Iggy the Hymer has found himself a new castle to sit beside. An Italian castle this time. Fifty metres from the beach in the small resort of Santa Severa. A scant 50 kilometres north west of Rome, and just 8 Euros return on the handy local train.
Iggy the Hymer is a clever lad to find such a nifty, free parking spot. Unlike his co-owner Fi. Fi just pored orange juice into her coffee instead of milk, and is having to start all over again! Silly Fi!!
Or maybe I’m just a little bit excited at the prospect of getting the train into Rome this morning? Oosh!! Butterflies are dancing today! I didn’t expect to be quite this wowed to be going to Rome, but it seems I was definitely wrong on that one. This reporter can most confidently state…Fi is as excited as a puppy in a box. Under a Christmas tree. On Christmas morning. And a little person is laughing and pulling the ribbon off. Oh Yay!! That excited!
In the meantime there’s an hour and a half to go until we leave for our train. Jay is manfully trying to sleep through the sound of keys clacking on the keyboard. ( I can tell he’s failing by the sound of his breathing, but boy is he trying! Not a quitter that guy!) And I left you, my dear readers, in San Remo. On the verge of heading south once more to another famous Italian city. Pisa. Host to the most famous architectural Folly in the world – La Torre Pendente di Pisa.
Saturday morning we set off early for Pisa. Another three hour drive on the toll roads in front of us. Google reckoned well over eight hours for this section using the regular roads. I’d like to come back some day and dawdle along that route. Properly explore this stunning corner of the globe. For today though, it was feeling a lot colder at 7 degrees. Thoughts of Sicily and being in the presence of the mighty and majestic Etna are never far from my mind. Three hours on the toll road was sounding good.
Jay was really looking forward to Pisa. I however, had definite mixed feelings about the whole thing. Part of me was excited, but it was more a memory of excitement than a here and now thing. As a child I would have been over the moon to be on my way to Pisa! I would have given you the moon for one, real life glimpse, of this fabulous phenomenon. Child me never went to Italy though. Never leant her hand on the leaning tower. And adult me has heard a lot of things about Pisa over the years. And a lot of them haven’t been that good.
So the impression I have now, as we drive the pleasantly quiet roads to the famous city, is one of over touristy tackiness. A slighlty grotty, past it’s prime kind of place. Somewhere hanging on the back of just one building. Carefully maintained in a state of not quite falling down, and marketed to the hilt, to a “Bucket list” crazy public.
Well I’ve been now. And having been, and seen, for myself, I have only one thing to say to the journalists and commentators who gave me that jaded, sad impression of Pisa. What a lot of rot! Bunkum! Poppycock, piffle and balderdash to you sir!! I can only guess that those who have so slated the fine city of Pisa are among the ranks of writers like Katie Hopkins. People with a liking of writing the opposite of truth in order to stand out from the crowd. What matter truth if you get noticed for saying something different? What matter if people believe it?
Well it wouldn’t have mattered a jot to the world if I’d bypassed Pisa because I’d been given the impression it was a place not worth visiting. But I would have missed a fair treat I can tell you! There’s a lot more to Pisa than the Leaning Tower. And a lot more to the Tower than the fact that it’s leaning.
The Tower itself, were it to stretch, arrow straight, to the sky, is an incredibly beautiful building. Were it not leaning there is still a very good chance you might have heard of it. For the striking beauty of the structure alone it would, I believe, still be one of the most photographed buildings in the world today. And that is just the tower. One beautiful building in an ancient city whose history stretches back so far the Ancient Romans called it old.
We only spent one day here and it was most definitely not enough. Maybe in summer, in the height of the tourist season, it is different. Any place can be difficult to like in the baking heat, swarming with elbowing tourists, a forest of selfie sticks held high above their heads to obliterate any chance of a view. Mile long queues for everything.
In December Pisa is an elegant, ancient city of immense beauty with a charming, friendly ease that made us fall in love with it in an instant. Wandering inside the walls of the old city we came across stunning building after stunning building. Many of the old buildings are in use by the University of Pisa – the 19th oldest existing university in the world. The shopping centre is pretty and lively, with buskers and Punchinella and political speakers entertaining in the squares.
Pisa you are indeed a gem in the loveliness that is Italy. I hope I can return someday and spend a few days here. Have time to visit more of your lovely buildings. Learn your history. And simply walk your streets and breathe your flavour.