Our Summer tour of Central Italy had begun a couple of months earlier near Turin. Now, our route had arrived at the very well known and iconic city of Pisa. So far on this trip we’d seen some of the most fabulous places, but how would we get on visiting Pisa in a Campervan?
Well to start with, Pisa wasn’t at all like how I’d imagined it to be. As we drove the perimeter of the city towards a Sosta parking area, it seemed all so low-key somehow.
Noticeably present along the length of our route was the large town walls. Not only were they long but also incredibly high looking. With the Sat Nav directing us to save our mobile data, we made sure our ears listened intently to the instructions.
One thing’s for sure, you don’t want to start getting lost in these cities, wherever you may be in Europe!
Soon, the route passed a rather large car park and a mass of crowds, along with dozens of coaches. Next, I happened to glance over to my right, catching sight of a whole load of souvenir stalls, all lined up in expectation of a surge of tourists.
Beyond the stalls, our camper came to a standstill at some traffic lights. Then my eyes became fixed on one of the most iconic landmark’s in the world – The Leaning Tower of Pisa! Wow!
There it was in all its glory, leaning as proudly as ever and glistening under the heat of the sun. Hopefully we’d find visiting Pisa in a Campervan the best way to see this famous city.
How exciting! I felt quite emotional at my first sighting of this extra special tower. Now I couldn’t wait to park the camper and get up close to this wonderful building.
Thankfully, we found the camper Sosta parking without too much trouble. Now as with any city, we were extra cautious about stopping at the city Sosta, however, a barrier entry in addition to a manned entrance gave some security to our minds.
Sure enough as we approached the barrier, out came a rather cheerful chap who happily welcomed us to the Sosta parking. Without further ado, he’d taken our details, given us a map of the city and told us to park anywhere on the right. By the way, this was “Parcheggio Camper Via di Pratale”, apparently there are a few others around Pisa, but this seemed good enough for us.
The parking spaces on the left hand side actually had an electric supply, so this we didn’t need for our own van. Further more, at just 12 Euro for the night it proved a perfect place to park up.
No sooner had we finished a quick cuppa, than we took to the bikes, heading off towards the large city walls. Within about 10 minutes, we’d reached the centre of Pisa, where we decided to explore the old town and the river before trying to find that leaning tower!
Remarkably, our cycle route took us alongside an ancient aqueduct before reaching one of the many gates through the city walls.
The bustling old town not only thrived with various tourists but also served as the gateway across the river. Here, we found our wheels taking us on a tour of the opposite bank, giving a more laid back approach to the city itself.
Although there wasn’t too much to see, it felt good to see the city from that different perspective. It was also nice to cross the wide River Arno, before stopping at the particular lovely little church of Santa Maria Della Spina.
Quite fascinating was the fact that it was re-built further back from the river bank to protect it from flooding.
Unfortunately, much of Pisa suffered badly from bombing raids during the Second World War. Although, thankfully the main tourist pull of the Leaning Tower remained untouched.
As our cycle ride re-entered the shopping streets of Pisa, it was time to park up the bikes and head off on foot. Rows of pavement cafe’s spilled out across the length of the Main Street, where locals and tourists mingled over the strong aroma of espresso.
Although it was good to take a look around the city itself, Pisa lends itself to its most famous landmark. Back on our bikes, we navigated the city streets, an easy enough task even in peak season.
Soon we’d reached the crowds of tourists, the souvenir stalls too and then the mighty Leaning Tower of Pisa was upon us. Standing within the grounds of the beautiful Duomo and Baptistry, brought a mesmerising feel to the backdrop.
Some people think the tower is overrated, not me though! I thought it was just delightful, so much more than just a leaning tower and quite intricate in its delicate marble detailing.
The fact that it’s sinking at rather a strange angle just makes this architectural disaster so much more intriguing. Construction began in 1173, however it didn’t get far before the sinking feeling set in!
Built on a sandy base, this engineering faux pas began to tilt even before the third floor had been finished in 1274. After numerous engineering works to try and correct a complete topple, thankfully the tower now stands at a safe enough angle to be open again to the public.
Apparently, visitors can go inside the tower but we gave it a miss. Instead, enjoying the atmosphere and soaking up the infamous tilt from the exterior.
One thing’s for sure, it certainly attracts the crowds, so we decided to leave the coach loads to it and come back after dark.
Navigating the crowds once more, our bike’s took us past the fabulous Duomo, one of the finest in Tuscany. A break back at the camper leant us in good stead for our night time discovery away from the coach trips.
As darkness fell, we set back on foot, just us and the moonlight for company. What a difference a few hours made, firstly the masses had disappeared and secondly the cooler evening air made sightseeing all a bit more comfortable.
I have to say, the marble tower glistening under the the moonlit sky was just idyllic. Spotlights shone a light upon the now silent grounds of the Duomo and Baptistry.
Somehow the romance of Pisa had suddenly come alive. After all there’s something so special about admiring the Leaning Tower of Pisa in all its glory yet within the solitude that a Summer evening has to offer.
Looking up into the starry night sky, Nigel and I paused for thought in front of this perfectly lit monument. Sometimes travel makes you feel so grateful to be there in the moment and this was definitely one of those special times.