October 18, 2003

Welcome to Pisa: “No War, Yankee Go Home”

I left Bodmin Parkway Station at 9:25am this morning, and after two trains, two buses and one plane, landed in Pisa at 9:50pm courtesy of a £13 flight on Ryan Air.

One of the things that jumps right out at you here is the No War, Yankee Go Home slogan spray painted on buildings around the city. Not that I blame them – one of the reasons we left the States was the increasingly bullying attitude that America is taking towards the rest of the world. But that’s a topic for another entry…

I bought a copy of Let’s Go before I left, and after we landed I made several calls before I found a room at the Hotel Helvetia.

The airport is no more than five minutes from central Pisa, and the hotel turned out to be a mere two blocks from the Duomo and Leaning Tower. I walked around the corner from the hotel and had a plate of spaggheti alla frutta di mare with a quadro litro of vino bianco, macedonia and a capuccino. Very nice meal for under 20 euros.

After dinner I walked to the Leaning Tower and reminisced about a trip I’d made here exactly 20 years ago this summer. I had taken six months off between leaving Intel and going to graduate school at U.C. Davis, and in that time I took a six month trip around the world. I spent a month each in India, Nepal, Greece and Yugoslavia (or what was then Yugoslavia), and then wound my way slowly through parts of southern Europe. I found myself in Florence for about a week – I had intended to stay for just two nights, but I’d met a great group of fellow travelers at dinner one night, and two nights just didn’t seem long enough.

One afternoon I went to Pisa with one of the Aussie gals I was staying with. We got off the train and wandered the back streets to the Tower. On the way we bought a bottle of Chianti and some bread sticks as a snack. We climbed the tower, and I remember looking down and thinking “Wow, I could slip right through this railing.” This was before they’d fixed the lean, and the railing was such that anyone under 400 pounds could slip underneath it without so much as by your leave. (I didn’t climb the Tower this time, but I did notice that they’d beefed up the railing.)

On the way back to the train station we were a bit drunk and quite hungry. We pooled our remaining money and came up with a total of 6,000 lira, which at the time was the equivalent of $4.00. Too tipsy to worry too much, we ducked into a little trattoria that looked like it had been built into a part of the old wall and asked the proprietress if she could feed us for our 6,000 lira. She looked at us, looked at her husband, then waved us to a table. Bread, salad, and spaghetti soon appeared, and with the remaining wine we had a meal to remember.

After dinner tonight I wondered the narrow streets down to the river. I stood in the middle of one of the bridges and watched the stream of people, primarily between 18 and 30 years old, promenading back and forth across the bridge. It was after 11pm at this point, and still the city was alive and vibrant. This feeling of easy city life is one of the things that is drawing us to Italy. It will be interesting to see if the rest of the week is as comfortable as tonight has been.

Posted by: Frank @ 10:56 pm — Filed under:

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