We went through Pontremoli and Aulla as the train ambled towards the city of Pisa, the same way I would have if I’d walked. Why had I chosen Pisa, you might ask?
I’d like to sound intelligent in my choice, but the truth was, the place popped up in my head as I thought of possible places to go. I’d never seen the leaning Tower of Pisa, and it was close to Cinque Terre, my next destination. So the answer was, Why not?
Then we passed Sarzana, another town I’d have walked through if I’d continued on the VF towards Rome. My glance moved to the Apennine Mountains looming on our left. As much as I’d have liked to have hiked up them, I knew the VF only had one pass, Passo della Cisa, and then it skirted the range to reach Tuscany.
Pisa sits on the river Arno. Ancient walls are still intact and create natural barriers/obstacles to modern life. If you miss one turnoff, you have to go way, way far down to get back into the core. This applied to walking as well as cars.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
According to Wikipedia, the tower only leans 4 degrees, but it is enough to throw all normal perspectives in the garbage. I took dozens of photos of the Cathedral and Tower. All of them seem a bit skewed as I tried, not on purpose, to mentally right the tower’s bulk. Even after adjustments, the tilt is noticeable in the photo above.
The Tower started to lean after the construction of the second floor in 1178. There are nearly 300 steps to the top. One side has two steps less than the other. It’s made of marble and is an outstanding piece of art and engineering. I stood in awe for quite a few minutes before moving on from the point above.
I didn’t visit either Tower or Cathedral inside. The lineups were incredibly long, and it was hot. Really hot, with the sun unrelenting and little shade in sight.
Back at the hostel, they served food except between 3 and 5 pm. I hadn’t realized it till then, but I was really, really hungry. Part of the problem on the VF was the insufficient availability of food. With an ever-increasing number of pilgrims on the trail, this issue would likely be rectified in the coming years.
Over the course of the next few days, I ate my way through the salad menu, but not the Primavera. I’d eaten enough ham in Northern Italy. The supper buffet was good, too.
For those travellers interested in shopping, there is an incredible array of shops, in Pisa. Start at the train station and follow Corso Italia, cross the bridge, and continue to the Tower of Pisa. Small merchants, kiosk-type wares and large chains vie for the tourist/local dollar.