Pisa, Happy Birthday Vicky!April 9, 2017 in Italy
We took it easy after driving from Florence to Pisa and parking up in the car park stopover for €12 a night. There was a convenient cycle track and walkway that led to the Leaning Tower just 2km away and when evening came we strolled in. The next day was Vicky's 35th birthday and we'd used Trip Adviser to look up and book an evening meal at San Domenico restaurant.
As we reached the tower, the sun was getting low in the sky and there weren't too many people around. It was smaller than we'd expected but had beautiful intricate detail. It was really exciting to see it in real life after having seen so many images of it and we couldn't wait to climb it!
Carrying on to the restaurant about 20 minutes walk away, we arrived early and looked around a nearby street market selling plants, handmade soaps, lavender decorations, jewellery and alternative clothing. A sound system was being set up and people were demonstrating Zumba and there was even a GreenPeace stall. More and more we felt like Pisa was our sort of place.
The meal was incredible. It was a small restaurant with only about 10 tables, fantastic helpful service and beautifully presented food with an amazing taste. All in all it made for a very special evening. To top it off we walked back at Vicky's insistence 'via' the tower (only 20 mins out of our way) to see it backed by a cloudless night sky, a few stars and a bright gibbus moon.
The following morning we had a nice slow start to the day before cycling in and waiting in a state of high anticipation for our turn to climb the tower. We'd booked a slot online and when our time came we were scanned by security and permitted to enter. One of Vicky's favourite things to do when visiting a city is to climb a tower and so it was a brilliant birthday treat to be able to climb one of the world's best known towers!
Ascending the spiral staircase smooth dips were worn into whichever side of the sloped white marble steps were lowest. It took a little while to get used to the changing angle but we quickly adapted, as we do when the van is parked on a camber. At the top we passed through the circle of now disused bronze bells to the outer walkway. Carefully clutching the camera we held it out over the highest side, then the lowest side and took a photo of the ground below. The tower's angle certainly did add an exciting element to the experience!
Back at ground zero, we set out in search of a bite to eat. We enjoyed a little aimless wandering before heading back in the general direction of last night's restaurant. It has become obvious that Vicky's Italian name is 'Rasta' as this is what she is hailed as by the majority of African street sellers trying to catch her attention!
We came across an antiques market with some beautiful china, lace and little irons you'd heat over a fire. We considered getting one of these for Vicky's knitting projects but decided their weight 'outweighed' their usefulness (pardon the pun).
After a lunch of pizza and pesto we crossed a bridge that had turf laid over half of it and marked the start of the plants market from which Vicky got a pot of lavender. There were people painting large cardboard flowers and the area had an easy going vibe.
Time was getting on so we returned to the tower and entered the nearby cathedral through its huge doors whose 3D panels depicted detailed scenes. The high sided place of worship impressed us outside and in; we could certainly see it was worthy of its UNESCO heritage status. The structure comprised of pillars, arched alcoves and tall half domes, while large frescoes and golden mosaics added decoration and depth.
Both Pisa and Florence are 'arty' cities but in very different ways. We felt Florence's classic focus came with a snootiness, but Pisa's art was more interactional, free flowing and welcoming.
At the van that evening we had pressies, a chat with people back home and a film with some yummy Italian pastries and Prosecco! It was an incredible birthday and one Vicky won't forget!Read more