We departed the Cinque Terre and were heading south towards Rome when we decided to make a small pitt stop at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We were so close, it would be silly not to right? After an extreme detour caused by an arrogant navigator (the device, not a person) we finally exited the hills surrounding the Cinque Terre and made it to Pisa, a city in the region of Tuscany perched on the River Arno. Detouring to Pisa didn’t add too much driving time to our day so we thought it would make the perfect place to stop and have a break.
We were wrong. Pisa was slightly terrifying. It was absolutely overflowing with hawkers trying to sell you sunglasses, selfie sticks, fake designer handbags and those “authentic” beaded friendship bracelets. Since we were travelling with all of our luggage – laptops, expensive cameras, iPads, cash and passports, we had done some research into where the safest place to park the car would be, with results telling us there was a secure carpark pretty much directly across the street from the Leaning Tower, so that was where we headed. Secure is definitely not the word I would use to describe it. The minute we entered there was a hawker tailing us until we parked, who then hung around our car until we gave him money to “look after our car”. It was an open carpark with just one boom gate, that gave you a token when you came in – it then made you put the token into a second machine which spat out the same a new token for you to exit (I mean, that just screams scam right?!) Everything about it made us uncomfortable and on edge, but we had come all this way and we were right across the road so we were determined to visit.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa itself is fascinating. Taking over 200 years to build after beginning in 1173 the tower began to lean during construction due to the foundation of the ground being too soft to support the weight of the tower. It continued to tilt until well after it was finished, when the people of Pisa made efforts to stabalize it in the late 20th century. It’s 60 metres tall and if you’re feeling fit you can climb the 251 steps to the top for views of Pisa. The tower is found in the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles), next to the Cathedral of Pisa. In real life the Tower looked exactly like every beautiful picture of it I had ever seen, I felt like I was standing inside a postcard. You know, if I didn’t focus on all of the tourists trying to get that typical ‘holding up the tower’ photo.
To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have made the detour had I known how unpleasant the situation surrounding the tower would be. We definitely rushed through our time there because we were worried about our rental car being broken into or stolen. Everyone had warned us about the gypsies in Europe – and this was the first time I truly understood what they meant. If you are visiting Pisa I would recommend making it a day trip from Tuscany or Florence, preferably by train so you don’t have to park in that dodgy carpark. We are used to hawkers yelling at us and trying to sell things to us while we travel, but there was something different about these ones which put us on high alert. Visit early in the morning to avoid the crowds and the tour buses, and keep sun protected because there is absolutely no shade!
I really don’t mean for this post to deter anyone from visiting the beautiful Leaning Tower of Pisa, more just an alert to be safe and careful and enjoy the ancient sights of the piazza without being worried, stressed or uncomfortable like we were.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
Piazza del Duomo, Pisa, Italy
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