Monday, January 25, 2010

Italy Day 7 - 2nd September 2009

Time for another report on our trip to Italy last Aug/Sept and if I continue to go at this speed, I'll be done by Aug/Sept THIS year !

This post will be different from 99.999% of my previous posts as I'm going to include photos not taken by me. Shock, horror. My two travelling companions, Daphne and Stephen, took as many photos as I did and as I like some of their Pisa ones better than any I took, they'll be mixed in with mine.

After a lovely breakfast, we packed up our belongings, loaded the cases into the rental car, left our hotel (Residenzia Del Sogno) and headed westwards towards Pisa.

As you can see, the hotel location left much to be desired, set in an industrial wasteland as it was !! The great thing about Italy, or at least the parts of it that we fortunate enough to visit, is that even on the drives between points of interest, you go through some of the most stunning scenery you could ever wish to experience.

Despite having Daphne rabbiting on from the back seat !

The 3 hr drive to Pisa took us again through the beautiful Tuscan countryside and although the GPS took us unerringly towards the Leaning Tower, Stephen took us unerringly the wrong way down a one way street ! I'm only joking, Stephen. We were all accomplices in this traffic faux pas as the streets around The Tower weren't build for either cars or Italians driving cars and it can be very stressful finding your way around these old towns and cities when you're looking for somewhere to park and also trying to avoid mad drivers.

We caught tantalising glimpses of The Tower now and then as we slowly negotiated the narrow streets, avoiding the horse drawn carriages, the vespas, the tourists who walked everywhere and the local drivers who didn't care about side swiping any of them.

Finally we found a small parking piazza and ignoring the attempts of several 'colourful' opportunists who tried to charge us for them guiding us into a parking bay, we simply got a ticket from a machine and set off for the short walk to The Tower. Here are a couple of photos to show the route we took and how, despite it being relatively small, you can still see the top of it from some distance.

The Tower is to the left of centre, with the flag on top.

By now it was 1pm and we were starving. Just a few yards from The Tower we found a small pavement cafe and had cold sandwiches and drinks. I had a cicken panini (well that's what it said on the menu !) and lovely cicken it was too.

Fully refreshed, we set off again and just beyond that bend in the photo above, the street opened out into Pisa's famous Cathedral Square, Piazza Del Duomo. There, across a tourist strewn lawn, we saw the 3 buildings which take up most of the square. On the extreme left was The Baptistry, in the middle was The Cathedral and on the right, in front of us, was The Leaning Tower itself.

First impressions ? A bit of a let down really. It was quite small and didn't seem to be leaning all that much. Then I realised it was leaning TOWARDS me and so I wasn't getting the full effect.

There were several phone and power lines going from one side of this view to the other and never one to let that sort of thing spoil a good photo, I've edited them out as this is the first unobstructed view the tourist gets of The Tower and I really wanted it to BE unobstructed.

There were signs around the lawn that led off to the left but no one was paying them any attention. They asked that people stayed off the grass but to get the iconic photos of people holding up the tower, you had to go onto the grass.

Well when I say that no one paid them any attention, Stephen did. Initially. He treated the lawn as a no go area and it took a lot of pleading and finally threatening to get him to step over the low rope and hold up The Tower like everyone else ! It was quite funny to watch dozens of tourists taking photos of their friends in the same pose, although I think the lady in the 2nd photo below had completely lost the plot.

Anyway, here is one of me doing what came naturally and then a photo of The Cathedral with The Tower leaning out behind it.

It's from this last angle that you get a real idea of the "leaniness" of The Tower. Here are a couple more which show this better, getting closer each time, and finally one showing the tourists who paid their 15 euros and made it to the top.

So that was The Leaning Tower of Pisa, actually Pisa's Cathedral bell tower and although you'd never get a local to admit it or their tourist industry would collapse, there are plenty of other less famous leaning bell towers all over Italy - but maybe not leaning as much as theirs. It's been leaning ever since construction began in 1173 and if I'd been paying for it all, I'd have called in a different builder a long time ago !

Tourist grabbing stalls ran all the way down the side of the piazza and you can get every type of memento from plastic leaning towers to gold plated...ah....plates. I got caught up in it all, as you do, and got a few items myself. Pressies you know.

Time was up and we'd seen enough. It's probably a lovely little town but like most tourists, once we'd 'done' The Tower, we wanted to get out of Dodge. Or Pisa.

We set off on the short 15 mile drive up the coast to Viareggio where Daphne had once had a holiday with her parents, when she was 7 going on 8. So back in 1935 or some such date.

The resort had an end of season feel about it and although it was only 2nd September, many of the large beachside hotels were closed already. The beaches were almost empty but never one to pass up a cheeky shot, here is one.

Daphne was well down memory lane and telling me about her previous time in Viareggio and how little had changed. Considering little has changed in Italy for thousands of years, this came as no surprise to me. I asked her if it looked any different now, considering it was in colour ! I can't print her reply.

This is her photographing the empty beach and sunshades.

On the main seafront road leading out of the town, we looked for a hotel for the night and although they were side by side for miles, many were also closed for the season. We eventually picked Hotel Joseph, which as you can see from the map on their website, was just a spit and a throw from the ocean.

After dumping our bags in the room, we set off along the promenade to find a restaurant recommended by the hotel. We walked about a mile and found...nothing. We came back to the hotel and asked for better directions and set off again. Again nothing. Back to the hotel, by now starving and foot weary, and we asked another staff member and this time, success.

As you can see from the penultimate photo above, we ate a hearty and typical Italian meal ! It was only 6pm and as usual, we had the place to ourselves. It MAY have been only 6pm but that didn't stop Daphne from having a beer, the lush.

If we'd known then that we'd have a brush with death the next day on the 200 mile drive northwards to Lake Como, Stephen and I would've had a beer too. Probably several. But for that evening it was back to Hotel Joseph and after a long day of walking and sightseeing, it was time for a bit of internet surfing and an early night.

To be continued...........


Daphne said...

You KNOW you enjoyed all the wisdom coming from the back seat really. AND the sweets.
I went to Pisa when I was seven nearly eight on the same holiday as the Viareggio visit (you must have typed 1935 by mistake - clearly you meant 1985) and Pisa hadn't changed much either - all those tourist stalls were there in those days too (even if they were in black and white).
Lovely to see all the photos and to remember that wonderful day, thank you. What's that colour that the sky is? I think it's called "blue" but it's a distant memory now. Roll on Spring!

rhymeswithplague said...

I may be wrong, but I think I have read that the Leaning Tower of Pisa continues to lean a little more every year, and if it ever reaches the point where an imaginary plumb (vertical) line dropped from the top would fall outside the circumference of the bottom, the tower will simply fall over.

Is there any truth to that rumo(u)r?

Fabulous shots, especially the one of Daphne with her beer!

Silverback said...

Bob, a lot of work has been done over the years to stop The Tower from falling over and finally, in May 2008, engineers announced that it had stopped moving for the first time in it's history and was 'good' for another 2-3 centuries.

It is now 12ft 10ins off vertical.

Most Recent Awards

Most Recent Awards