Monday, May 27, 2013

Day 1 in Pisa, Stop in Lucca for Biking on way to Pisa, Leaning Tower of Pisa

I checked out of my hostel in Florence at 10 this morning, planning to go to Lucca, Italy to bike the walled city.  My first hostel mate in Florence told me about Lucca, I read about it in Rick Steves' Italy Guide, sounded like a good stop to make on my way to Pisa.  At breakfast, I told my hostel mate from Australia about my plans to stop in Lucca on my way to Pisa, she decided to join me.

After breakfast, I packed my bags, check out, then my hostel mate and I headed to Florence's Santa Maria Novella train station to buy our tickets to Lucca.  We were shooting for the 10:25 am train, but we go to the station at 10:30 am, we bought tickets for the 11 am train to Lucca.  We looked at the departure boards, there was no train to Lucca at 11 am, only to Pisa Airport.  We checked with the train staff, they told us the train was at 11:38 am, we confirmed this with the conductor.  We had time to kill, so we decided to go check out the leather market in Florence, one area I did not explore during my Florence sightseeing.

Florence has a big leather street market, the sellers were not too aggressive, a few asked if we wanted to buy anything.  There were also stores behind many of the stalls selling more leather goods.  I knew I was not going to buy any leather in Florence, I do not have room to carry around any leather products in my suitcase.   After the leather market we went past another Florence Church, and walked back to the train station.

Lynnae at Florence Church
The train ride from Florence to Lucca was about 2 hours, it passed by quickly.  I told my hostel mate some of my CIA story, we spotted a man wearing an FBI sweatshirt, New York City Office, one of those crazy coincidences, he shows up while I am telling my CIA story.  I fell asleep or at least nodded off about halfway through the trip, trains make me tired, or maybe I just have not made up my sleep deficit yet.

When we got to Lucca, we followed the signs to left luggage, left luggage is where you can store your luggage and come back to get it before you board your train, after you finish sightseeing.  The signs lead us to a bicycle rental shop, exactly what we were looking for.  Our plan was to bike the ramparts of the walled city in Lucca.  I checked my luggage, we rented bikes, got a map, a lunch recommendation and set out for a bike ride through Lucca.  

We were not sure exactly where to go, how to get up the the ramparts of the walled city. We figured it out, may have gone the more difficult route, we carried the bikes up flights of stairs, until we were atop the walls of Lucca.  We started biking, neither of us had been on a bike in a long time, it took us a few minutes to get used to biking again.  Biking was not a skill we lost, must be in our muscle memory somewhere.  After we got the hang of biking again, we started noticing the different sites in Lucca, we stopped every now and then to take pictures.

Rampart Bike Ride in Lucca

View from Lucca's Rampart 

View from Lucca's Rampart 
After biking one lap around Lucca's Ramparts above the walled city, we rode our bikes into the city to explore and find lunch. The woman at the bike shop recommended a restaurant and a pizzeria, we decided to get pizza, the right choice. The pizza was delicious, just the right amount of sauce, it did not look great, but the taste is all that matters.  We also sampled the local cuisine, Cecina, chickpea cake, it was bland, I am glad I tried it but once was enough for me.  The Cecina is popular in Lucca, many locals were buying it, we had to wait to buy a slice. 

Margarita Pizza in Lucca

Cecina a Tuscany speciality

Recommended Luca Pizzeria
After eating pizza, we road around the city, past its Cathedral, we checked the map to decide what else to do or see during our short stop in Lucca.  We decided to bike to the amphitheater, we got to the sight and were not sure we were in the right place, it looked like a modern day plaza.  Then we saw the sign, confirming we were in Lucca's amphitheater.  We bought gelato and hung out in the middle of what was once a Roman amphitheater (we overheard this fact eavesdropping on a tour), the gelato was delicious, I got hazelnut and strawberry in a cup.

Lucca's Duomo di San Martino 

Gelato after Lunch in Lucca's Amphitheater 

Outside Lucca's Amphitheater 
We headed back to the bike store after our stop for gelato in Lucca's Amphitheater.  We biked back to the ancient wall, pushed out bikes up a steep incline, and biked back around the ramparts until we reached the point where we started our bike ride.  We had spent about 2.5 hours biking and sightseeing in Lucca, a nice, relaxing change of pace from the usual.  We walked back to the train station, I bought a 3 euro ticket to Pisa, my hostel mate was returning to Florence. We said our goodbyes, and I rushed to my train, it was leaving in less than 3 minutes.

Lynnae at end of Lucca bike ride at Ancient Wall Entrance
It was a short ride to Pisa, I found the bus to the hostel, after asking a bus driver.  My bus stop was Piazza dei Miracolis, the Square of Miracles, where the Leaning Tower of Pisa stands.  I did not see the Leaning Tower of Pisa when I got off the bus at the Piazza dei Miracolis stop.  I followed the directions to the hostel without any problems, I think these were the clearest directions I ever got from a hostel.  I checked in, they only accepted cash, so I needed to go to the ATM.  The man at reception said no problem, pay later. I decided I would see Pisa today, I leave for Rome tomorrow at 11:45 am, did not want to cut it too close. 

View of the Leaning Tower of Pisa from Street Where my Hostel is  Located

I put my luggage in my room, got all my stuff situated, then headed to the Piazza dei Miracolis.  It was amazing to see  the leaning tower of Pisa, the pictures do not do it justice, the lean is amazing to look at in person.  I took pictures from all sides, none of them capture what it is like to see the tower leaning.  I bought my ticket and walked to the top of the leaning tower of Pisa, it was worth it, to climb to the top of that leaning tower.  The climb was not bad and much quicker than I expected.  

Lynnae atop the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Climbing up the leaning tower of Pisa

On my way down from top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
I walked around and looked at the other sights after my climb to the top of the leaning tower of Pisa.  I took  a few more pictures with the leaning tower and with the other sights, the Duomo and the Baptistery.  After that, I was hungry, I got pizza for dinner, which has become my staple food in Italy.  I then walked back to my hostel as it was getting dark, I took a few more pictures of the leaning tower of Pisa in the twilight.

Lynnae pushing the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Leaning Tower of Pisa in the Twilight on my way back to Hostel
I saw two Asian women on my way back to the hostel, I think they had taken a picture of some tourists, I wondered if they were my hostel mates.  The man at the hostel's reception said all my hostel mates were from China.  When I got to my hostel, they were there, turned out I was right. We talked briefly in the room, but there was a definite language barrier, they are both college students, studying in France. 

The rest of my evening was quiet, relaxed.  Tomorrow I go to Rome, I saw the highlights of Pisa in about half a day, it was worth the short visit to see the leaning tower of Pisa in person.

Day 1 in Pisa, Bike ride in Lucca Photo Album

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