Back to writing about my Europe trip after a whole year and I can’t say I’m having a tough time remembering details. Because you know when you have an epic trip, it is an epic trip!
Crossing the Swiss border along with my little gang in the Opel driven by the handsome Romanian, the first thing we had to do was grab a slice of…PIZZA. If you didn’t do Pizza in Italy then what the hell did you do??? Remember the Topsycola stops I wrote about last time? The border checkpoint had one of those famed Autogrills and I obviously got myself a slice of some very fresh and cheesy Margherita Pizza (still dreaming about biting into one of those again). The fancy cars obviously remained, the scenery switched from snow capped mountains to lush green ones interspersed with small towns. You could see the church bell towers from miles away, straight out of a gothic movie!
We stayed overnight at Ibis in the outskirts of Milano. Not the main city of Milan, but the outskirts. Much quiter, gorgeous blue skies, narrow cobbled lanes with old churches and cafes. Being Indians we obviously had to be loud and noisy and we did just that in the parking lot while we stayed up late playing land-n-water, gold spot and we even managed to squeeze in some push ups (I have no idea WHY!). It also happened to be my brothers birthday the next day so we’d managed to get our hands on some raspberry ice cream cake, some of which landed straight on his face.
Early next morning, we set out to explore our first stop in Italy- Pisa.
Pisa, Tuscany: Pisa was quite a long drive from Milano and a very cloudy one too. But I can’t complain because that did add a strange charm to the route where we could spot old castles and vineyards after every few kilometres. The music was a bonus! Did I mention that most radio channels across Europe would play English music? And everytime we would recognise a song we knew, we would sing along screaming our lungs out!
When one mentions Pisa, the Leaning Tower is the first thing that comes to mind. And why not, it’s one of the seven wonders of the world. But believe you me, the structure which was actually the result of a human error is not what will blow your mind when in Piazza del Duomo. The Baptistry and the Cathedral next to it are absolute works of wonder! The sacred square consists of 4 primary attractions: the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Camposanto Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery), the entire square is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Cathedral and the baptistery have a very intriguing history, a lot of which is unclear. But some of the names that stand out are those of Galileo (who supposedly performed some of his experiments in the tower, the Medici family, Riminaldi and Giovanni Pisano. The Cathedral also has the remains of Pope Gregory VIII, St Ranieri (Pisa’s patron saint), and the tomb of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII.
While we couldn’t go up the Tower, it is believed that you can see all of Pisa from the top and as a rule the government there has ensured that no other structure in the city can be taller than the Leaning Tower.
If history and architecture isn’t your cup of tea but shopping is, you need to be careful. The bylanes and the market right outside the Square is full of 1. – Pickpockets 2. Stubborn Nigerians WHO KNOW HINDI selling leather goodies. Some poor aunty from our group learnt her lesson the hard way when one of the sellers wouldn’t leave her alone, even after she got into the bus!
One of the adventurous uncles also got conned by a pretty Asian who snuck out his wallet and returned it when she saw no Euros in there. You’ve got to keep your eyes open and your wallets safe. The whole safety issue really kills the vibe of the place but turn a blind eye to that and the city is just so replete with history and culture, I wish I could have stayed there longer and seen every Church and learnt everything there was to know of the city’s rich past.
FYI: there’s also a street named after Leonardo Da Vinci as well as a house, both very close to the square. (let the tongues wag)