Friday, 25 March, 2016:
For Easter weekend, we decided to drive down to Pisa and Florence.
After much discussion, we also decided to try out AirBnB with a shared apartment. In case you aren’t sure what that means, here’s a little description: we rented a room and a private bathroom in an apartment where the hosts would be there. When first hearing this, it might sound a bit odd to be sharing an apartment with complete strangers. However, this young couple had very good reviews on the AirBnB website, and we decided to take a leap of faith and know that we have each other, regardless.
We went in, not exactly sure what to expect: are they friendly? Is their place really clean? Do they even speak English?!?
We were pleasantly surprised that the woman spoke English extremely well and her boyfriend can hold his own during a friendly conversation. They were so friendly and easy to talk to that we all decided to head into the city and grab dinner together! It just seemed so natural to be going out with them.
After some delicious aperitivo and dinner, we went to see the famous Torre di Pisa (The Tower of Pisa).
Surreal was the only word that came to mind when seeing this famous landmark. This is something that we have grown up hearing about and seeing pictures of, but have never seen up close. Needless to say, it was amazing to see and with no doubt we were going to have to go up this tower if possible the next day.
Before heading back to the apartment with the nice couple, we had some gelato at this lovely place called La Bottega del Gelato (The Gelato Shop)! This is when I discovered a strong competitor to my usual favorite flavor. Oh boy! My favorite so far has been fondente (a dark chocolate fudge-like gelato), however, there was mousse al cioccolato (you probably guessed right, chocolate mousse) that was so delicious. Taste wise, it was the exact opposite of the fondente: sweet and airy instead of rich and thick. Okay, enough about yumminess, let’s get back to the trip!
We back to the apartment, ready for bed, to do some exploring the next day!
Saturday, 26 March 2016:
We woke up fairly early to try and catch tickets for La Torre di Pisa because unfortunately we were not able to book them online due to space limitations, but were told to try onsite. You might (or might not) ask yourself how did we get to La Torre di Pisa. I didn’t mention it earlier but the AirBnB we stayed at did not only provide some yummy breakfast items, but they also had two bicycles that we could use! The couple called it Bed & Bike!
Look at us! We’re bicycling in Italy! So much fun!
We approached the monumental tower, and admired it during the daytime a little.
This is one of the pictures that really makes the tower look like its leaning horribly and dangerously. It literally looks like it’s about to come crashing down!
Luckily when we arrived, there weren’t many people (the above picture was taken after we went up), so we were able to buy tickets. I will say seeing all the extra security (police officers, metal detectors, and all bags needed to be placed in lockers before going up the tower) gave us a little peace of mind. We trekked in and began climbing the warped steps. See images below. The bottom image really shows how much pressure has been put on these marble steps with the amount of people climbing up and down the tower.
As you are walking up from one side of the tower to other, you can definitely feel a difference in pressure depending on what side of the lean you are on. It was really weird, but pretty awesome to experience. If you look at the top two pictures of the steps you can see how people get pushed to one side of the steps or the other (the left picture has the wear in the middle/right side and the right picture shows the wear on the left side)
Up to the top didn’t take too long. It became a little awkward when people were coming down while we were going up because, as you can probably tell, there isn’t much clearance to make two-way traffic.
Here’s some lean for you. The first picture was taken level to the horizon – crazy!
We were able to climb up to two different levels, but there was one more. However, it doesn’t look like the people in charge let anyone through.(see picture on the left). The second picture shows the lovely view of climbing down, which let me tell you was a bit scary because of 1) of course, the lean 2) people were climbing up as we were going down, and 3) there are no railings!
Geez, look at the lean! They say that the tower continues to lean, gaining a couple of centimeters each year. They actually straightened it by 46 cm (about 1.5 ft) not too long ago through excavation under the tower.
*Fun Fact* Look closely at the picture of the tower above. Do you notice that towards the top, the tower has a bit of a bend it in? Apparently, the builders started to realize the tower was leaning and tried to fix some of the lean. They more or less created a banana-shaped tower rather than a complete straight one. Of course, no one is about to go fix it any time soon because then small Pisa wouldn’t have something to lure tourists in like they do now.
Now you might be wondering, did those crazy kiddos pose for the cheesy holding-the-tower picture? The answer is…
ABSOLUTELY! You only get to be cheesy once, so why not? Why not join every other person doing some form of this pose? Nick didn’t feel the need to be cheesy, but I certainly did! It’s funny seeing everyone trying to do it when you look at it from the wrong angle. You can see someone to the left in my picture doing the same thing. There were tons of people EVERYWHERE doing it.
Afterwards, we went inside Il Duomo Cathedral and took in the beauty.
After exploring this small city, we headed back to our AirBnB place to gather our belongings and hit the road to Florence! More on that in the next post!