Flying visit to Tuscany
Another weekend, another trip to Italy. This time, we spent the day in Pisa. I had to borrow a euro off a fellow passenger to get the bus into Pisa from the airport, because none of the cashpoints were working, so I started the day feeling very cheap. We walked up to the Campo dei Miracoli and saw the tower that everyone has heard about since they were tiny. And it really does lean at an astonishing angle - a ridiculous, crazy angle that seems physically impossible.
This was my twelfth holiday of 2003. After three cheap weekends away early in the year, I'd had the crazy idea of just carrying on booking cheap holidays as often as possible, and to go on one trip a month. I hadn't been abroad in June or September, but I'd made up for that with two trips in March and two in November. And I'd even missed out on one trip, a weekend in Sardinia, when my flight was delayed so much that it ended up not being worth going. I'd been to new and awesome parts of Europe and none of the flights had cost me more than 30 pounds.
Heavy winter skies were breaking up at dusk, as we walked from the tower back to the station. When we got to the Arno, the skies were velvety blue and the town looked nice.
The next day we were late leaving the house for various reasons. We hurried through Florence, getting faster and faster as we went, as we slowly realised how late we were. I really didn't want to miss the train because if I did, I would surely miss my flight home. In the end, we made it to the station with what I thought was seconds to spare. We jumped onto the train, enjoyed about two seconds of feeling massively relieved, then realised that there was no-one else on the train, and the lights were off.
I had a horrible sinking feeling. It looked like my journey home was not going to be straightforward. It turned out there was a train strike on, and there was no way I was getting to Pisa by rail. There was a bus leaving soon, but it was going via somewhere ridiculous and it would take three hours, which was definitely too long. Reluctantly we went to the taxi rank outside the station, and said "aeroporto" to the taxi man at the head of the queue. "Firenze?", he asked. "Pisa", we said sadly. His eyes lit up and off we drove.
It was an incredibly unpleasant journey, watching the numbers on the meter climb higher and higher. I made it to the check-in with barely a minute to spare, but I was a horribly large number of euros poorer.
The flight home was a slight consolation. A couple of times before when flying into and out of Pisa, I'd noticed a small island off the Tuscan coast. On this flight, I got a great view of it, basking in the orange evening light, with the hills of central Tuscany rising out of the mist in the background.