Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Italy Day 6 - The Leaning Tower of McPisa

It was difficult to say goodbye to Venice. Mostly because I had forgotten the Italian word for goodbye, but also because it was such a lovely, unique place.

Kerri was feeling good again as we boarded our water taxis and headed back to the mainland for a drive to Florence via Pisa.

I will admit to, once again, being overly excited about seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa. When I first mentioned this to the travel agent who helped us arrange our trip she wrinkled her nose and scoffed, "You don't want to go there."
I thought about it for a moment, taking time to deeply consider my wants.
"Yes I do," I told her.
"Seriously. You don't want to go there. It's just a tower that's leaning and a bunch of t-shirt shops. You don't want to go there."
Again, I took a moment for some thoughtful introspection.
"Seriously. I want to see it."
She sighed deeply and shrugged. "Whatever. But don't say I didn't warn you."

Don't worry. I won't.

I'm not sure where my fascination with it started but I've seriously always wanted to go to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

On the bus, our tour guide, Beatrice seemed to echo the long ago conversation we had had with the travel agent. "We won't be in Pisa long. In fact, we wouldn't be going at all if it weren't for a mistake. They built the tower wrong and now it's leaning. If it weren't leaning, nobody would ever go to Pisa."

It seemed to me that the fact that it leans is entirely the point. Perhaps it it because of my own limited skill as a builder, but I wanted to see a screw up–somebody else's screw up–on this sort of a grand scale.

We pulled off the highway and entered the depressing, slightly squalid town of Pisa which, it appears, is sponsored entirely by McDonalds.

Do you have an ancient historical site? Can we come crap on it? Yes we can because we are McDonalds and we can do whatever we want!

Beatrice explained that we would park in a parking lot (which made sense) and then we would take a choo-choo train to the tower. She kept saying choo-choo train and we assumed that it was just a funny translation quirk.


It was, indeed, a Tschu-Tschu Train.

And it, too was sponsored by our favorite corporate juggernaut. "Just 100 meters from the tower"!
Whew. There's no way I could have walked farther than that for a Big Mac.

Sadly, we heard no songs along our ride. I considered asking the driver to serenade us like the gondoliers did, but he was several cars ahead of us.
We climbed aboard and were whisked through town to a Tschu-Tschu Train station where we unloaded and began the perilous trek to the actual tower. To reach it, we would have to pass hundreds and hundreds of souvenir sellers, all of whom, inexplicably, seemed to sell exactly the same things.

Oh, boy, we're getting closer to McDonalds!

Look at these lovely handbags at this stall.

They're exactly the same as the handbags at this stall.

What the...
How did THIS get here?

The seemingly endless Death March to the McTower.

When the souvenir stands closed, they looked like Christmas Trees of the Future™!

We made it safely past the feral souvenir sellers and walked through the gate to behold a spectacular sight.

Nope. That's not the spectacular sight.
Nope. Sorry. that's not it, either.
No. That's definitely not it.

There was a large, open square with a church, the huge, round baptistery, and, there, tucked away behind them both, the famous tower, tilting at an impossible angle.

But what was such a spectacular sight were the hundreds and hundreds of tourists all posing for the exact same picture. The one officially known as "Look at Me Pretending to Hold up the Leaning Tower™"

It turns out that every tourist is legally obligated to take this picture.

The Italian Army is here, checking to assure that every tourist takes the proper picture.
Yes, Alex did it.

It took him a couple tries to get it right, though. There's no tower there, buddy.

Tori did it, too.
These Japanese ladies performed a variant of it that authorities deemed legally acceptable.

Thousands of wildly waving selfie sticks provided an added challenge to the visit.

Kissing the Tower is not an acceptable substitute. This lady was detained by the police for some time.

Nope. You missed it, guy.

You did, too.

Dude, can you even see the tower? You're like 40 feet off.
These morons are doing it totally wrong. Where's the tower, guys? Come on!
If you are not placed exactly in the right spot, it just looks like a sea of people practicing Tai Chi or something.

At first, I thought these people were statuary or street performers.

A little to your left, please.


Close, but no cigar, Tex.

Dude, you're not even close. You look like the female lead in a B horror movie.

So close. So very, very close.

This lady actually was just doing Tai Chi.

These poor goofs are trying to push over the Baptistery. The police came and took them away for taking improper photos.
The tower itself is actually gorgeous, as are the church and the baptistery.

It's about 14 feet off center right now.

And it's slightly banana shaped.

The builders tried to compensate for the leaning by shortening one side and lengthening the other.True fact.

These dudes were not impressed.

Soon, our brief stay in Pisa was over and we were herded back onto the McTschu-Tschu Train. I was a bit sad because with all the time I spent admiring the tower I never even got to see the McDonalds.

These dudes were posing for photos as we headed back to the bus. Kerri refused to take a picture of me trying to hold them up. Party pooper.
 It was late afternoon when we pulled into Florence, the birthplace of The Renaissance. We had a brief walk through town where we were given "demonstrations" of goldsmithing and leather working. I made it about 3 minutes into the gold "demonstration" (he demonstrated all the products he had for sale) before I slipped out the door and wandered around a bit in search of something interesting. Like gelato.

Come see us demonstrate how to buy our products!
The plaza was actually quite pretty and contained a cafe that sold the best gelato we found in Italy.

Alex is posing in front of the gigantic doors to this church.To give you a sense of scale, Alex is 136 feet tall.
Soon, the enforced shopping experience was over and we were herded back onto the bus and to our hotel where we ate the worst hotel dinner ever. We will never speak of it again because we have better things to talk about.

Like museums!

But that's tomorrow.

1 comment:

Betsy said...

When Jenny and Simone went to see the tower they were followed up the stairs by some guard
and harassed to hurry back down as quickly as possible.