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Sep 2012

Pisa Coat of Arms

Fancy a piece of pizza pie in Pisa? Well, if your flight provider is local, it's only five hours door to door, including the hanging around bit, and you'll be there in time for tea.

Not particularly well known for the pizza, Pisa, there's something much more familiar that it is famous for and it's thought to be around here somewhere? Let's not even try and pretend and nip this elephant in the bud...

Nearly 200 foot high and just shy of 300 steps - check!
Dates from 1372 but took nearly 200 years to build - check!
Leans at just 4°, which is half of what is was before they finished shoring things up in 2001 - check!

It'll also take you the same amount of time to walk up that it did for you to fly here. Not because of the height, that's fairly modest but, have you seen the length of the queue?

Because of the lean, they limit the numbers, you see, and what with these wobblies[1], of course not!

[1] Yes, that'll be the old vertigo.

  Hotel Bologna (Via Giuseppe Mazzini)

South of the Arno with a courtyard for a nightcap. Fabrizio the barman is a big Juventus fan so, with some help from your phrasebook, remind him of the night of  ventitré ottobre 2002.

The Guardian™-reading types were out in full, tutty force...
'But we hear it's
full of tourists.'
Get this -
we're tourists!
Get that - it's the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

You don't have to pose to appear to be propping it up but plenty of people are and they're having a giggly good time.

Get this - they're tourists!
Get that - it's the Leaning Tower of Pisa man!

The tower is just that, the bell tower or campanile of the Duomo di Pisa or the cathedral if you'd rather. They both sit side by side inside the walled Campo dei Miracoli, the Field of Miracles[1] but, because of the tilt, it's the tower that's the main attraction.

[1] Free to wander in, all free since you ask, this UNESCO™ World Heritage Site and no, they don't hand them awards out willy-nilly, do they?

  Pizzeria Trattoria La Buca (Via Santa Maria)

Dine outside with the tourists near the tower although tomato, mushroom and tuna do not a 'fantasia' of bruschetta make.

That doesn't mean that the cathedral doesn't get a look in, literally, although you'll have to queue for a free ticket.

Nor the Baptistery, neither, which is the oldest in Italy, apparently. If that looks a bit wonky as well, it's just the 1° off due to the same, sandy and unstable foundations.

Best of all, though, and behind you, a load of stallholders all trading in identical, tower-themed, tourist knick-knacks. It's heard that they get quite a few of them here?

  Trattoria Da Stelio (Piazza Dante Alighieri)

Lunchtime pizza under the palm trees in town with the most obnoxious, English family, eva!, who were just a little too close for company.

'Spoiled brats' doesn't even come close.

Come sundown, all the tourists have gone because, despite more than a million of them each year to the tower alone, most choose not to stay here.

Pisa's just a day trip and when the coach parks clear, they're shuttled back to their en-suites on the outskirts of Florence, probably.

Around the tower and outside of high season, half the bars and restaurants have the shutters up by 7 PM, which is a shame since we are staying here.

Head down Via Santa Maria to the River Arno where there's not an awful lot going on along it, neither. Go east to Piazza Garibaldi, however, and you'll be hanging with the kids.

This area is home to the university and also home to a maze of backstreets all made slightly shabby by idealistic and youthful Euro-graffiti.

Being a bit older and wiser than that lot, no son! It's not believed that All Coppers Are...  actually!

  Mani'omio (Piazza Sant'Omobono)

Trendy, if Zizzi™s is your benchmark, dining and they might be able to squeeze you in outside.

Get here early on a Thursday evening, however, the whole area is soon jumping with students who are soon to be off home for the weekend.

South of the Arno, things are slightly smarter along Corso Italia and the tourists not nearly so evident. Mooching seems to be the main option because there aren't that many public squares in which to sit and eavesdrop.

Things lead down to the train station where you can do your own day trip to Florence and it's likely that you will. Pisa, not wanting to be greedy, has given up all of its daytime attractions and that long weekend here is just about long enough[1].

It's only 10 minutes in a taxi to the airport from this side of the river and then just shy of five hours back to your front door. Away from The Tourists, doesn't that feel  So Good To Be Back Home Again.

[1] Including the ever-so-slightly overrated Florence.

  Tanduri (Piazza Chiara Gambacorti)

South of the river, the clue's in the name and one of the few tandooris in Tuscany, probably, even though there's another one just round the corner.

It's also in one of the few squares that embrace the alfresco but they've no room tonight so an, admittedly satisfactory, bistecca will have to be settled for in the place opposite (see below).

  Ristorante Capodimonte Pisa (Via del Carmine)

Admittedly satisfactory bistecca but you'll have one eye on the tandoori (see above).