173 and finished almost 200 years later in 1372. Apparently the lean began shortly after construction due to the ground being too soft. The tower has now been stabilised and leans at a 3.99 degree angle. With the top of the tower being 3.9m away from a straight line. It is rather unlike anything else!
The surrounding buildings were also very ornate. Construction of the cathedral (known as the Duomo) began in 1064. The outside has mosaics and large carved bronze doors. And it was huge!
Unfortunately we were too early to go inside, so had to made do with wandering around the expansive outside. The baptistery is also leaning (although not as much!). It is the largest baptistery in Italy and dedicated to John the Baptist.
Apparently this building is a few centimetres taller than the tower – it didn’t look that way!! It looked rather squat. After we had spent a while wandering around, it was gradually getting busier and busier. Hoards of tour groups were arriving. So we decided it was time to leave! We walked back to the train station on a scenic route. Down some small alleyways, full of small colourful buildings, bikes lining the walls, lamps hanging from doorways and shutters on every window. Small corner shops. Little cafés and gelato stores. So Italian.
We passed through a small park, past some old large buildings and down the main shopping street. There was a small market selling all the Italian essentials – cheese, dried chilies, oil, olives and that was it! The River Arno is the second longest river in Italy and runs through the middle of the city. We crossed over a bridge, it was really pretty with the square, colourful buildings lining the edges, all with their colourful window shutters. It was very busy along the shops!
It took about 45 minutes to reach the train station (we walked slow!) and bought our tickets to Florence! (EUR8 each). The double-decker train left at 10.32am and rolled through the Tuscan Hills. Past cute villages. Hills of wine vines. And small churches. (Also some industrial buildings and factories. But they don’t paint such a dreamy picture, so I wasn’t going to write about those!).
We arrived into Florence at 11.30am. The busiest train station! So many people!