the leaning tower of pisa

We almost didn’t make it to Pisa. In retrospect, I can label it a comedy of errors and laugh about it. But at the time, it seemed less like an adventure and more like the universe was conspiring against us *cue panic attack*.

Though short on time and money, the crazed tourist in me was insistent upon squeezing Pisa into our itinerary. Add another city to the Euro Trip without having to go out of the way and take fun photos to boot? Yes please! It made perfect sense in my head.

The original plan? To make a quick stop in Pisa on our way from Milan to Florence, get our dose of tourist-y photos at the Piazza dei Miracoli (home to the Leaning Tower) and be on our way. What could possibly go wrong? The travel gods must have sniggered to themselves as they squealed, “Everything!”

I could write about each mishap in excruciating detail but I don’t want to drive you away. Wait, are you still here? Phew. Okay. So yeah, instead I’ve done this:

Our Very Own Series of Unfortunate Events

Part 1: The Unfriendly Woman

We reach Milan Centrale in the nick of time. Our train is scheduled to depart in 15 minutes. I dig into my crossover bag for my Euro Rail Pass and we get in line to get our passes activated. The line is, of course, moving at a snail’s pace. Eventually I reach the counter where an exasperated-looking woman snatches the pass from my hand. She looks even more vexed once she takes a look at it. Long story short, my pass is missing a crucial page and cannot be activated. She thrusts it back at me and moves on to the next person. I try to ask her what options I have but she just points me towards the Informazione counter where an even longer line is snaking its way towards a man who looks like he’s about to give up on life.

Part 2: Not all is lost

So, My Euro Rail Pass is basically useless but my friend’s isn’t and she’s still booked on that train that’s about to depart. On the verge of tears at the though of all my money that’s gone down the drain because of the stupid pass (talk about misplaced frustration!), I manage to get myself a ticket for the same train from one of the automated machines. With new hope, I silently exclaim, “Pisa, here we come!”

Part 3: Bad Timing

Ahh, finally on the train. About time things started looking up. From what we could gather from the announcements, Pisa Centrale would be the last stop. So I settled in for a nap.
***
A little more than three hours later, we heard the announcement for Pisa Centrale. People were ready with their luggage and got off as soon as the train came to a halt. We were planning to leave directly for the Leaning Tower so we thought it might be a good idea to freshen up before we got off. As I attempted to brush out stray strands of hair, using my front camera as a mirror, the train slowly started to move. We glanced up at each other in horror. Was this not the last stop?! Apparently not.

Part 4: Where Are We?

About an hour later, the train finally stopped again. This time we weren’t taking any chances. We grabbed our luggage and got off. I don’t remember now which station it was. But to get back to Pisa we had to buy another ticket. Or we could just give up on the whole thing and buy tickets to Florence where a nice hotel was waiting for us. At this point, my stubbornness had kicked in. Alright travel gods, what other nefarious plans have you laid out for us? Making it to Pisa had become more about proving a point than anything else. It had to happen! Some Indian men who saw us looking flustered, suggested that we get onto the next train without tickets and just hide if anyone comes to check (they rarely ever do!). I was desperate enough to consider this option but then sanity kicked in.  So we bought tickets back to Pisa and set off.

Part 5: Triumph

Finally arriving at the Pisa Centrale station felt like a moment of triumph. In your face, travel gods! The triumph, however, was slowly replaced by boredom as the bus that had to take us to the Leaning Tower refused to arrive. An hour later, it appeared in the distance, already full to the brim with barely any space to stand. Lugging our backpacks and other stuff behind us, we squeezed our way in.

The End

Was that an abrupt ending? Sorry. But travel lesson number 1: when it comes to travel, expect the unexpected. Many lessons were learned that day. Hopefully, some of them will help me make smarter travel decisions in future (or not). Either way, I can share them with you and you can be the judge! But remember those touristy photos we had set out to take? Yeah, they happened:

leaning tower of pisa
Holding the Leaning Tower of Pisa up straight, cause I can. Why is that building next to it crooked, you might ask? Who can say
leaning tower of pisa
The happy faces of the triumphant
leaning tower of pisa
Look at me! I’m almost as tall as the Tower. Oh, and that’s all our stuff down there. Whaaat, we had nowhere to stow it away
pisa baptistry
A final one with the Pisa Baptistry. And that’s a wrap!

Lessons Learnt

  1. Don’t leave behind part of your Euro Rail Pass, even if it looks like a useless piece of paper.
  2. Get off the train as soon as your station arrives! EVEN IF YOU THINK IT’S THE LAST ONE.
  3. Do NOT act upon the advice of random strangers. Saving a few Euros on a ticket is not worth getting fined or worse.
  4. And finally: don’t give up. If you want it bad enough, you can make it happen (this applies to life in general, too but you already knew that).

45 thoughts on “Pisa – A Comedy of Errors”

  1. Sometimes things are not meant to be, I’m sure Pisa was worth the visit but all the signs pointed you to keep going , you’ll never know what you missed 😉 Happy all the “errors” were of that kind and you were safe all the way. Thanks for sharing

  2. That is so funny! I absolutely love hearing other peoples stories about their travel mishaps! Not to laugh at you but with you 😉 haha. I swear that just when you think nothing could possibly go wrong, it does! That’s Mother Nature’s way of keeping us grounded I guess haha. Loved it!! Hey also, I do a segment on my blog called “The Confessional” where I highlight stories exactly like this each week! If you are interested in sending me some I would be happy to post and link back to your blog! I’ll put my email just so you don’t think I’m trying to self promote! I just want to help other people 🙂

  3. Sometimes the hardest journeys lead to the best destination! Love your pics, I’ve always wanted to go there just to take the cheesy tourist photos! Glad you were able to make it.

  4. Your photos are amazing!!! They almost look photoshopped (in a good way haha). Love hearing about the journey to get to the prized location, it always makes it so much more worth it in the end! 😀

  5. This is so Italy 😂 We wanted to do the same ok our way from Milan to Florence and found ourselves halfway to Pisa and in the middle of a train strike ! We didn’t move for three hours !! Finally when we got going again we said f’ it and went on by … your experience makes for a great story!

    1. Hahaha! Wow, that must have felt like ages 😮 I guess that’s one thing I’ve got to be thankful for lol

  6. Interesting. I liked your positive approach and making it happen. Travel can be erratic and unpredictable and that’s the beauty of travel though none of us want to get into the mess. Seeing your pictures I feel you were happy at the end. Great story.

  7. Expect the unexpected! Love it because it’s so true. I’ve learned so much during my travels that you can’t learn any other way but to experience them while trotting around unknown places. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. Oh my!!! I had literally the same feeling when my sister and I visited Pisa! The universe made it so difficult to actually get there LOL, maybe it is haunted or cursed haha!

  9. I feel like the best trips are the comedy of errors kinda ones. Great article and great advice – definitely don’t follow every stranger’s bt of advice!

  10. So sorry this happened, but you tell the story so well you had me laughing and smiling as I read it. Pisa will definitely be a place you won’t forget ever!

  11. Lol. Sorry… I find the way you tell this story very entertaining and funny… but I felt so sorry about the mishaps that happened. I thought I had bad travelling days. But yeah, all lessons learnt! 🙂

  12. Your photographs are soo beautiful…. I would love to visit there one day inshaAllah! I guess mishaps during travel make it more memorable … more stories to tell heheh

  13. Hope you had a great time
    The pictures look lovely. It is yet another thing on my whish list. I so wish I so wish.

    Unexpected travel shenanigans and me are soul mates. Always some things happen. And then I think that’s why maybe it is said the dua of a traveller is accepted.

  14. I’ve waited also for almost an hour for that bus going to the Leaning Tower, I thought I was lost I kept on asking if there is a bus coming.
    Another important thing to watch out for – the pickpocketers – I witnessed one while waiting for the bus.
    Visiting Pisa is a must if you are in Florence.
    Europe travel is fun.

    (Where is your photo with that cute dog?)

    1. I know right! We kept thinking we were standing in the wrong spot or something, until it finally arrived. Thankfully, we didn’t have any bad experience with pickpockets, though everyone had warned us many times!
      LOL, you remember that photo? We took that in Florence. I should add it to the post, now that you have requested it 🙂

  15. Hahha, good one!.. Loved the way you have written this!.. Btw, for some reason this also reminded me of my short time there in September last year… Nice pics and you are very pretty too 🙂

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