16. Pisa, Italy
(Actual Trip Date: September 22, 2010)
There are many moments when I just wish the tourists would just disappear. People pushing and shoveling against me to get a better look at the monument or small kids appearing out of the blue at my knees. Because I’m short, I get pestered and flustered when trying to see something over many people’s heads. The atmosphere becomes claustrophobic and chaotic. The air becomes stifled and hard to breathe in. Voices reverberate loudly in my ears while I’m too busy fumbling for my camera hidden in the dark belly of my purse while trying to dodge and get out of the way of passing tourists.
Needless to repeat, there are many, many moments I wish tourists would just vanish.
But then I remember that I’m a tourist as well, and I force out a half-grimace, half-smile in bittersweet irony.
After an exhausting but successful shopping day at Florence, my friends and I boarded a train to Pisa, Italy for the night and upon arriving, meeting my equally tired cousin, and finding our limbs and minds drenched in exhaustion, we let sleep sprinkle its powder over our eyes, but not before making an insane plan to wake up at the crack of dawn and walk over to the Leaning Tower of Pisa (the only thing we really wanted to see in Pisa). We had to do it fast in order to catch our 7 AM train to Rome.
Our alarms rang at five in the morning and we yawned, blinked our droopy eyelids, attempted the most difficult task in the world of climbing out of bed, and starting hiking to the tower with our heavy backpacks cackling as our burdens to carry. Looking up at the night sky blearily the entire thirty minutes we hiked, I wriggled my numb toes in my boots as my calf and back muscles burned. I couldn’t help but think, ‘Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea…’
Nonetheless, I laughed in glee as the Leaning Tower of Pisa approached into my view, and next thing I knew, I was bounding towards it, dropping my backpack and pulling out my camera. Only about five minutes into staring at the tower did I realize something absolutely peculiar.
There were no tourists around…except us. The grounds of the Leaning Tower weren’t open, but this was one of those sights where you could see everything without wandering closer onto the grounds. The place was absolutely deserted except for seven pre-med girls and my cousin.
The result? It made looking at a tourist attraction so much more enjoyable. We laughed, took pictures, made fun of one of my friend’s swollen eyes she woke up with this morning, and then we paused as something more spectacular arrived.
By this time, it was already around six in the morning. Suddenly, but in a gradual process, the sky began to lighten in blue shades and the amorphous clouds became more outlined. The tower and its sister buildings began to be more lineated, and then there were peaks of sunrise stretching into the sky. Streaks of pastel orange, red, and pinks slowly crawled above us bringing light into every crevice of our worlds. The breathtaking, gorgeous sunrise illuminated the Leaning Tower, leaving shadows on the ground. Birds chirped, announcing the new dawn of the glorious day, and all was silent around us as we basked in the unexpected gift from nature.
The sky looked like it was erupting into a tranquil pasture of heavenly clouds.
A tourist attraction has never looked so beautiful in my eyes.
So lesson learned? Go see tourist attractions at the crack of dawn.
That is if you can wake up because it was a most difficult task for me. But would I do it over?
A million times over.
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