Friday, August 20th
The cities are all beginning to run together now. And so is the sweat. We are both pretty tired of being hot all the time. But the “flavor” of Italy is starting
to meld with us now. The people in Northern Italy are more fair-skinned than their darker Southern country-mates. There are lots of feral cats and skinny
dogs. “Mature” Italian ladies feed them in the public areas and Renaissance gardens. There are lots of smells, mostly sweaty bodies, mixed with some
other not-so-pleasant smells. Everything has a “been around a long time” feel. Rarely is there anything clean or new. Lasagna and spaghetti are
considered fast food. Wine goes with everything. So does bottled water. The really good tourist traps have frozen bottled water. There are no Mexican
restaurants. No Indian restaurants. And we saw one Chinese restaurant…that was packed. One billboard advertisement covers the entire
country…Intimissimo. Kids (under 10) run freely and everyone “owns” them and watches out for them. They’re not a nuisance or pests or too noisy or too
much trouble. As we have noticed on our other trips, after this long in a foreign country, we start to relax and really enjoy everything. We look more and
point less, and we begin to think in short Italian phrases. We learn when to go in front of someone “scusami”, and when to let them go in front of us. We
stop staring at the funny, pointed, stylish(?) Italian shoes. It’s good to finally reach this point.
We ran to catch the bus from our hotel in La Grazie. We ran to catch the train in La Spezia. We ran to get our 1st class seat. And then we stopped.
Phew. There was a young American girl with a large backpack strapped to her back standing in the middle of the train. No one could go around her to get
to their own seat. She kept trying to get people to turn sideways to get by her. But of course there was no room to do such a thing. It took forever for
people to sit down. It was ridiculous. “Stupido Americanos”. Ah well, we finally pushed and shoved our way through and got our seat. Next stop…Pisa!
We arrived in Pisa. There were no backpack checks at the train station like we were used to. That meant hauling our 35-pound backpacks with us
everywhere. No big deal when it’s cool, but it was NOT cool at Pisa. We waited for the bus # they told us about at information…and nearly got on the bus
going to the airport. Argh. So we stood in a different line only to miss that bus as well. Finally, read the bus signs and got on the next one. Silly us, just
about any bus goes to the Leaning Tower. We could see it leaning from far away. Pretty cool. Incidentally, the cathedral next to it is leaning as well.
There were a LOT of tourists, and even more tourist shops…temporary, little stands containing silly little trinkets. They lined the area from one end to the
other. But if we were able to ignore these, the other side of the area gave us quite a thrill. Seeing something you’ve always heard and read about
firsthand. Nothing can take that away. The Tower was started in the 12 century. It leaned even before it was completed. Engineers have recently used
steam pipes to dry out the soil and huge counter weights to stabilize the tower. They do not have a goal to straighten it completely.
We ate lunch in what had to be the hottest place in the world. Sweat dripped off the customers on to their plates.
People were asking for extra napkins. It looked like we had all been swimming. Mercy, I’ve never sweated so much.
Even my little portable fan couldn’t keep up with the never-ending heat. Why did we take showers? I’ve never been to
a place that had no air circulation of any kind. I knew there would be few fans and no air conditioners. But how can a
city have no wind? Guess I’m not in Kansas anymore, eh?
So after our hot, sweaty meal…we trekked back to the bus and back to the train. While waiting for the train, we got to
sit and listen to Italian college girls quizzing each other in French. They must have been taking a French class in
school. They were very charming. And thankfully, we got to rest some more on our way to Siena.