Sunday, October 8, 2017

Under the Tuscan Rain

Since the Cinque Terre towns are small, we had enough time during our long weekend to see what we wanted to there and spend a day driving to Tuscany and back.

David wanted to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa for the first time. I wanted to see something that was new to me, so I took Jenna's advice (she spent a semester studying in Siena), to visit San Gimignano.

Driving through the Tuscan countryside was BEAUTIFUL. It was 2 hours of green, rolling hills, vineyards, and cute towns. I felt a little bit like we were in a movie. I've really enjoyed getting to drive through Europe this year instead of only taking trains- you get to see a lot more this way!

San Gimignano is nicknamed the "Medieval Manhattan" due to all of the tall towers that make up its skyline. 


We walked through the medieval streets in search of lunch. 





There were plenty of tourist shops lining the streets. It looks like the specialty souvenir from this area is hand-painted pottery. It seems like everywhere in Italy has a specialty craft. Venice has glass, Florence has leather, etc.





When we sat down to lunch, the waiter took one look at David's American flag t-shirt and explained in slow, condescending English that it wasn't a fast-food restaurant. If only he knew he was actually French, from the land of slow food (and rude waiters, lol).

I don't hold a grudge though... I'm guessing that a ton of American tourists have complained to him in the past about the speed of their cooking and that might get annoying. The food was good and homemade, so there's that.

Unfortunately it was raining by the time we finished our lunch, so we didn't get to explore as much afterwards as we wanted to. I did my best to awkwardly balance my umbrella while taking pictures. 




Apparently there is a Gelato World Championships, and one of said World Champion Gelaterias is in San Gimignano. We couldn't leave without trying some! I have to say that it wasn't the BEST gelato I've ever had, but it was respectable. 



On our way out of the city, we walked down the Punto Panoramico and got some great views of the surrounding countryside.








After an hour in the car, we pulled into Pisa! Right away we were accosted by people trying to sell us crappy souvenirs. Pisa is the definition of a tourist trap.



But I understand why. Seeing the tower, cathedral, and baptistery are all really worth the trip! My favorite part of visiting Pisa is people watching while everyone takes awkward pictures pretending to hold up the tower. When I came here with Jenna in 2013, we spent at least an hour observing. I have lots of funny stalker pictures on that blog post (click to make fun of people with me).

We were a little short on time to see everything before they closed, so no stalker pictures from this trip. We did get some of us, though :)




Old married couple! #oneyeardown


Did you know that the Tower of Pisa is centuries older than Machu Picchu? I do now, thanks to my aunt's comment on my Facebook post. They started building the tower in the 1100s and it was finished about 200 years later. It started leaning almost right away because the foundation wasn't sturdy enough. 



They did a lot of stabilizing work in the 90s/00s, so now it's expected to be around for at least another few hundred years. Until they worked on restoring it, it was leaning more and more every year. Even though it's stopped moving, we still didn't feel the need to make the climb to the top.

The cathedral (and especially its ceiling) is impressive on its own. 




I was very excited to eat PIZZA on a PIAZZA in PISA (see what I did there) for dinner. And yes, that is a pizza with nothing more than white sauce and mozzarella cheese. It's a picky eater's dream food.



It was cool to see the area at sunset and after it got dark out. The crowds of tourists and people aggressively selling stuff were gone, but the great views were still there!




La Spezia turned out to be a great base for exploring more of Italy. Here's a picture of me awkwardly posing on our Airbnb balcony with the fancy porcelain tea set I was excited about.



Grazie, Italy, for the great weekend!





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