Believe it or not, we were only half an hour or so from Pisa and seriously considering not bothering with it. Ryan had been told by his Aunt that it was overrated – dirty, dodgy, overcrowded and impossible to get up close to. Even so, there are some opportunities in life you just can’t turn up and some sites you just have to see. Of course travel is not all about crossing things off a list but sometimes, it is and the Leaning Tower of Pisa is pretty high up on that list.
With that in mind, we hopped in the Panda and left Lucca behind, following the signs to Pisa rather than the map we were yet to obtain. I should also mention that despite downloading the Lonely Planet onto my kindle, I was yet to look at it in any great detail and managed to leave it behind everyday so far. Today, it was packed safely at the bottom of my bag out of easy reach. Neither of these things seemed to matter until we neared Pisa and realised we didn’t know the first thing about the place other than that it had a tower somewhere in its vicinity.
We parked and reasoned that the city would be awash with souvenir shops – we just had to find one and sneak a peek in a guide book to get our bearings, after all, how hard can it be to hide a tower? We walked a few meters and had just turned a corner when Ryan said as casually as you like ‘there it is”, I thought he was joking until it came into my own view and yep, there it was! So suddenly and so surreally that we wondered if it was the real thing or a replica to dupe stupid tourists.
As we approached, our certainty was further undermined by how starkly clean and bright the tower was, how uncrowded, welcoming and safe it felt and how we could walk right up to it. The scene was confusingly idyllic – the blue, blue sky and green, green lawn just adding to our befuddlement. I’ve been to the Colosseum, I’ve been to The Great Wall of China, I’ve been to the Eiffel Tower and this is just not how it’s done – where were the maddening crowds and queues? Where were the pick pockets? Where was the constant hassling? Something wasn’t right! But try as we might to prove our theory that this was a big old fake, we couldn’t and had to just accept that The Leaning Tower of Pisa is spectacular as were the surrounding buildings and grounds that make up the Piazza del Duomo or Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) as it’s more commonly known. At the very least, we were prepared to concede it was such a good fake and it seemed to have fooled enough other tourists that we could in good conscience enjoy our time there.
We lazed on the lawn, taking in the grandeur of it all and marvelling at the brightness of the marble obviously recently restored. We perused the souvenir stands lining, but not intruding into the square and then went and did as we must do – pose for our photos of us holding up, knocking down, leaning against the tower. Us and every other person there! I’m sure it’s the combined efforts of tourist propping it up on a daily basis that truly keeps it from falling over rather than all that boring maths and science stuff.
Having saved the tower for another day, it was time to climb aboard the Panda and head into the heartland of Tuscany for a nice Chianti… hold the liver and fava beans.