May 5, 2011
I took the wrong turn to the train station, which presents an opportunity to photograph the gold shops on the Ponte Veccio while their windows are still shuttered, all box-like, including what looks like a Chinese lock on one of the Florentine doors. The flower vendors are setting up in the logias. I stop for breakfast at the Riviori in the shadow of the Bargello Museum, and am amused by a sparrow hopping around the marble floor below my pink linen tablecloth.
I arrive at the station an hour early in spite of several wrong turns, and depart for Pisa.
The Pisa train station reminds me of the international concourse at SeaTac. A group of Haitians in an argument are quickly clearing the concourse. My bags are jostled every time I move, so I swing them in front of me as a safeguard against pickpockets. I find a customer service desk to resolve tickets that do not match my printed itinerary, and find that my return is a direct train from La Spezia to Firenze, with no connection in Pisa. Cool! I’m happy with the prospect of not have to pass this way again…
Pisa’s landscape is markedly different from Firenze. I don’t recognize most of the trees and plants. Even the modern buildings are built in the traditional Italian style, with stucco walls and red tile roofs. The mountains are short but rugged, and I can see old stone buildings or walls in places. Freight cars are round-topped like large gypsy wagons. Red poppies grow wild. We pass several stone quarries, and large blocks of white marble line the side of the railroad tracks.
We reach La Spezia, the halfway point between Pisa and Genova. I catch glimpses of the sea between long expanses of tunnel. Further up the coast, the houses and mansions take on the water colored stucco that was prevalent in Venice. There are date palms, and the beaches have turned from brown sand to rugged rock and breakwaters. It is incredibly beautiful and I am now really glad I chose this route.
Arriving in Genoa, I depart the beautiful train station and walk through a downtown shopping core that looks like Florence, but with wide sidewalks covered with logias like those that surround San Marco Piazza in Venice, except that these have neon signs suspended from the vaulting. I look for my lodging – the Ducale Genova B&B – and find the street but I cannot find the building. After a number of phone fails, I connect with Marie who will meet me here in about an hour.
My feet are rebelling and I can barely walk. Dinner is a piece of cheese focaccia from a nearby bakery, and a delightful caffe violetta from Bar Pacini. It tastes like a liquid candied violets. I could be in trouble if I stayed here longer than a day.
Marie arrives, swings open the heavy green exterior door and closes it behind me as I start to gasp. This building was a convent in the 14th century, and Maria demonstrates the acoustics by flicking on a light switch, which we can hear as it clicks on on the bottom floor. Mother Superior could always hear the front door.
The view from this room is the courtyard where a Marble Man stands, in an alcove formed by four 14th century towers. The view is sublime and I could easily take up residence here.
This room is three times the size of the one I’m staying in in Firenze and includes a working kitchen decorated with mirrors and handmade blue tiles. The bathroom, complete with the mosaic ship from the photo on the website, is the size of the main room and includes a full size bathtub… a rarity among European B&Bs.
The lack of WIFI presents a problem with planning my day tomorrow. A cursory look through this room hasn’t yielded a guidebook yet, so I’ll look for one tomorrow. Meanwhile, I think I’ll take a nice, hot bath…
- This is an excerpt from my original travel journal. The full text, which includes historical notes and traveler tips, is housed at AugustPhoenixHats.com.