With a half-day going spare on a recent trip to the Romans’ former home, MT made a whistle-stop visit to Italy’s Tuscan tourist trap, Pisa.
After a late-evening landing at Pisa’s Galileo Galilei Airport, it was a quick zip over to Marriott’s AC Hotel Pisa, a smart slab of glass around 2 miles out of town.
Popular with business travellers and trendy tourists alike, the AC Hotel offers a sleek – if predictably contemporary – space to relax, and, too much vino and several baskets of bruschetta later, MT took a well-deserved rest ahead of a day of leaning towers and tourist throngs.
With the sun up and time ticking – and a slightly heavy head to boot – MT stowed the hire car at the Arena Garibaldi and took the short stride over to Piazza del Duomo, home to that famous extrusion (and its infamous foundations).
Despite the hoards of international visitors posing in mock support of the now-shored-up structure, the Piazza plays host to some stunning architecture of historical significance, besides the tower.
The 12th-century Battistero di San Giovanni is Italy’s largest baptistry, whilst the neighbouring Camposanto Monumentale is said to hold holy soil from Calvary. As for the Duomo itself, Buscheto’s 11th-century marble masterpiece is a captivating expanse of intricately carved white walls, worthy of awe-struck observation.
But how to get the best view of the Torre? MT prefers some perspective, so a brief walk up Via Santa Maria was in order. After a quick panino stop at the cosy L’Ostellino sandwich shop, MT turned to find the picture-perfect postcard angle.
Looking down the Via, with the tower nestled above and between Pisa’s pastel-coloured, green-shuttered residences, MT clicked the shutter – and felt a sudden urge for a coffee.
Turning onto the Via dei Mille, MT located the modestly fronted Caffè Dei Cavalieri and stepped inside to enjoy a brief break from the early afternoon heat over a deliciously strong espresso.
Caffeine-thirst sated, it was south to the northern bank of the Arno, the 150 mile river which threads through Pisa before flowing into the Tyrrhenian Sea in the west.
After sticking its head into the Caffè dell’Ussero, MT admired the Statua di Giuseppe Garibaldi (yes, he of biscuit fame) opposite the Ponte di Mezzo, before slipping up Borgo Stretto for some light retail therapy.
Hands full of paper-handled bags, and with the clock rapidly running out, MT chanced a quick sit in the tree-lined gardens of Piazza Martiri della Libertà, followed by an even quicker beer in the adjacent Enobirreria L’Etrusco.
Now in fear of both parking fines and missed flights, MT exited Pisa’s walls to make a speedy supper stop for – what else – pizza, at Pizzeria Il Fornaccio, on Via Luigi Bianchi – perfectly placed for picking up a waiting, baking-hot hire car back at the Stadio.
WORDS & IMAGES BY CHRIS ROWLANDS
Content correct at time of publication. A changing world is one of the joys of travelling!