You know, the guidebooks all tell you that Pisa is only a day trip. It’s somewhere you quickly pop over to while you’re in Florence just so you can take photos trying to high-five the Leaning Tower. It only has the one thing. You don’t need to be there for more than a few hours.
But you know what? THEY’RE ALL WRONG.
HEAR THAT LONELY PLANET?
I DON’T AGREE WITH YOU.
I HAVE AN OPINION.
DO I STAND OUT FROM THE TRAVEL BLOGGING CROWD NOW?!
Please hire me.
I loved Pisa. I never thought I’d say this, but I think I loved it even more than Florence. Controversial opinion, I know. We only spent a few hours there and I can agree that there isn’t nearly as much to see as it’s more popular sister down the road. And there are still plenty of tourists outside the main attractions, don’t get me wrong. But the big difference is that it still feels like a functioning city.
As beautiful as Florence is, it felt like I couldn’t escape the tourism. It felt like all of its charm was put on for an audience and that the few folks who permanently live there hide away outside the city itself. The city is no longer for the people who live in it, but for those that visit it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that – all countries have places like that.
I think the fellow New Zealanders are looking at Queenstown round about now.
But those places just don’t do it for me. I like to travel to see how other people live. That’s my personal preference. Which is why I’m living it up in Vienna! This is one of the most liveable cities in the world AND it’s steeped in history. I get to watch people going about their daily lives, going to work, hanging out with friends, all with the most ridiculously grand backdrop you can imagine.
I could be wrong about Florence. I was only there for a few days. But you don’t get that impression there.
Pisa on the other hand. I got off the train and walked through the quintessential Italian winding streets, past tiny little restaurants, past offices and homes and people just going about their lives. It was a different kind of beauty to Florence. It felt more effortless.
As you get closer to the Tower, you see more and more restaurants catering to visitors, more and more tourists, more and more American accents, but they are gathered in one very specific area. Only there do you see the street vendors and selfie sticks. And even better – it’s only around the Tower.
So here’s something no one ever told me. It’s not just a tower. As in, the Leaning Tower of Pisa isn’t just a tower that stands in the middle of a square or something, all alone. Like the other grand cathedrals I’ve visited in Europe, it’s part of a temple complex. There is a Baptistry, a crypt and a cathedral. The Tower is just the bell tower.
This blew my mind. I don’t know what I was expecting, but what I got took my breath away. I almost don’t want to spoil the effect for others, but I want someone to answer me why no one else talks about this place?
Because the whole complex is actually just as beautiful (if not more) than the Tower. You can spend hours roaming around it, relaxing on the grass, walking along the castle wall. Why do people only talk about the Tower?!
We were in Pisa only about 4 hours all up on our way from Florence to Cinque Terre. And I regret it. It should’ve been more. I’m sorry Pisa. I’ll be back for you.
Oh, and did you know there is a legit Keith Herring mural down a random Pisa street that he painted in the 80s? How awesome is that?!