[Yesterday, we were in Lucca]
May 31st, 2009
Slowly but surely, Italy is making the “fiat-free-city” dream come true.
Most towns do not allow tourist cars in the city centers. You are forced to park outside the city limits and take an alternative means of transportation. The only cars allowed carry a special permit and either belong to residents or on-duty government officials. Since we were temporary residents of La Magnolia, we were allowed to park in a private parking lot (@ €8/d). Bicycles is the primary means of transport in Lucca and we thoroughly enjoyed the exercise.
This cloudy morning, we retrieved our machina from the lot, loaded our bags and headed toward Pisa, once again giving the rain-gods a slip.
In the two month preceding our travel, I had made an extensive list of places people thronged in Italy. Then, I took 2 days to trim the list down to a bare minimum. Ironically, I spent tremendous time reading about places I was not going to visit to make sure we would not miss inadvertently. Pisa was one of the easy entries to scratch from that list. Yet, today, we came to a fork on the road. Twisting the wheel right would take us to Liguria and the unique villages of Cinque Terre. Yet, we took the left towards Pisa. We had the unfinished business of a scratched rental car to take care of.
We stopped at the AutoEuropa rental office at the Galileo airport. The policeman in Lucca was correct. The lassie behind the counter did “understand”! She heard my story patiently, took down the tag numbers of the rascal Punto, names and numbers of all the nice people who volunteered to be a witness, and let us go within minutes with a no problema and a big toothy grin.
No problema is a leitmotif in Italy. Much like the Bangalorean adjust maadi.
We headed to midtown Pisa. One problem though. Since Pisa was not on my list, I had no directions, no addresses. No layout. No nothing.
“How difficult would it be to find the leaning tower once you are in Pisa ?”, I thought. I brought up the POIs on the Garmin. Torre Pendente di Pisa caught my eye. Torre was tower. That much Italian I knew by now. Pendente – uh – pendulum? – dangling? – leaning? went my brain. The hunch turned out to be immaculate.
Yes, the tower does lean.
Yet it is not worth a visit. There are many, many more beautiful towers in Italy, as we would find out. As a matter of fact, the Basilica of Pisa is a singularly beautiful building. So much so that if the damn thing were not leaning, the Basilica would have been center stage. The Church seemed to me like a senior, majestic prima donna at an opera, singing a soulful Sorrento until this skinny little, over made up young chorus girl leans out of the line to grab some attention.
After staying in Tuscany for 4 days, we were seeing the “tourists” again. Big hoards descending from long luxury buses, Lonely Planet folded to the site they are about to visit (“This dome was designed by Michelangelo!”, I remember a voice behind me in Piazza San Pietro – the exclamation in his voice apparent) with huge telephoto lens connected to expensive DSLRs.
The impulse to evacuate was non-subtle I wanted to enter the Basilica. Rhea wanted to climb the tower. We could not. May be some other time.
Probably never. We took our stock shots and headed toward the more promising Cinque Terre.
[Read on: We are headed towards Cinque Terre. The place where Italians take a vacation]