Pizza > Pisa: Day 8, Pisa
With a final pain au chocolat as our consolation prize, we woefully boarded a local train to La Spezia, where we would board our train to Rome. I think that I can speak for both Margaret and myself, in saying that we could have stayed in Cinque Terre for a month and still not been ready to leave. For the first time ever, the train to the station was on time, and our faith in Italian public transportation was restored ever so slightly.
On the train, we met a music student who was studying abroad in Spain for a year and also taking a short trip to Pisa. As luck would have it, we found out upon arriving that there were not lockers at the train station for us to store our bags, but thankfully our friend we had made on the train kindly offered for us to leave them in his AirB&B for the day.
In my opinion, Pisa is an oddly hilarious town. Unsurprisingly, it is entirely centered around the one and only Leaning Tower of Pisa, which I found to be extremely random. From the train station, you take a short walk through the shops and metropolitan area that is primarily for tourists, look up, and there it is: the tower, leaning back in all of its glory.
The ironic part is that from a very specific angle, the tower appears to be perfectly straight and not leaning in the slightest. Margaret has a hilarious theory that the architect who designed it only viewed it after it’s completion from that certain point and shrugged his shoulders before walking away. Most stories say that it actually began to appear to be leaning over time, so imagine the kid who was walking by one day and noticed the obvious and ran around town shouting “the tower, it is LEANING!”
Personally, I hope that whoever was in charge merely brushed it off, due to knowing that it would eventually be the primary source of economic revenue, so they should probably just ignore it and leave it leaning.
After arriving, we made it a point to appeal to my love of alliteration and pizza to at last eat Pizza in Pisa. Prior to visiting Europe, I had a dream Instagram post that pictured me dangling a slice of pizza in front of the leaning tower, eating the best “Pisa pizza” imaginable. Unfortunately, after already spending a week in Europe, I knew that the policies for takeout food (Europe calls it Take-Away) differed highly from the U.S. so this dream post would be difficult to achieve with my first grade level of Italian.
I had my 3rd Margherita with Pesto pizza of the week – and undoubtedly not the last – at a nearby restaurant walking distance from the tower. I mean, when in Italy pizza or bust is the motto, right?
My favorite part of visiting the leaning tower is slightly cynical, so he goes: watching all of the tourists attempt to take the perfect “holding up the leaning tower” picture. Yet, I include myself in this category because yes, I'm a tourist and yes, I most certainly attempted the same picture with extreme difficulty. Everywhere you look on the lawn around the tower, there are people with big goofy grins on their faces holding their arms up and to one side in an attempt to hold the tower up. While this is going on, you simultaneously witness the not-so-patient family members playing the duel role of photographer and art director, attempting to instruct the subject on where to move his or her arms in order for the picture to line up. If you stop and observe everyone, the sight is nothing short of comical and my favorite past time especially when I was asked to take these pictures for people nearby.
Margaret and I attempted our own picture with the leaning tower, after hopefully learning from the mistakes in perspective through observing others. I had a KLUTZ book when I was a kid on how to take cool optical illusion pictures and the leaning tower was actually included as an example, so I hoped that my past skills would prove useful. The best was where two people were both on their hands and knees behind a tree and one person has their face coming out from one side and other has their legs, so it just looks like a really long person, of course. I can't remember the exact name of this book, but I think it was something like “Trick Pix” and had kids in 90s apparel featuring overalls and bucket hats.
Unfortunately, we struggled just as much as anyone would have guessed and wound up with some hilarious “am I doing it right?!” pictures as well as some actually successful ones.
Our brief stint in Pisa ended with us taking the 7:00 train to termini station in Rome. The only eventful point on this train ride involved me accidentally dropping my sandwich in my shoe, yet being oddly thankful for an excuse to not eat it because it wasn't good. We arrived at 10:00 PM in Rome exhausted and delirious, but extremely thankful to finally be done with traveling for the day. Unfortunately, our travel problems were just beginning. We knew that the hotel where we were staying was located just a few blocks from the train station and exited the building, as indicated by our directions. I could tell immediately that this was a scary area to be in at night and was anxious to get on another street and avoid making eye contact with anyone around the train station.
After walking in circles to no avail, we soon realized that the directions provided by the hotel were not clear, due to translation issues and that we were lost. In Rome. At 10:30 at night. With our bags and our limited Italian to protect us. In Italy, it is extremely common for restaurant hosts to stand outside of the establishment and try and convince you to choose their restaurant over competition. “Free wifi” is usually the winning phrase for us. We were in a seemingly safe area and were approached by a restaurant host who spoke some English and was kind enough to use his cell phone to call our hotel and get directions for us, since he obviously spoke Italian that was far superior to ours. He provided us with some directions, but we were still confused because Rome remained a dark, unfamiliar city.
After circling the streets for what seemed like eternity, an absolutely terrifying tunnel that I would prefer to never relive, and briefly being followed by some shady people, we sprinted back to Termini Station and paid €15 to take a cab for what ended up being 3 blocks. Honestly, saving money is not important when safety is on the line and I was more than happy to fork over whatever just to get there safely.
We arrived at our hotel and were greeted by Emanuela, this wonderful Italian woman who owned the hotel where we were staying. Now, the term hotel was extremely generous, as “Soggiorno Emannuela” was definitely more of a hostel turned AirB&B, but neither of us could care less as it was extremely safe and clean and we were thankful to go to sleep at last.