A Day Trip to Pisa

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April 27th 2015
Published: April 29th 2015
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This morning it was wet, wet, wet so we decided that we should unpack our raincoats from the bottom of our bags for our day trip to Pisa. We asked Donatello to do breakfast for 7.30am so that we could catch the 8.28am train. With Bernie and Donatello discussing politics and the world economy until about 8.05am we ended up having to clean our teeth quickly and race to the station. Although we had pre-purchased our tickets we were nearly brought undone because we couldn't find Platform 1. When you walk into the station the platform numbering starts from Platform 3!! With Bernie in a flap about missing the train we discovered Platform 1 hidden around a corner and managed to board just before 8.28am. Of course we didn't actually depart until about 8.40am so all that panic for nothing.

Oh no, we were cooped up again in a confined space with a fellow traveller coughing and spluttering for the whole journey. We haven't come down with anything following our plane journey, hopefully we will avoid coming down with this bug too. As we were hurtling along on our way to Pisa I flipped our train tickets over and noted the following:


Tickets not including seat reservations must always be validated. Lack of validation can result in fines.

Oh no, we didn't validate our tickets before boarding. How and where we had to validate the tickets was not obvious, not to us anyway! For the rest of the journey I was worried about a ticket inspector catching us out with our unvalidated tickets! Phew, we made it to Pisa without copping a fine for travelling with invalid tickets. Thinking ahead to our return journey, we decided to purchase our tickets for our trip back to Florence before exiting the station.

With no map of Pisa and only a vague idea where we were heading we just sort of drifted along in the direction that most people seemed to be going. Before long we were seeing sign posts with a leaning tower on them so we continued to follow those until we reached the Piazza dei Miracles (Square of Miracles) a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is only one of four great religious buildings located in the square. In addition to the bell tower (the campanile) there is the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry and the Camposanto Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery).

Long before tourists flocked to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, this destination was considered a must see place to visit because it was an important centre of European medieval art and one of the finest architectural complexes in the world. It was a destination that was included in 'The Grand Tour', the traditional trip of Europe undertaken by mainly upper-class European young men of means from the mid 17th century until the mid 19th century.

Bernie had pre-purchased tickets to climb the tower at 11.00am. As we had arrived early we had time to find the facilities (€0.50!), deposit our small back back in a locker and attempt to take silly photos that looked like we were pushing the tower over ... as you do! At the appointed time we were admitted to the tower where we were given a short introductory talk before being allowed to start the climb.

When completed in 1319 the lean was approximately one degree (80 cm) from vertical. In 1990 the lean measured approximately 5.5 degrees and the tower was closed due to concerns that it would collapse. At this time it was temporarily stabilised with huge lead weights to counter balance the lean while a more permanent solution was investigated. The tower was re-opened in 2010 with the lean reduced to approximately 4 degrees.

As we came back down the tower we were amused by the Asian couple ahead of us who photographed each other all the way back down to ground level. Seriously, not just one photo each, they photographed each other at least a dozen times. How many photos of each other in a circular stairwell do you need?? We collected our backpack and took shelter from the rain in the cathedral. On the plus side, Bernie has always wanted to see what it looks like when rain is pouring out of the spouts of a mediaeval cathedral. Ha, ha you definitely do not want to be walking underneath where the water is pouring out!!

By the time we had finished viewing the cathedral the rain had eased off so we made our way over to the Monumental Cemetery a huge, oblong Gothic cloister that contrasts beautifully with its interior lawned areas. Next we ventured into the Baptistry, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, which stands opposite the west end of the cathedral. The Baptistry was commenced in 1153 in the Romanesque style, but was not finished until the 14th century, when the loggia, the top storey and the dome were added in the Gothic style.

We concluded our visit in the Ospedale Nuovo di Santo Spirito (New Hospital of the Holy Spirit), which houses the Sinopias Museum and the Cathedral Museum. There was some really interesting information about the sinopias which are sketches or outlines for many of the works of art on the walls of the cemetery that have been discovered during restoration works. There was also a very interesting video about the project that was undertaken to stop the tower from falling over and stabilise it for the sake of posterity.

It was well past lunchtime now so we kept an eye out for somewhere to grab some food as we walked back towards the station. We stopped at a small takeaway shop where we purchased a ham and cheese calzone each and a 500ml bottle of water for the huge sum of €3.00. We heard a man complaining back at the Piazza dei Miracles that he had paid €2.50 for a 500ml bottle of water so we were pretty pleased with ourselves that we were able to buy food and drink for both of us for just €0.50 more!!

Back at the station we were in a queue to ask how to validate our tickets but, with our train's departure time approaching, we decided that we would take our chances again that the inspectors would not be on the train. As we headed for our platform we saw a validating machine. Blimey, it couldn't have been any more obvious!! With our tickets correctly validated for this journey we boarded the train back to Florence.

The weather hadn't improved during the day so we didn't feel inclined to attempt any more sightseeing back in Florence. We walked straight from the train station to the B&B and spent the rest of the afternoon washing hair (me) and washing a few more clothes at the laundromat (Bernie)!!

The rain was even worse by the time we wanted to venture out to eat. Despite the weather Bernie was keen to go to the other side of the river to try to get into Santo Bevitore again. Donatello was cleaning the other two rooms and offered to ring ahead for us so that we wouldn't walk that far in the rain if it was to be to no avail. Just as well, their first available table would not be until 10.00pm which we decided was a bit too late.

We headed instead for 13 Gobbi another restaurant that Donatello had recommended. He rang them and they said they should have a table available in 15-20 minutes. After a short walk in the rain and a short wait in the restaurant we were seated next to a young German couple. When they heard us deliberating over the menu they interrupted to say that they were eating at 13 Gobbi for the fourth night in a row and proceeded to make some suggestions. The parpadelle in a traditional pesto sauce was very highly recommended so I decided to try that. YUM!! Bernie enjoyed the osso bucco.

Steps for the day 16,112 (10.97 km)

Additional photos below
Photos: 12, Displayed: 12


29th April 2015

Leaning tower.
More gorgeous photos. Thanks Bernie. BUT where is the one of you [or was is Tracey] 'supporting' the Leaning Tower??? I've got one of me 'kissing' the Sphinx in Cairo. Now how utterly 'gauche' [or grossly disrespectful] is that? But I was very young then - back in the nineties! I'm so looking forward to doing the "Grand Tour" myself one day - following in your footsteps. Thanks for all the excellent tips.

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