Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Pisa Diaries: Day 3 - Thursday 5th May 2011

It's a bright, sunny, and slightly breezy morning - perfect conditions for heading out to the coast. As with many other European cities, it's very easy to use the train ticket machine, as it also had instructions in English - I often wonder how non-English speakers would cope with a similar situation in the UK? It must be very difficult.

Today's destination is the seaside town of Viareggio, precisely 21 minutes' train journey from Pisa Centrale. And the train journey through the Tuscan countryside is a treat: it's Tuscany in a nutshell, with those trademark narrow triangular trees, vineyards and mountains along the way. On arrival it's quite a long slow walk from the station to the 'prom' (not that those chic Italians would call it that of course!) and the most noticeable thing is can't see the sea, for most of that long promenade, and for much of it the beach seems to be only accessible through private beach clubs etc. But we find a way, and later discover that there is a central section of the prom with a whole sea view. Viareggio has some fascinating architectural gems on its promenade and is well worth a visit. Going in May means there's definitely a more off-season feel, but it didn't spoil an enjoyable day.

After lunch we head on down to the other end of the prom, past some very classy shops indeed, with the Jimmy Choo shoes and the posh designer jewellery in the windows. You can't buy much though: even the millionaires would go home empty handed if you're trying to shop here between 1.00 and 4.00 pm. Just as in Pisa, the shops are closed for a very long lunch break between those hours. We do manage to buy something we can afford though....gelato. Yum!

It's very hot today - the hottest day of the holiday so far, but that's not a problem. The pace is still relaxing and slow...then we head back to the city and back to the hotel to get ready for another night out. Pisa is very well situated with regards to transport and is in easy reach of other cities, namely Lucca and Florence, which we'd probably visit if we were to return to Pisa for another break in the future.

Dining out at yet another one of those restaurants on Via Santa Maria. Which meant for me another variation on Tuscan Bean Soup. And finally plucking up the courage to ask the question: "can I order two things from the primi piatti"? I worried about the breach of etiquette, the potential culinary faux-pas etc etc. As it turned out this was ok and they said yes, so I didn't need to go into my "I'm almost vegetarian and the only meat I eat is chicken but you don't have any on the menu...." routine. Breathes a sigh of relief.

Typical Thursday night: like everywhere else, there are a lot more people out tonight and the bars/restaurants are all much busier.

A couple of other observations about Pisa: I wouldn't call it 'hassle' as such, but those rose-sellers can be persistent, although a 'no thanks' usually suffices. Then there are the guys going round selling fake designer watches/big sunglasses, and scarpering very quickly when a cop car comes into sight. Oh, and there seems to be a serious toilet roll shortage in the bars/restaurants here, so much so that I have had to take my own supply :)))

Tonight is cooler than last night, or our location - down at a riverside bar with the accompanying cool breezes - may have something to do with it. We're not in 'student square' as I call it, but ....well, another version of it, at the Piazza Garibaldi which seems, like a lot of other parts of the city, to have separate day/night identities. You'll get bars/restaurants which open during the day but not at night, and vice versa, which is a bit unusual. Or maybe it's just because it's not summer yet?

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