One night in Pisa – is it enough to see everything and eat all that pasta?
Back in May, while solo tripping through the south of France and the north of Spain, I booked a flight to Pisa as a grand finale of what would be my last solo trip as a twenty-something girl, before entering a new decade where society expects me to be a responsible adult (yeah, right).
Eating thousands and thousands of calories in one day and drinking glass after glass of red wine all by myself – all while drooling over sexy Italian men (even though I have a partner waiting for me at home) might not be something a responsible adult would do (yeah, right).
So I went to Italy, and I did exactly that.
My Ryanair flight landed twenty minutes ahead of schedule, which gave me even more time to explore, eat, relax, eat, and explore some more.
From the moment I got in the taxi, I was already starving and just couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into some firm, tasty pasta al dente from the best restaurant I’d be able to find in the neighborhood. Just thinking about it made my stomach growl like crazy.
I stayed at a surprisingly cheap 5 star hotel (Hotel Relais dell’Orologio) in the city center, only a five minute walk from the famous leaning tower. With its very mixed reviews -anything ranging from “it’s dated and dirty” to “it’s romantic and clean” – I wasn’t sure whether to expect luxury or mediocrity? Cleanliness or dirt?
Well, to my pleasant surprise, it was clean and charming. Old fashioned indeed, but still kind of charming.
The receptionist was ditsy and gave me little to no information about the room and the facilities. Considering I’m quite ditsy myself, I forgot to ask for the WiFi code and check-out time, and ended up returning not just once – but twice – to the reception to ask different questions. Despite returning to the reception twice to have my questions answered, I did forget to ask about the breakfast. Which I’d already paid for.
As the receptionist hadn’t really given me any information about anything at all, she didn’t say anything about any breakfast buffet either. I did, however, find an in-room breakfast menu on my nightstand, so I filled in the form and hung it on the back of my door. I just assumed they didn’t have a buffet and I’d have to get the food delivered directly to the room.
Thinking about breakfast made me even more hungry and ready for lunch, and I simply just couldn’t wait any longer. Before seeing the leaning tower, before doing anything else, I had to feed my belly with a whole lot of carbs. As soon as I possibly could.
This was my first time in Italy. My first time eating real Italian pasta made in Italy with real Italian ingredients, using real Italian recipes, made by real Italians.
I asked my dear friend Mr. Google to help me find a hidden little restaurant with good reviews and not too much to choose from on the menu. Based on personal experience, the smaller the menu, the higher the quality.
And boy did I sure find a good spot for my first ever meal in Italy!
La Sosta dei Cavalieri served me a plate of delicious freshly made tagliolini with pioppini mushrooms accompanied by a glass of Chianti (Tuscan wine). I wanted to burst out a “Oh my God” while joyfully stuffing my face with the best pasta I had ever tasted in my life.
The couple sitting next to me kept staring at me as if I had arrived from another planet. Especially the girl. She gave me an evil stare, and I’m not quite sure why. Even more so when I opened my camera bag and started photographing my meal before eating it.
Once I’d emptied my plate and filled my stomach, all I wanted was a cup of coffee. With milk. Because I don’t like black coffee and I don’t like to add sugar.
Turns out, asking for a cappuccino in the afternoon in Italy, is just as bad as swearing in church. Maybe even worse. Everyone looked at me as if I was Satan in person, and the server told me he did not have cappuccino so I’d have to drink something else.
Fine, then. Espresso with milk and sugar would have to make do.
My full stomach and I, left the restaurant feeling happy and ready for adventures. Slightly tired and bloated, but as ready as someone who’s eaten way too much pasta, could possibly be.
The leaning tower was obviously my main target while in Pisa, but that didn’t stop me from checking out other things on my way.
I stopped and took a moment to admire Piazza dei Cavalieri, a Renaissance square where the magnificent Palazzo della Carovana is located. This late 16th-century palace and university, houses fine art and sculptures. I didn’t enter the building, but I sure took a lot of photos of the beautiful facade.
Before going to Pisa, I didn’t know there was a botanical garden in the city. Turns out, there is. And it’s gorgeous.
Orto Botanico di Pisa was established in 1544, and is part of the legacy left behind by Cosimo I de’ Medici (the first Grand Duke of Tuscany). The garden is operated by the University of Pisa.
Lose yourself in the art and science of botany, take a stroll with or without your romantic interest, or come to the gardens to let your creativity unfold. I photographed the beautiful flowers, the facade of the Botanical School and the old institute building.
I got lost trying to find the exit, and spent maybe twenty minutes wandering around in circles. You may wonder how that’s even possible. Believe me, so do I.
Once I found the exit, I made my way to the main reason for Pisa being on millions of bucket lists worldwide; the leaning tower.
The tower is not the only fascinating piece of architecture located on Piazza dei Miracoli (formerly known as Piazza del Duomo), as it’s situated next to the amazing Cattedrale di Pisa (cathedral), which again is right next to the Palazzo dell’Opera (palace).
The translation of Piazza dei Miracoli may be “the square of miracles”, but before anything else it’s the square of tourist traps. Beware of pickpockets and people trying to aggressively sell you things you don’t want or sign petitions you don’t wanna sign!
And those restaurants that offer a special menu called “tourist menu”, which is basically just lasagna, Carbonara and Bolognese – maybe even a burger and a couple of pizzas – well, avoid them. Unless you wanna spend a lot of money on industrial food served with a large dose of bullshit.
I asked a random guy to take a picture of me in front of the leaning tower, as all my selfies were just bad and made it look like the tower was sticking out of my head or growing on top of it. The guy I asked had a professional camera and was busy photographing his friends, so I figured he’d do a better job than I did.
I’m not too sure about that, anymore.
Even if I hadn’t had time to become hungry again yet, I wanted more pasta. I needed it.
Ristoro Pecorino was the next restaurant of choice.
The man who took my order, whom I believe is the owner of the restaurant, was one of the happiest people I’ve ever met. He was laughing, joking and had the biggest smile on his face at all times.
Once again, I felt like I’d just tasted the most amazing pasta in my entire life. Once again, my plate was empty and my stomach was full. Now more so than ever.
That night, I went to bed feeling as full as one would be after a Christmas meal or an eating contest. Just how I always say “I’m never drinking again” when I’m hungover, I wanted to say “I’m never eating again” as I crawled into bed, feeling like my stomach was about to explode.
The following morning was a bit of a drastic change (at first), and I already regretted thinking I’d never ever want to eat anything again ever.
My room service breakfast never arrived. I waited for one complete hour before going to the reception to ask if they offered any kind of breakfast buffet, and informed them about my room service situation. The receptionist apologized and pointed me in the direction of the breakfast buffet, which, did in fact exist.
The buffet ended up being the highlight of my stay at the hotel. The amount of things to choose from was overwhelming. I loved it. Placed on the table, was anything from different kinds of cured ham to pastries to fruits to different kinds of bread to all kinds of cheese. I tried each and every pastry, every sort of cheese, a lot of ham and some fruit – just to add a little bit of vitamins to the mix.
Once again, I said to myself, “I’m never eating again”.
Satisfied with everything I’d seen, done and eaten, I got in a taxi and waved goodbye to the city known for its leaning tower and the country known for its delicious food.
One night in Pisa was all it took for me to fall in love with Italy. So, where do I go next?