Monday, June 27, 2011

Pisa, Italy, May 23, 2011

I have been back home for nearly a week, now, and I'm finally getting around to going through some photos, etc. This post was written and saved to my hard drive on May 23, 2011. I'm posting it now, June 26, more than one month later.

I arrived in Pisa yesterday evening (May 22), after several hours spent in airport terminals and several more on airplanes. The airport is only about three kilometers from the city center, and I had thought I might walk, but the bus Rossa was already waiting at the terminal, and only cost 1.50 Euros.

I hopped off the bus at the first stop across the river, and walked a few blocks, past the University of Pisa which is helping to host my visit, to a university guesthouse where I will be staying. My room is on the first floor, above the ground floor, which means 2nd floor to American readers.

How to describe my room? The ceiling is very high, and seems to be tiled with brick -- looks quite heavy. Pisa is not in earthquake country, is it? Otherwise, it is quite nice. A painted door leads to the bathroom, which is clean and large. The building itself has been rennovated in modern times, but its frame is from the 15th century. The rennovation exposed the old stone and brick architecture, but incorporated it into light weight glass and color. It has been quite well done.

Directly across from my lodgings is the Scuela Normale Superiore, which is on the tourist walk from the train station.

I have a card to use the cafeteria there. Last night, jet lagged and tired, I only took a roll, a bowl of lettuce, and a bowl of pasta. Hiding in the marinara sauce were clams and spices, and it was quite good. The roll was very hard, but I soaked it in olive oil and went away happy.

The weather is wonderful, after weeks of rain at home. My window opens above a rose garden, and I left it open all night, letting the scent of flowers drift in.

This morning, after obtaining some papers for my conference, I wandered over to the duomo and the famous leaning tower. The tower is very pretty, and has been recently cleaned and restored. The angle at which it leans is much more striking in person than in a postcard. I took some pictures.

But also just as fun as watching the tower and the duomo, was watching the tourists. There were thousands of them, all stopping at the same places and taking the same pictures.

Lining the street were booths and vendors.

I contemplated buying a hat, since the sun was shining quite brightly. But should I buy one of the ones for the Japanese tourists (complete with Japanese tags),

or one of the ones for the American tourists, with tags reading, in English, "made in Italy"?

And then as I looked more closely, I saw that I could buy a leather purse. Hadn't I been wishing I'd packed a purse instead of my large backpack? Or a leather wallet, to replace mine that is wearing out.

In the end, there were too many choices, so I left.

As I stopped to decide where to go next, I overheard an older American couple trying to talk themselves out of climbing to the top of the leaning tower.

"Think of your heart," said the woman. "All those stairs. And it probably isn't good for me either."

"But look, it looks like you can go only part way," replied the man. "We could go up to there and then decide whether to go on."

"Yes, maybe it's like the Statue of Liberty, where you can climb part way and then there are pullout places to rest."

"But not everywhere."

"No, not everywhere."

"All those stairs. What if you get tired? What if I get tired?"

And on and on, until they were met by other members of their tour group and started talking post cards; and I decided I had better see about climbing the leaning tower, since my heart is just fine, and since I've never climbed the Statue of Liberty, and apparently climbing famous tourist sites is the correct tourist thing to do.

The line in front of the tower was short. Tickets, biglettos, read a sign nearby, pointing me to north. The line to buy tickets was much longer. The next available tower tickets were for a time two hours later. How much? Hmmm... Two hour wait for 15 Euros. Not now. Maybe I'll go back tomorrow morning.

I wandered out by way of the city wall, past some old Roman ruins, down a street which an internet tour described as the "most expensive street in town", to a small gelato shop. The camera weilding tourists were mostly gone here, and the gelato cost only 1.50 euros for a cup, so I purchased ice cream rather than a hat or a purse or tower ticket. Pesca e fragola. Peach and strawberry. Today.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like fun !

Letterpress said...

At dinner the other night I was asked by a missionary, who has only lived in St. George, and now our mission area, which was my favorite place to travel to? I'd have to say Italy, for all the reasons you outline here.

Glad to get the travel news. Carries me away. . .