Thanks to Dan from New York, I arrive safely at the Pisa youth hostel, a few minutes walk from the famous leaning tower. It’s actually the bell tower of the stunning cathedral and its baptistry. Together they sit on the green, green lawn of Piazza dei Miracoli.
It took 200 years to complete the tower, begun in 1173, and from the beginning it was in trouble. By the
time the second floor was built, it had started to lean due to soft ground on one side and an inadequate 3 meter foundation. In order to compensate, the upper floors were built with one side taller than the other, so the tower is actually curved. Climbing to the top is a weird experience as the slant and gravity pull you in the same way they do the tower. But the view over Pisa is great.
The tower has survived more than faulty construction. During WWII, a U.S. Army Sergeant was sent to confirm Allied suspicions that the Germans were using it as an observation post. Fortunately, he was so impressed with the beauty of the tower and cathedral complex that he convinced his bosses not to launch an artillery strike.
Back at the hostel I am applauded by demanding, and getting, more than the half-dollar size portion of
tomato sauce spooned out by the hostel’s belligerent cook on the 50 cent bowl of sticky spaghetti that is dinner. It may be this additional cred that convinces Mike from Toledo that I would be just the person to hitchhike with.
On arriving in Pisa he’s found out that the summer job promised him at a bank includes the proviso that he speak fluent Italian. They’ve given him two weeks, and so far he hasn’t gotten past lesson 2. It doesn’t take a lot of prodding from the youth hostel gang to convince him he can live like a king hitchhiking around Italy on his $3.50 a day, and that he’ll learn a heck of a lot more than he would spending the summer at a Pisa bank.
Tomorrow we’ll head to Rome! Two problems solved.
Next: Rome the Eternal