Our next major stop is Corsica, however, we had to book around ferry timetables, meaning we’d ended up with a bit of free time over the next few days – hooray! It was only three hours drive to the port from here (if we’d rushed), and we were both rather tired after the small hike in Cinque Terre, so took the opportunity to sleep in. The campsite that we were staying in here in La Spezia had a 48hr maximum, and we were rapidly approaching it.
The only other thing we wanted to do before Saturday’s ferry was visit Pisa. I found what looked like a large car park by the beach in Torre del Lago, so thought we’d go relax there for the day. But, by the time we’d fully explored an Italian supermarket (like excited little kids), and fallen into the trap of shopping on an empty stomach, it was already 3PM by the time we’d arrived at the beach – and the sunshine and warmth had gone away. I gave Gunter a much overdue service (who knew that you need a 12mm Allen key to remove the sump plug on an old Fiat?), while Risa took a small disposable BBQ down to the beach to prepare ‘lunch’.
As I walked through the small dunes, I could smell the charcoal, and soon the smell of roasting fish. I was hungry, but even so, the smell was incredible – as was the taste, once we’d patiently waited for it to finish grilling.
The beach wasn’t particularly pretty, though it was quite long. We didn’t fancy swimming here – same went for relaxing on our giant air filled bean bag things. We thought the car park was as good a place as any to spend the night, so that’s exactly what we did.
While the beach might not have been all that pretty, the mountain ranges that we’d just drive past were. They were a little inland from us, and the temptation had been there to detour closer to check them out. They were impossibly jagged, and seemingly coming from nowhere. It was a little hazy/cloudy to properly photograph them with the justice they deserve.
For the first time this trip, we watched some TV and a movie (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) on the poor neglected projector.
It was only a short drive in to Pisa from where we were camped. The town was quite small, and had a bit of a run-down feel about it, passing by half-built buildings covered in graffiti, as well as university campuses that looked in dire need of maintenance. We drove past the leaning tower, and even at a cursory glance (since the other 90% of my attention was on the Italian traffic), it was amazing how much this thing was leaning! We parked up in a free car park, only 20-minutes walk from the main plaza.
Lonely Planet suggested to try and see a little of the rest of the town before heading to see the Tower, which we did, as we needed to find a bakery for today’s picnic. It wasn’t an ugly town, though, regrettably, there wasn’t too much to get excited about. There were nice buildings along the river Arno, and in the old section of town, but we wouldn’t ordinarily make a stop to see this.
But, that’s OK, because the main reason people come to Pisa, is to see the amazing leaning tower. I’ve seen a few other towers that are tilted a few degrees, like in Venice, so I wasn’t expecting to be impressed. This was seriously tilted, and I could understand what the fuss was about. It’s also very beautiful, and even if it wasn’t a building project gone wrong, I would still take the time to see it.
Ever a source of valuable information, Lonely Planet warned that the main plaza, where the tower as well as the cathedral are located, is a swarm of tourists with selfie sticks. While partly true, it wasn’t as bad as I had worried it would be. Actually, it was kind of funny seeing everyone attempting to pose as though they were supporting (or pushing over) the tower.
We found a patch of grass outside the Battistero di San Giovanni and made a picnic with some focaccia from a local bakery. The combination of blue skies, sunshine, tasty food and soft green grass was fantastic. I was ready to fall asleep I was that relaxed.
I feel like a photo-snob-jerk sometimes, but it amazes me when I see people standing in front of the tower in such an angle that you can’t see that it is leaning. There weren’t any angles that it looked 100% normal, but there were certainly some angles that made it look like it’s about to topple over. I won’t get into people walking around with iPads out at arms length, because I’ll never calm back down again.
While it’s possible to view the Cathedral for free, you have to get a ticket in an appointed time slot. Sadly, we didn’t realise this until it was too late, and the next available slot was about 90-minutes away. We were ready to leave town, so we gave up on the cathedral and headed off – after grabbing some delicious gelato.
It was a fun little afternoon seeing a truly iconic building, but I couldn’t imagine spending more than a few hours here in Pisa!
We tried our luck again finding a nice park by the ocean just north of Livorno, however, the road was an eternal stretch of private beaches, and on street parking. It was a major road, and it would seem that cars would be passing by all night long. We gave up, did some shopping, and parked inside the port, ready for our ferry to Corsica tomorrow afternoon.