Friday, April 18, 2008

Italy Stop #2: Pisa

A small town with one very unusual claim to fame, Pisa was one of the most memorable places I visited. My traveling companions thought I was a little crazy to pay 13 Euros just for the privilege of climbing up over 7 stories worth of stairs. I could get that at the hotel and not pay a penny extra. But for me it was a challenge, so 13 Euros lighter I got in the queue to the top and made my way up.

While the angle of the building is visually noticeable from the outside, it creates an even stranger sensation while climbing the tower. It's narrow and as the steps go up and the leaning gets more pronounced, the indention into the stone steps where the millions of feet have walked shifts from side to side. As it gets closer to the top, the last area of steps is so narrow that it was impossible to stand with my hands on my hips.

At the top, the view is beautiful, and looking down at the ant-sized people below I could get a sense of just how far up this tower was. Finally I could fully appreciate how it really was worth the effort and expense. The railings there were pretty basic and small , leaving a very unobstructed view of the entire town of Pisa.

So overall, Pisa is not for the financially conservative, claustrophobic, over-sized, unfit or someone with Aeroacrophobia. Yet they didn't seem to have any trouble selling tickets despite an overcast and somewhat rainy day.

Something I have noticed after visiting Italy (most especially Pisa) and since then Jamaica is how over-guarded we are in the USA. The serious lack of guard rails at the top of the tower in Pisa, the non-existent hand rails all the way up, the numerous areas of slick marble (it was raining that day) around the outside with minimal railings at best; these would have never made it past the legal department for any attraction in the USA. I saw similar things going on in Jamaica. Climbing a slightly steep and rushing waterfall sans any protective gear might seem like a joke of an idea here, but in Jamaica the guides were doing it barefoot and wearing just a pair of swim shorts. It seems here at home we miss out on some really interesting things to see and do because of the few who will sue the swim shorts off the owners of said attractions because their precious snowflake fell down and skinned his knee. That being said, that sense of safety is kind of nice and I think a tad under appreciated, until I watched a woman fall down hard and repeatedly on wet rocks as she makes her attempt to climb the waterfalls. That's going to leave some bruises. Not cool.

What is Aeroacrophobia? The fear of open heights. Yes, I had to look this up to be sure.