DAY 4 in Pisa, Italy:
Fun fact: Germans used the tower as a lookout during World War II. The Allies knew this but decided against bombing the area because they thought that the tower and cathedral were too beautiful to destroy.
Pisa made it into our itinerary pretty late. It came about only after a google search of “day trips from Florence, Italy” after having realised that we’d have ‘extra time’ in Florence on the first day. Neither of us had an inkling as to how close by Pisa actually was from Florence! 75 minutes by train or 90 minutes by bus to be exact!
Boy, was I thankful it made it into our trip. We made some of my favourite memories that day.
Here’s how to get to Florence from Barcelona, according to us.
Step 1: Be ambitious and adventurous. Include Pisa as a stopover.
Step 2: Take a Sagales bus transfer from Barcelona to Girona Airport. There will be a security check that will lead to the confiscation of normal-sized forks (Miriam’s got taken away). I had the small, plane-sized fork in my bag and it remained untouched.
Step 3: Fly from Girona Airport to Galileo Galilei International Airport in Pisa. Be friendly and open to interaction during the plane ride. Miriam and I conversed with an Italian lady from Venice who taught us how to say and spell 1 to 10 in Italian.
“Uno, due, tre, quattro, …”
“Like Audi Quattro?”
“Yes! … Cinque, sei, sette, otto, nove dieci.”
Step 4: Use the luggage storage service in Galileo Galilei Airport and if You end up being served by a smile-less, grumpy man who remains on the phone for a good couple of minutes and who seems to be ignoring You, remain patient. Italians aren’t big fans of rushing, or so we’ve learned.
Step 5: Buy bus tickets to Florence.
Remember to refuel! Veggie sandwiches did it for us.
Step 6: Walk to the Leaning Tower of Pisa directly from the airport OR take the PisaMover-Bus from the airport to the central train station, then walk from the central train station to the Leaning Tower. Pick figs along the way if You can reach them. If You see homemade (artigianale) gelato along the way, don’t give it a miss. Miriam and I had the most refreshing cups of gelato to cool our warm insides. Miriam got lemon and dark chocolate flavours, while I got mango, strawberry and lemon flavours, yum!
If You need wifi, it’s called “Wi-Pi” (haha!) here in Pisa.
The Leaning Tower towered (😜) over everything else in Pisa. It felt amazing being in the presence of a majestic structure this beautiful, a majestic structure I had only previously seen on TV, in magazines and featured in my friends’ photos. It felt like a dream, almost unreal. The weather was so accommodating, too — a shining sun and perfect blue skies with thin, wispy strands and streamers of cirrus clouds.
I knew that the tower leaned at an angle of 3.99°, but I didn’t expect the lean to look that worrying. And we were due to climb that tower up in half an hour? Oh dear goodness… I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous!
Step 7: Use the baggage storage service located within Piazza Dei Miracoli (opposite the field from the tower). (We didn’t know about this and we ended up in a mad rush trying to make it in time for our time slot of entry!)
The Piazza Dei Miracoli (which means ‘field of miracles/ dreams’) is home to the leaning Tower of Pisa, the Camposanto Monumentale, the Pisa Duomo (Cathedral) and the Pisa Baptistery (largest in Italy). It was a poet called Gabriele d’Annunzio who came up with the name “Piazza dei Miracoli” in his novel “Forse che si forse che no” from 1910. People often confuse the square’s name with “Campo Dei Miracoli“, which is a magical field in the book Pinocchio.
Step 8: Climb the tower (buy tickets online, weeks in advance)! The tower has 296 or 294 steps; the seventh floor has two fewer steps on the north-facing staircase. And mind You, the tower is leaning, which means that You’re going to feel as though You were drunk while trying to walk straight the whole way up. (Head’s up: It’s impossible to walk straight in a leaning tower. You wouldn’t know what straight would have been when the very thing You’re stepping on is leaning!)
At the top of the tower, I told Miriam about a German tourist who once went up there too, but did not manage to enjoy the hundreds and hundreds of kilometres of landscape we were enjoying then. He, on the contrary, saw his very own car, parked a street away, being stolen by a car thief! He could do no more than scream, but even then, no one from down below could hear him!
Step 9: Go as far as far as You can from the tower to get the best possible famous ‘pushing-/ leaning on-/ kicking-the-tower’ shot. Here are Miriam’s and my individual shots (a boy ran up and high-fived my open-faced hand while I was posing haha!), and one that we took together (this was directed by a really comical German couple who only spoke to us in German and Miriam did a great job at deciphering what they were telling her to do!). 🙂
While You’re at it, have a giggle or two about how comical the tourists around You look.
Step 10: Purchasing the entrance ticket into the leaning tower entitles You for entry into the Duomo as well so go on and head over (make sure You have clothing which covered Your shoulders and knees, utilise a cardigan if You have to! If not, You’d have to wear something that look’s like a surgeon’s poncho (like I did)!
Step 11: Drop by the souvenir shop. I got my sister a keychain replica of the leaning tower.
Step 12: Walk/ take a bus back to the airport and make sure You reach at least 45 minutes before the departure of Your bus to Florence. (If it fills up before You arrive, it may leave without You!) Miriam and I spent our spare time writing yet another postcard. We were present on time only to realise that our departure time had been delayed. Oh well, more time to write!
Step 13: Board the bus and try to enjoy the ride. Maybe You’ll meet passengers as disgruntled and irritable as the ones we had sitting around us. They were quite a nuisance (for a lack of better word) to the sleep we were trying to get.
“It’s so hot, so warm, I’m sweating buckets, I might just die here… Never again with buses, this was the WORST.”
- No it wasn’t that terrible.
- If they would have just stopped frantically fanning themselves and complaining THE ENTIRE TIME, they would’ve handled it better.
- They were really being such princesses.
- Complaining really wouldn’t have changed anything. URGH.
Miriam got so ticked off, she remarked, “It wasn’t that bad!”
Step 14: Congratulations, You’ve made it to Florence! 🙂
Miriam and I had gotten so hungry by this point and so we sat down at a decent-looking cafe, where we ordered to have ravioli. Just then, Miriam realised we had to check-in to our hostel within the next 45 minutes if we wanted to keep our booking. Flustered us (or maybe just me… Miriam handles stressful situations incredibly well) requested for our orders to be packed, paid for it, and off we went on our 50-minute walk.
It was a battle with the heavy anxiety on our minds, our impossibly durable carry-ons and unapologetic cobblestones (what would soon become a recurring battle throughout our trip), but unbelievably beautiful views (do You see the rowing boat in the picture? There’s a rowing club near this part of the Arno river, that’s why.) made the struggle all the more easier.
We checked-in to a private room for us both. We were just so thankful to have a space just for ourselves. A little privacy and peace were all we needed after the drastically increased activities and buzz in our lives the past few days.
We settled down, set up our table and opened the packed ravioli to find cheese melted on top. A part of me died right then and there. I was SO hungry I started tearing up a little. Fortunately, there was a supermarket nearby and we managed to grab ourselves some fruit, plant-based milk, müsli, bran flakes, ciabatta and ready-made meals… from an unexplainably grumpy cashier lady. Perhaps Miriam was right, she probably hadn’t had her dinner either.
Anyway, dinner was ciabatta and ready-made meals from the supermarket. It was accompanied by conversations on topics I had previously never been really comfortable talking to anyone about. There’s just something about Miriam that always makes me feel safe and at peace when I’m talking about something I feel vulnerable about. I’m so grateful that I could just get all of those thoughts off my chest.
A huge burden was lifted that evening.
Thank You for listening, Miriam.
Oh and dessert (we always have dessert) was bran flakes and hazelnut milk. If You haven’t already tried this combination, promise me that You will. 🙂