The couple of people who had been there before told us there was nothing to see but the leaning tower, so I was expecting to step off the train to see a field, a tower and a few scattered souvenir stands.
Suffice to say, it wasn’t what I pictured. When we pulled up into the train station, we weren’t sure if we had the right stop. Where was the tower?
After we got off and found a map, the answer was clear: on the other side of town, 1.7 km away. And so we started our walk.
It’s a very calm town. Everything was quiet. It didn’t feel like I was on my way to a major tourist destination, which was nice.
Although I don’t think it was in the 60s, the weather was absolutely perfect. Sunny, clear blue sky, barely a breeze. I was even a little bit too warm walking in January. I can deal with that.
We crossed over a river that I now know is the Arno — the same river that runs through Firenze.
Other than a quick jog to the left to cross the bridge, it was pretty much a straight shot to the tower. A hot dog stand sits in front of a centuries-old church. It welcomed us around the corner and into a field of history and shoddy souvenir stands.
We just caught a glimpse of the tower when hunger took over and we went to find food. Most people were surprised by how short it was. They were expecting something much larger. I’m not sure why, but I was prepared for its size.
It was exactly how I pictured it: leany and surrounded with people with feet and arms up in the air as their friends crouched down and directed them to shift by “juuuust a little bit.” It would be our turn next, but first food.
Amy and I split a margherita pizza, which I was apparently too excited for to take a picture of it, and bruschetta. It was really good, but the bruschetta could have been cooked a few minutes less. Still, it’s authentic Italian food.
After taking several pictures of tourists looking like idiots in the field as they “held up the Leaning Tower of Pisa,” I caved and did one of my own. It’s just one of those things that has to happen.
Then Amy and I went out in search of the three Pisa pictures my mom took. I got all three pretty accurately.
Half of the group left within a couple of hours, but eight of us stayed back and wandered around. I followed Yelena and Erika around for a while. They had spent a couple of hours searching for Camposanto Monumentale. I wasn’t paying attention to the map or what we were even trying to find. After going in a giant circle, I asked to look at the map. Turns out they were looking for something I had seen and passed a couple of times already. We ran over there, but it was closing in five minutes. We were disappointed, especially Erika and Yelena who had spent so much time finding it.
So we just sat on the steps of the Cathedral as the sky shifted from blue to pink to purple. I lay down and just stared at the sky, pleased with our first adventure.
Eventually, we gathered ourselves and headed back to the train station. Once we got home, we made dinner, and I talked people into playing cards with me!
It was a great day. (I feel like I say that a lot on this blog.)
Sunday, I slept in and took my time getting ready. I had my usual breakfast: strawberry yogurt and granola with a fruit (a green apple).
I met up with Amy, Bethany, Yelena, Nicolo and Franco (Amy/Bethany/Erika’s neighbor and his friend) to walk up to Piazza Michelangelo. I went up there in the dark one of the first nights we were here. It’s even more breathtaking in the light.
Now to bed. Back to class Monday — that thing that keeps interrupting my vacation.
Editor’s note: Former Grand Haven Tribune intern Lydia Coutre´is spending a semester in Italy. She is a junior at Kent State University, studying journalism. Her blogs during her stay in Italy will be posted here and at http://lydiaislost.blogspot.com. All photos by Lydia Coutre´.