Nine Days in Italia – Parte Otto: Sweat Box Train Ride To Fawlty Towers

Perhaps the title of this is a little unfair, not the sweat box part good lord I’ve never been so warm in my life and I’ve been to Cyprus in the Summer. I mean the Fawlty Towers comment because although the pensione we stayed at in Pisa was basic it did the job, and the lady who met us there and ran it with her son was the nicest, although also most eccentric, old lady I have ever met (a far cry from Basil Fawlty of TV sitcom fame).

So welcome to the penultimate entry of my nine day photo journey through Italia, I’m sure you can’t wait for it to end. We left Firenze in the morning and caught a train to Pisa, a Regione train so not as swish as the Freccia train we took from Venezia to Firenze, in fact so little swish was had that we spent the whole hour or so journey sweating in uncomfortably close quarters to other passengers crushed into the doorway of one of the carriages. I’d say I’d take back what I said about TrenItalia being awesome but then I remembered that I’d be paying about £100 for this “pleasure” in the UK and the train would be late as well, grass being greener etc. We arrived in Pisa in the early afternoon and walked the 20 or so minutes from the station to the pensione (a sort of B&B/guesthouse) we were staying at, it was basic, the lady who met us spoke practically no English, she spelt my name wrong despite reading it from my Passport and she laughed when she saw my age (that cut deep) in comparison to Jo’s. For the record I had just turned 30 Jo is technically 3 and a bit years younger than me so not that much difference. But you know what? It was fine, she was friendly, the language barrier could’ve been a huge issue but my basic Italiano got by and she was infinitely patient, as all Italians I have met seem to be, with my grasp of the language. She was also hilarious in her own way, probably not intentionally but she insisted on showing me how to open and close several doors, I’m sure she was being thorough but come on I know how to unlock a door, and when we had gotten changed and ventured out we happened to find her merrily snoring away in a massive armchair, I burst out laughing and had to leave the room sharpish when I stumbled across her.

So Pisa itself? Lets just say there’s a reason it’s called Italy’s favourite day trip, because there’s very little there. Don’t get me wrong Il Campo Dei Miracoli is beautiful and you can see why its a world heritage sight, from its pristine lawns to it’s imposing Duomo and the famous tower that everyone comes to see, but there is not a lot else to see or do. The guidebook Jo had said that the population of the city is 100,000 and this drops to 40,000 when the students at the university go home, apparently if Pisa had no university or the leaning tower, no one would ever visit. Perhaps that’s harsh but I can see the point, venture away from the area around the Campo Dei Miracoli and it’s a very sleepy town rather than a bustling city like Firenze. Still, it was a lovely place but I think our day and a half there was perhaps a day too much. We didn’t go up the tower incidentally, 18 Euro to climb up a tower after queuing in the heat for a few hours doesn’t sound like value to money to me, especially considering the duomo itself is free and, in my opinion anyway, much more impressive.

Later in the evening we took a walk around the streets near where we were staying and stumbled across an unassuming trattoria that turned out to be perhaps the best place we had eaten all week, good food, nice atmosphere, a really helpful and friendly waiter who conversed with me in Italiano when I tried and English perfectly when I struggled. He made a recommendation when I finally got around to trying cafe corretto, try it with sambuca believe me it’s amazing despite how it sounds. All in all a great end to a really lovely day. As usual all photos taken hgere are from my Olympus OM1 and either 50mm F.Zuiko or 28mm Vivitar lenses, the film used today was FujiColor C200, enjoy.

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