It was my 40th birthday today.
In fact, this lovely holiday was a present from my wife so it’s extra special to me. I was very happy but worried at the same time. Not about getting old but because Sue was ill from a suspected food poisoning. She couldn’t sleep all night and she just wasn’t in her best physical form to do any sort of long walk.
Fortunately today was also our journey to another famous location, Pisa. The train journey from Rome to Pisa took about three hours and it meant that Sue could rest more and walk less. Moreover, we were lucky to have bought the tickets yesterday because we never knew just how busy this train route would be until we got to the station.
All the carriages were full! We booked a first class cabin and it was well worth it because we didn’t have to fight for seats and still had some privacy even though the cabin was shared with four other passengers. Among other passengers in the cabin, there were two lovely American couple whom we exchanged our Italy travel experience for almost three hours! Sue was resting and I was absolutely amused and entertained by them.
Before we arrived at Pisa, we already had an impression that it is a small town. When we got off Pisa Centrale station, we checked in to our hotel where was located just across the road. The hotel manager gave us a map of Pisa and explained to us that everything was within walking distance. Well, I still didn’t believe how small the town was until we walked out and arrived at the famous leaning tower in 20 minutes! It certainly looked a lot bigger on the map. So to the benefit of any Pisa traveller, this is a place that you can visit in one day since the main focal point of this town is the tower and the surrounding cathedrals. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a place with magnificence and grace. Anyone who appreciates architecture or even just a nice scenery would be more than pleased.
We visited Italy in October, which I think it’s the best time for it. Holiday season had just passed and the weather was mild enough that we never needed a coat or jacket, even at night. The best thing would obviously be that the queues at the ticket office is much shorter than peak holiday times.
We bought our tickets to the tower in minutes, though the wait for the cloakroom, which was a must if you have anything bigger than your handbag. The guide would ask you to leave the bags, backpacks and suitcases in the room before you could queue up again at the entrance of the leaning tower.
In order to control the flow of the tourist traffic and also to the safety of people, and the tower itself, there are limited number of tickets per day and it is controlled by a fifteen-minute timed entry. Be warned to anyone who is visiting Pisa tower because of the cloakroom queue can be the longest hold up and don’t be fooled if you can get the next 15-minute entry because you may risk of missing your entry if the wait at the cloakroom is longer.
We got lucky that we managed to check-in our bags within minutes after we bought the tickets but we saw the queue behind us grew very quickly after the arrival of a tour group. Then a Korean couple got stuck behind them when they got the same entry time as us. We didn’t see them at the entrance afterward. Umm..
To walk up the tower didn’t require athlete fitness to complete but we did see some more senior tourists who rested on the side of the narrow stairs a few times before reaching the top. I guessed that climbing the leaning tower experience was the most rewarding element of this visit since the view from the top of the tower wasn’t that spectacular. It was pleasant but I wouldn’t rave about it. Yet the experience of climbing the ‘leaning’ stair case and be ‘inside’ of this famous landmark was definitely the hightlight of the day.
At the top of the tower, while small and cramp, you could expect the best view of Pisa. It was a nice vantage point to take a couple of nice selfies and souvenir photos, yet, as it wasn’t the best time of day for any artistic photography, I did a quick round of photo snaps instead 🙂
After coming down from the tower top, we got out and took some of the tourist-must-do photo with the tower. The most common pose would be ‘supporting the tower’. We did the ‘lean-on’ and the ‘kiss’! It was fun!
Our ticket also included the entry for other museum and cathedrals and we saw them all in the next hour or so. It was a very very pleasant visit and because of the time of year, we didn’t have to fight for space to see anything or waited long at any ticket offices.
The sun was setting and we headed out to a local restaurant for my birthday dinner. We were encouraged by a waiter and we quickly sat down. Despite being a small restaurant, we were greeted like celebrities. We also quickly ordered food and while the menu was not the longest by any standard, it featured most of the famous Italian dishes. I took the easy option by ordering the ‘tourist’ menu with two courses and my still-not-too-well wife just ordered a seafood soup with breads (they actually cooked the soup with bread in it!!!). When my dinner arrived, I couldn’t believe just how big the portion was! My starter was absolutely huge then my main course, fried calamari was absolutely delicious. I couldn’t finish it though and for 16 Euro, it was the bargain of century! I also ordered some ham for starter and since my meal included one drink, I took the liberty to try the Italian wine too (yes!!! wine option is included in the ‘tourist’ menu!).
By the end of it, both of us were full to the top and a nice short walk back to the hotel was definitely needed. After a short shower and a little tidy up, we were in bed and ready for our next leg of our journey – Florence!
Here’s more photos from our Day 3 in Pisa 🙂