Friday, November 11, 2011

Day 56: Pisa, Genoa (Nov 11)

Pisa is 1:15 from Florence, train station to train station. If you have bags, check them at the Pisa train station, look for “deposito bagagli” — as you get off the train, it’s to the right at the far end of platform 1, past the police office.

The Leaning Tower is in an area called El Campo dei Miracoli, the Field of Miracles. To get there, take a taxi or bus from the station. As usual, the taxi is more expensive (maybe 8 euros each way) than the bus (about 1 euro per person round trip) but the taxi will be quicker, you don’t have to wait for it and it doesn’t make stops.
  • Taxi: there’s a taxi stand outside the station. For the return, there’s a taxi stand about 30 yards from the tower, in front of the Bar Duomo.
  • Bus: take bus LAM Rossa, they stop every 10-15 minutes across the street from the train station. There was construction so I’m not sure if they’ll be stopping in front of Jolly  Hotel or somewhere else. You can buy a bus ticket from the tabacchi/magazine kiosk in the train station’s main hall.
    • Before getting on the bus, confirm that it is indeed going to “Campo dei Miracoli”. The correct buses let you off at Piazza Manin, in front of the gate to the Field of Miracles.
    • To return to the train station from the Tower, catch the bus in front of the BNL bank, across the street from where you got off (again, confirm the destination).
Once you get to the Field of Miracles you’ll see four large white buildings that make up Pisa’s religious center — the cathedral (or Duomo), its bell tower (the Leaning Tower), the Baptistery, and the Camposanto Cemetery. Most people just go to see the Tower, but they have a special if you want to see any (5 euros for 1, 6 for 2, 8 for 3, or 10 for all 4). The Duomo by itself is only 2 euros, so it’s worth checking out if you have time. We spent about 15 minutes inside.

Go straight to the ticket office to snag an appointment when you get there, don’t do any souvenir shopping or anything. For an extra 2 euros you can book online in advance. Your appointment will be a 30-minute window, meaning you have 30 minutes to go up, look around, and come down. They do this because it’s tough passing people on the stairs, and they want everyone out before the next batch goes up. Supposedly you’re supposed to pick up your ticket at least an hour before your time slot, and show up 10 minutes before your appointment at the meeting point outside the ticket office, but we got there at 11:00, got our tickets, and were on the 12:00 tour, so I guess it depends on how crowded they are. You can’t take any bags up the Tower, but daybag-size lockers are available at the ticket office, just show your Tower ticket to check your bag. You may check your bag 10 minutes before your reservation time and must pick it up immediately after your Tower visit.  We had our backpacks with us, our suitcases were back at the train station.

The amount of time we had in Pisa was based on the timing of the train from Pisa to Genoa to Nice. It was 12:30 when we got out of the Tower, and we didn’t have to be back at the train station until 3. We got some pizza for lunch (gelato for dessert, of course), took the obligatory “look, I’m holding up the Leaning Tower!” photos, checked out the Duomo, and were back at the bus stop by 2.

Originally, we were going to go to Cinque Terre after Pisa, but with the mudslides there and rearranging my schedule, that left me with nothing but a really long train ride from Pisa to Nice for the rest of the day (3:00 to 5:05pm Pisa to Genoa, then either the 5:17 to Nice getting in at 9:05 then having a late dinner in Nice, or the 6:55 to Nice getting in at 10:05 with a 2-hour layover in Genoa for dinner and sightseeing). 

We decided to stop in Genoa, because why not. We had enough time to explore the immediate area away from the train station, including a statue of Christopher Columbus and taking a funicular up to the top of the big hill before it got dark. Grabbed a shwarma for dinner on the train but made sure to get one last Italian gelato for dessert (which we ate first).

Got into Nice late, and took a cab to the hotel for the night.

Today's pictures are here on Flickr.

(Originally posted 5/13/14 at 8:45pm, Houston)

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