Tag Archives: Pisa

Chanon – Genoa to Pisa

Chanon deValois (Summerton) – 15th to 20th October – Genoa to Pisa

Flying into Genoa after the traumatic experience only known by Ryan Air passengers I was delighted to see sun and the marina conveniently located near the airport. Thus saving me from the fun of negotiating with the local taxi drivers to take the most direct route.

Retirement has clearly got a different schedule for Chris and Valeria as my arrival seemed to be much sooner after my scheduled landing than they had expected or perhaps they had forgotten my penchant for being punctual.

However, all was forgotten after the obligatory Windependant (“Agnes bored now”) tour and safety demo and a glass of Italy’s finest Prosecco.

The following day we spent discovering the sights of Genova and looking for the Hard Rock Cafe, which apparently no longer exists! I have shared some of my photographs that hopefully show the winner parts of the local area, marina and locals.

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A few photographs of the hosting ship and the ‘crew guy’ as well as the views from deck including the neighbours and the evening light. I was most disappointed that the very posh ‘Vicky’ that took up half the harbour and had 16 crew did not invite me to join their ‘jetty party’ as I walked past but felt vindicated when I was treated to a feast created by Valeria while it rained!

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We also allowed Chris, the crew guy, the option of choosing the evenings film and he chose a B&W George Clooney film called The Good German. We all agreed that it was rubbish and that the best part was Paul’s well timed text message in the middle of it.

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I was really looking forward to getting out on the Med and doing some sailing as it has been a long while since I was in Australia sailing around the Whitsunday Islands but it seems despite out initial optimism in the harbour area, once out on the open road as it were it was tantamount to a mill pond with little wind.

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We had a little look at the beautiful Portifino on our way to La Spezia  for our evening stop over. You can see how calm the sea is, however poor it was for sailing it was very good for photography!

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As we predicted the beautiful sunset we had hoped for previous nights was block on this night by land but we did get a peak at the day old super moon which was pretty nice.

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You may notice the absence of photographs the next day and that would be due to the confused sea as Chris called it. I missed my calm sea from the previous day, and spent most of the day hanging on to the table, my breakfast, you name it!

However, once we arrived in Pisa I was pleased to see land and a beautiful sunset to boot. As you will see I did get a few photographs of Chris faffing with his boat once I firmly had my feet planted on the ground.

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We spent the next day trekking into Pisa on the local bus which is notoriously unreliable we were told and wandering the streets to find that silly tower that someone never put proper foundations on.

It has been about 21 years since I was last in Pisa and I would say a few things have changed they still haven’t fixed the tower, and the price of admission has certainly gone up. We agreed that paying admission to a church is not ideal and as you can see below I used Chris for scale.

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A fine excursion down the Northern Italian coast on the Windependant with the Thorne’s, their hospitality and facilities are truly worth a visit. My top tip for the trip is pack your travel sickness medication and do not let the the crew guy pick the movie.

Pisa

dsc_0472-via-borgo-strettoPisa has been a nice surprise.  We arrived obviously expecting the Tower and the tourists that go with such an iconic site but Pisa itself is a nice, and strangely ‘untouristy’, town.  I have only found the Tourist Office open on one occasion!  I had sort of expected endless souvenir shops and the like but even in the proximity to the tower there remarkably few.  Away from the Tower the town is busy without being too busy, there is a University here and so there are hundreds of students, but tourists don’t seem to stray too far from the Tower.   There is a nice normal, local feel to the place.  It is off season obviously but walking through town is very pleasant.

Piazza Vittorio Emanuele
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele

It is about 14km from Porto di Pisa and there is a bus stop right outside the port.  On our first try with the bus we were given the impression that it was a rather unreliable service; however, we have since discovered it to be the opposite, and for 2 euros per ticket it is well worth it.   The bus drops you off close to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele which is built in a large gap in the old southern wall of the city and from there it is a short walk north along the pedestrianised shopping street, Corso Italia, to the river.

Fiume Arno
Fiume Arno

The roads along the banks of the river are not pedestrianised but once over the bridge and into Pizza Garibaldi the streets are.  The buildings are all old and the streets follow the original medieval ‘plan’; they are a fantastic random patchwork of streets and alleyways of no regular width or direction, although finding your way is not too difficult.

Via Borgo Strtto
Via Borgo Strtto
Corso Italia
Corso Italia
Scuole Normale Superiore
Scuole Normale Superiore

dsc_0492Wandering through the streets towards the Cathedral you come across  the Piazza dei Cavalieri, an enormous, wide open piazza in the centre of the city north of the river surrounded by some magnificent buildings; these include the Scuola Normale Superiore and the Church of San Stefano dei Cavalieri; and for a change the piazza is big enough to allow you to stand far enough away from the buildings to actually appreciate them!   The Scuola is really impressive, the entire frontage being covered in frescos.

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Cathedral and Tower (look better in the sunshine)

The Cathedral site, the Piazza dei Miracoli, is hardly visible until you are almost there and then the tower appears above the tops of the houses.   The Tower was the bell tower for the Cathedral which is built alongside the north east corner of the old city wall, a significant run of which is still standing.   The three most magnificent buildings are the Baptistry, the Cathedral and the Tower, all surrounded by wide lawns, footpaths and hordes of people posing for ‘that’ Tower of Pisa photo.   It is comical to see their antics and I should imagine that in the summer it becomes quite manic! 

dsc_0517The Tower is a magnificent building, quiet apart from its dispute with the laws of physics and is obviously an integral part of the larger cathedral site.   Construction of the Tower was started in 1173and they reached the 2nd floor before it started to settle, apparently the 3 m foundations were never going to be deep enough.   Over the following 200 hundred years they kept on building and the Tower continued to lean and it is in fact slightly curved as the builders tried to straighten it as they went.   In the late 1990s 70 tonnes of soil was removed from under the high side, which reduced and stabilised the lean.  It is now a modest 4 degrees.   It is possible to climb the tower, but the 18 euro fee and 45 minute wait was a disincentive.  To visit the museum, the Baptistry and the Cathedral was a more reasonable 8 euros with no queue.

Mind you the Tower isn’t the only building with a problem with levels.   The south wall of the Cathedral shows some interesting ones as well.

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The Baptistry and Cathedral are both impressive buildings but I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that for us, Finalborgo is to churches what ‘Las Fallas’ in Valencia is to Fireworks.

Baptistry
Baptistry

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Cathedral
Cathedral

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 Pisa is well worth visiting, and not just for the Tower.

Our stop over in Pisa is slightly longer than anticipated as Valeria had to return to the UK for a week and predictably for those days the weather was bright and settled and perfect for a crossing to Corsica; unfortunately these conditions begin to change as her return approaches with some rather brisk winds forecast for the end of next week.   We are headed for southern Corsica and Sardinia and need to negotiate the Straits of Bonaficio; the wind is funnelled between the islands here and increases in speed noticeably and makes the Straits a place to avoid.  So I am back to scouring the weather forecasts for another ‘weather window’!

Porto di Pisa

Not to be confused with Marina di Pisa, which is the town where Porto di Pisa is located, or Pisa itself which is 13 or 14 km inland from here.

Being wonderfully close to the airport, a total of 4 Euros on the bus, it was where Chanon left us and Julian, Zilda, Elliott and Sophie came to meet up with us.   Although we love guests staying on board we figured that having two excited, active and inquisitive children here would be a recipe for disaster and so they all booked a hotel for a couple of nights and caught the bus to see us.   (Of which more later)

Porto di Pisa
Porto di Pisa

Porto di Pisa is a new marina on the south bank of the mouth of the River Arno and is part of a larger planned development with housing on currently scrap land adjacent.   The whole thing will be a part of Marina di Pisa, which as I said earlier is nothing to do with boats.   There lots of ‘Marinas’ along the Italian coast and I get the impression it translates to ‘on Sea’ rather than ‘yacht park’.

Marina di Pisa
Marina di Pisa

Marina di Pisa is a quiet seaside town stretched along the coats towards Livorno, quiet until the weekend that is when it becomes packed with people ‘promenading’ for the  want of a better description, and the Port is alive with local yachtsmen all out for a weekend sail, when the weather is good.

Drop nets in the Boccadarno
Drop nets in the Boccadarno

The River Arno is navigable up to Pisa and there are a number of small boat yards on the banks, all to small for us otherwise Pisa would be a good spot to winter.   In the mouth of the Arno, or Boccadarno, they use a fishing method involving ‘drop nets’.  Quite literally big square nets lowered into the water and hauled up when full.

dsc_0587We are here for a couple of weeks as Valeria needs to go back to the UK for a week and we plan to leave on 3rd November to carry on to Sardinia and our winter stopover.