The site of the tower was mobbed with tourists and packed with various street vendors
. There are a number of attractions there including a Cathedral, Museum, gardens, a few more that escape me and, of course, the tower itself. In order to go up the tower you have to buy a full ticket for all attractions at a cost of 15 Euro. A bit of a scam really, so I didn't bother. I had a look inside the cathedral and wondered around the free areas. They had a movie in the foyer of the museum which explained all about the building of the tower and the efforts to keep it as it is and this satisfied all of my curiosity about it. I had a bit of lunch and sat in view of the tower to sketch it. The nicest thing happened as I was drawing. A couple came and stood behind me for 5 minutes or so. At first I thought nothing of it but it soon became apparent they were watching me draw. They guys asked if he could take a few photos and I didn’t mind, although it made it a bit hard to continue drawing. They seemed to hang around the area until I was done and when I stood up they came straight over asking for a look. He took more photos and showered me with praise. I showed him the others in the notebook and he was really amazed. I know their ok, but I don’t think they are anything really special, the couple disagreed. Anyway maybe it’s just a tiny thing, but they way I was feeling that day I really appreciated it.
Before leaving Pisa I met up with an old friend from the International Students Society. Margarita was from Sicily but studying for her masters in Pisa. We didn't have much time before my train so we just had a quick coffee near the train station. It was nice to catch up with her. She was actually heading back to Cork for a visit the following day. She was being a bit of an ambassador for couch surfing. Having hosted about 10 people, and met her current boyfriend through it she was singing its praises. I am a member of couch surfing but I still haven’t used it
. Maybe when I get to Asia I might consider it.
Italy is a funny place. It seems like always, everywhere, there is something going on. Weather its some workers shouting at female passersby, cops giving hassle to someone for being a menace, drivers arguing and getting out of their cars to shout at each other. It's like there is never a dull moment there and that's quite cool. Italian men, especially the older ones, seem to serve the stereotype pretty well with their half open shirts and their hassling of lone girls. The younger men are extremely fashion conscious. You could even think that the vast majority of them are gay, which I'm sure is not the case. It seems like a pretty sexist country. In many cases it seemed people would only address me and not Pia, even when the topic of the matter related more so to her. On the other hand I have never seen so many female bus drivers, taxi drivers etc. So it’s a bit of a conundrum really. Just like in Hungary things don't work exactly as they should. People are slow and not so helpful; it's amazing how anything gets done here sometimes. Really it’s worse than in Ireland, and that says something!
You have just got to pull it together and keep your chin up, there is only so long you can mope around foreign train stations feeling sorry for yourself. I eventually made it on the train to Pisa, about an hour later then I should have and made it to there by 1.30. To be honest there isn't really all that much to Pisa. It is an unassuming University town famous for its leaning tower and not much else. Still it was a lovely feeling like I had entered a more genuine part of Italy. The streets were narrow and quiet and there were surely more locals than tourists around. I walked through the town towards the sight of the leaning tower. I find the whole tower thing a bit amusing really. Some engineer made a mess of the planning and now millions are spent to keep the tower upright, but still leaning so that hordes of tourists will continue to flock to the town.