Surprise, surprise we also stayed two nights in Siena! It was so nice to slow down and just hang out for a day and meet Austin’s friends/people who speak English! The next morning we woke up and had another wonderful breakfast by our B&B mother. Austin had a fun conversation with her and the other guy staying in the place, and I kept looking at him trying to remind him with my ESP that the train for Pisa left at 9:18. Well, we got out the door before 9:00, and even made it to the bus station in enough time to catch a bus to the train station. Once we got in there and bought our ticket, we thought we might have a chance to catch it. We ran to the proper platform just as the train doors were closing. The conductor didn’t open the doors for us, and they were locked, and the train started moving, so we officially missed the train. That was ok, though, because Siena’s train station also has a mall. Austin was able to buy batteries (we have had a constant battle with the camera and batteries since we’ve been here, the camera seems to think that the batteries are dead no matter if they actually are or not, so we can only take a few pictures at a time before the batteries go dead). We also sat on a bench with our huge backpacks and Austin’s large flag stick in the mall looking like homeless people for an hour, and caught the next train.
|Pisa Duomo Roof and inside|
|Pisa Baptistery with font|
|Look! It’s the leaning tower!|
The train from Siena to Empoli (the first part of the train trip to Pisa) seemed like it took days. The train stopped at EVERY stop and seemed to never get above 20 mph. I thought it was a short train trip first followed by a longer train trip, so that might have had something to do with it, but I practiced relaxation, watched Tuscany roll by out the window, napped, and still we weren’t there! After finally making it to Pisa, we found a bus to take us to the tower. That’s really all we wanted to see. Tickets to go up the tower are like at least 15 euro each, and are sold out way in advance, and it would have cost around 50 euro with the booking fees and reservation fees, so we decided to forgo going up the tower. We have ascended 4 other tall objects during our time in Italy, and they were all taller and in cooler places. We also heard from others that it wasn’t worth it. Anyway, the tower really is leaning at quite a precarious angle. The tower started leaning while the builders were building it, so they actually built it to curve in the other direction to try to compensate. Epic fail. They also recently (within the last 20 years) did some work on it so that it is structurally safe for a limited number of people to be inside it at a time, which involved digging out the foundations and redoing them. Anyway, the tower was very leany, but not very tall.
|From the roof of our room… with my pumpkin belly|
Other sights that were very nearby the tower were the duomo and the baptistery of the duomo. We learned that the Pisa Duomo was the first of the duomos to be built in Tuscany, and it was started in the 1000s with funds that Pisans got plundering an Arab ship near Palermo. They decided to make it out of white and green and pink marble, and set the tone for the look of all the other churches in Tuscany. It is really big, and has an elliptical dome which was the first of its kind to be built in Europe. Over the years, other big names in architecture and art have built side chapels and such onto the building, so it is kind of a hodge-podge of styles and such, but it is a pretty cool church. The pulpit in the church as well as the baptistery was by Pisano, who does very detailed work. The ceiling is made of wood decorated with 24 karat gold. After the duomo, I had to go to the bathroom. A first this time around was that for one, a German lady was trying to cut in front of me the whole time, and I got a receipt for paying 50 euro cents for the bathroom. A receipt!
|Shore of Riomaggiore… Look at Austin’s beard!|
After the bathroom, we finished up our whirlwind tour of Pisa with the baptistery. What I really wanted to see was the pulpit sculpted by Pisano. The guidebook said that part of it was the first religious nude figure that was pretty buff, and that it ended up being a model for others to follow, culminating with Michelangelo’s David. Daniel was the male figure, and he was pretty buff. The baptistery roof was a cone inside of half a sphere, and the acoustics were supposed to be really good. They even have an “echo” demonstration every hour so that people can appreciate the acoustics. Lucky for us, there was a 12 month old in the baptistery with us, and he gave us all the echo demonstrations we could ever want because he was being a little fussy. Also, the baptismal font in this baptistery was pretty huge and octagonal, and definitely looked like you could do more than sprinkle people in it.
|Riomaggiore… first stop of the Cinque Terre|
We made it back to the train station in Pisa in order to make a pretty early train to Riomaggiore. This town is the southernmost of the Cinque Terre towns, and was the location of our accommodations for the night. We got off the train in Riomaggiore, and found that the city was built straight up a cliff, basically, and was connected by a tunnel to the train station. We went through the tunnel and found the office of our place fairly easily by hiking up a fairly steep street. Once at the office, the owner’s son took us back down the street and up a few flights of steep steps and through a bunch of side streets to a little door. Up 3-4 more flights of stairs through this little door was our room. Our room even had a name printed on the door: “the sky in a room”. It was painted like the sky, with pretty ivy as well. There was even a tiny window that opened out onto the rooftop of the immediately adjacent stairwell. After checking in, we decided to investigate a little about how our Cinque Terre hike would go the next day. We went back to the train station to the main Cinque Terre office and bought our tickets.
We bought tickets for the hiking, as well as unlimited train and bus travel along the 5 cities for 1 day. Then we walked up to the first checkpoint so we knew which trail to take in the morning. After exploring the coastal part of town, and spending some time wading at a rocky beach, we were hungry for dinner. We found a place that had reasonable prices pretty high up in the town. Austin got a local pasta dish that looked like 3 little pizzas with different sauces on them. He REALLY enjoyed the pesto one; which is also a local dish of the Ligurian coast. The pasta that looked like pizza was kind of chewy and seemed to be the consistency of a thick corn tortilla. I got gnocchi stuffed with tomato sauce and cheese. YUM! The bread here is superb and fairly famous as well, especially foccacia. After dinner, we got some gelato and took it on the rooftop adjacent to our room to eat. It was a beautiful end to the night overlooking the sea and the rest of Riomaggiore.