InterRail #5: A Piece of Pisa
After two lovely days on Lago Maggiore exploring Locarno and Ascona, it was time to board the train once more and discover somewhere new. After an early breakfast we made our way to the station ready for the 0804 commuter train from Locarno to Bellizona, a little way inland. On arrival in Bellizona we found a cafe just a few steps away from the station where we enjoyed a warm drink whilst waiting for our connection. At 0925 our intercity train to Milan pulled into the station and we boarded, with our first task being to move people out of our reserved seats. Finally we were able to take our seats and make ourselves comfortable and soon we were passing through the pretty towns of Lugano, Chiasso and Como as we made our way south.
We arrived in Milan according to schedule with a few hours to waste before the connection which would take us onto Pisa. Lunchtime was approaching and so we stopped for a pizza (when in Italy..) in the Rosso Pomodoro restaurant, within the station complex.. the food was good and at the very least we were out of the pigeons way!
A few minutes before 1300 we made our way to the platforms, where we found our train waiting for us, and boarded. We pulled out of Milano Centrale right on time and began our journey to Genoa, and then down the Cinque Terra coastline towards Pisa. The ever changing scenery was a good form of journey entertainment, varying between rolling countryside, high-sided valleys surrounding Genoa, small rural towns and villages and of course the vivid Mediterranean, which despite being hidden behind houses, trees and the occasional hillside became our loyal companion for the second half of our trip.
As the time drew closer to 1700, the outskirts of Pisa came into sight and soon I had spotted the gleaming Duomo and the famous leaning tower. A short time later we arrived in the station and prepared ourselves to once again gather our luggage and alight from the train.
It was only a short walk to our Hotel, but with the warm sunshine we were pleased when we entered and checked in. After a cup of tea and a bite to eat we were feeling suitably refreshed and set off to explore the town. We followed the route that had been suggested to us, walking up to the river and then along the Lungarno Galilei as far as the Ponte di Mezzo. We crossed the bridge and slowly made our way up what appeared to be the main shopping street in the direction of the Piazza del Cavalieri.
From there we walked the short distance to the Piazza del Duomo where the sights of the Cathedral and Leaning Tower awaited us.
The Piazza was still heaving with tourists despite there being a distinct nip in the air, but like many others, I couldn’t resist posing for the obligatory photo.
After our cultural walking tour, the chill of evening began to feel more pronounced so we turned around and set off back to the hotel. The return trip took us in the direction of the Porta a Lucca and then on to the church of Santa Caterina. We continued down along narrow streets past the Piazza S.Paolo all’Orto and out once again to the river, where we turned to the left in the direction of the Ponte alla Fortezza.
The following day, after our trip to Lucca (InterRail #6: What a Lucca!!), we decided to set out once again to explore a little more of the town. The weather had improved as the day progressed and we were blessed with higher temperatures and blue skies. This time we went via the Ponte alla Fortezza bridge, the church of San Francesco, the Piazza Mastro d. Liberta and the Porta a Lucca, before finally ending up back in the Piazza dei Miracoli.
As before the areas surrounding the tower and the cathedral were just full of tourists, all milling around, having their photos snapped and seemingly waiting for their buses to whisk them back to their respective hotels, hostels and houses.
After twenty minutes or so we decided to leave the crowds behind and stroll down the Via Santa Maria as far as the river. We were all beginning to feel a little weary so we decided to call it a day.
Our return trip took us along the Lungarno Pacinotti as far as the Ponte di Mezzo where we crossed over to the other side of the Arno. From there we took the Via San Martino and soon arrived back at the hotel where we escaped to the little courtyard for a refreshing drink and a peaceful evening.