A Pisa the action

For most, travel in 2020 has been, at best, haphazard – or non existent. The global Coronavirus pandemic has hit everyone in different days. But at the risk of making a massive statement of a first world problem, trying to get away anywhere has been an exhausting process.

In March I was due to return to the United States, on what has pretty much become a second holiday home to me. In itself, cancelling that trip was inevitable at the start of what became a worldwide lockdown and effectively a ban in traveling anywhere. But I’d hatched a Plan B – with my beer buddy John – to drive through the European microstates of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg at the end of September. One by one, countries were added to the UK “banned” list – requiring self quarantine on return.

Having made a special effort to acquire this, it felt like someone was trying to tell me something….

No matter – we could easily get to Croatia, right? A “safe” country with a relatively low rate of Covid-19, until about a fortnight before we were due to travel, when it too was on the hit list. It was time for Plan D – Portugal. By this time quarantine didn’t matter – it was going to be a week in the sun come what may. We weren’t cancelling.

Our tour operator had different ideas, 72 hours before departure. Plan E was to still go to the “safe” island of Madeira, still exempt from the regulations. However, it – together with plans F and G (Cyprus and Turkey) required proof of a negative Covid test on arrival.

The choices were beginning to narrow. Poland and Germany were options, but right at the last minute an opportunity presented itself from our local airport, East Midlands. I’ll be honest – Pisa had never occurred to me as a destination. After all, it only had that boring tower and not much else. But it was a short flight away – and cheap. And its airport was so close to the city itself you could transfer by monorail – with the comedy name of the PisMover. (typos intended).

The journey takes about 10 minutes and brings you directly to the central train station.

The city itself is relatively compact and walkable, divided by the River Arno. The waterway itself isn’t that elegant, but it’s flanked by beautifully coloured buildings punctuated by stunning churches and other historic structures. It may not quite be Venice, but it oozes unmistakable Italian charm.

The River Arno has three main bridges running through the centre of Pisa. The whole city is relatively walkable and mostly flat. A trip on foot from the Central Station to the leaning tower takes about 45 minutes – but there’s no need to rush.

There aren’t too many hotels in the city centre itself, but the growing popularity of sites like Air BnB means there’s no shortage of affordable accommodation. Our apartment is about a 15 minute walk from the centre, though sadly lacks a nearby shop for supplies – or a functioning bar. A small cafe just up the road appears closed – but I get the impression this place has plenty to offer. It’s just a case of finding it.

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