The Leaning Tower of Pisa – an unscheduled visit

I was recently reading an interesting blog about a visit to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy by wanderlustplusone . This reminded me of our own more chaotic visit to the same place a few years ago.

Strangely, the story starts on a plane at Pisa Airport destined for London. We had just been on a city break to Florence and were ready to return home when the captain announced that we’d have to disembark and go back into the terminal building. The emergency tracker system, used in the event of an air traffic control failure, was not working and we would have a delay of several hours before a new piece of equipment could be flown out from London.

Not wanting to spend many more hours at the airport, delightful though it is, we hailed a taxi and asked to be taken to Field of Miracles, location of the famous Leaning Tower. En route, the taxi crashed into a stationary vehicle. Our driver jumped out and remonstrated with the owner as if somehow it was his fault! All the while, the meter was still switched on. Thankfully, he finished giving a piece of his mind to the poor vehicle owner after 5 minutes and we were able to continue our journey.

On arrival, we asked if we could book a return taxi for 90 minutes later, to get us back to the airport in good time. The driver assured us this would not be necessary, as there is a taxi rank that is always full of cabs for hire. Trusting him, we got out and wandered onto the Field of Miracles.

The tower leaned just as much as I’d expected it to. Unfortunately, I have no humorous shots of my girlfriend (now wife) appearing to push over or hold it up, as I had already packed the camera in the suitcase. We wandered and admired the tower and the other buildings, including the Baptistry and the Cathedral. We decided we didn’t have time to queue for an entrance ticket, so just soaked up the splendid architecture in its green setting.

After numerous glances around, I still hadn’t spotted a taxi rank. Feeling a little concerned, I asked a policeman (as you do). He informed us there wasn’t one, and if we wanted to get back to the airport, we’d better hot foot it to the railway station where we could catch  a train, or get a taxi from the rank there. A mad dash across the town of Pisa ensued, stopping every so often to ask directions.When we arrived at a bridge across the River Arno, we were reassured that we were going the right way. Pisa seemed to be a very pleasant old town, but we didn’t have time to stop and admire it – this was a route march!

We arrived at the station in perfect time to catch a train to the airport. We got there 50 minutes before the revised time we were due at the departure gate. There was a delicious smell of pizza emanating from wood-fired ovens. We were hungry but decided not to indulge as there would be a meal on board our plane. This was a big mistake! Once we were airborne, I asked the stewardess when the meal would be served. Hadn’t I heard the announcement at the airport? There was no food or drink at all on the plane. That’s why they had given out food vouchers during the long wait at the airport!

We arrived at Gatwick Airport late at night, very tired and very hungry. On the other hand, we had got to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa.


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