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Published: June 22nd 2017
Geo: 43.3551, 11.0296
Thanks to Rich and Jake running to the train station last night, we were able to have breakfast, get up, and go straight to our train bound for Lucca with tickets in hand. We had it planned out perfectly: train to Lucca, bus to Pisa, return train from Pisa to Florence. The plan executed masterfully and we found ourselves at the foot of Lucca's still-intact medieval wall at 10:29 a.m. before the weather turned very hot.
The Luccans built the most recent incarnation of their wall about 500 years ago. It was designed to be thick enough to handle cannon blast. They devoted 1/4 of the town's profits for many years to fund construction of the wall. It was a good investment as no outside attacker ever tried to breach it. The town came to fame in silk, at one time employing 25,000 people. Today, they hold the patent on the machines that make toilet paper and napkins.
We wandered through the shadowy medieval streets and took in an era gone by. It was a pleasant respite from the busy-ness of Florence. There is a bike path and several picnic areas along the top of the wall and many people were
taking advantage of it. We made our way to what was once a Roman amphitheater that sat 10,000 at one time but has been changed into a retail center with several small shops around the oval shape and with private housing above. We shopped and ate at a leisurely pace and, aha, it was 1:30 already. Time to get the check (another 20 minutes) and head to the bus station.
Fortunately, the bus was running late so we were able to catch it and enjoy a 30 minute ride through the Tuscan countryside (yes, under the Tuscan sun) down a narrow, tree-lined road surrounded by olive groves, vineyards, and sunflower fields. As we approached Pisa we could see the leaning tower in the distance and our expectations grew. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, so was growing the bathroom line at McDonald's and the number of turisticos lining up along the Field of Miracles for the perfect shot of themselves "holding up" the leaning tower. (Insert Pisa face and gesture.) We made our way through the throngs and under the really, hot sun to grab some pictures of our own, but did not make any goofy poses.
It was a sight worth seeing, but
we were done with the crowd from about 27 seconds after we got off the bus. We followed the main route through town, across the Arno, and back to Pisa Centrale station. We enjoyed walking though the "real" Pisa, not just the main attraction of the leaning tower, which Rich described as Venice on steroids.
There were quite a few people gathered on Track #8 and we feared not finding seats. When the train pulled up, we noticed open windows and feared another sauna train. But, as luck would have it, we found seats and an air-conditioned car. It was actually cool air conditioning, not conditioning in name only. An hour later, we were back home in Florence where the temperature had risen even more. We braved the heat to walk back to the Duomo and get our tickets for tomorrow morning.
Our agenda for tomorrow is to see the inside of the Duomo, climb to its terrace and 473 step peak, wrap up our final shopping, and end the afternoon at the (air conditioned) Galileo science museum.
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