Somehow, despite all the travel restrictions, cancelled flights and general covid-induced chaos, our trip to Italy at the end of July was still possible. A couple of months ago I was convinced it would all get cancelled. But fast-forward to a two weeks before the trip and our plans were still intact, so we packed our bags, put on our face-masks and headed for Pisa and Lucca.
You've probably heard of Pisa, it's got that big wonky tower in the middle of it. Lucca is another city in Tuscany, about half an hour from Pisa by train and a great place to eat yourself into a pizza/pasta induced coma if you fancy it. It's packed with great cafes, restaurants and bars scattered throughout its old town area.
Pisa was probably a lot quieter than usual at this time of year because of coronavirus, which meant Piazza del Duomo where the Leaning Tower is located was less packed with people than it would be normally. Climbing the stairs of the leaning tower cost a slightly exorbitant €18 but it seemed foolish to visit one of the most iconic buildings in the world and not go up it.
Lucca is Pisa's quieter, more laid back cousin and you can spend hours just walking round it, losing yourself down various narrow streets and seeing which part of the city you re-emerge in. All while eating delicious gelato or stopping off for a coffee, of course.
While travel is certainly possible at the moment, it's different. It was very noticeable in Italy how much more on the ball they are with wearing masks than we are in the UK. Walk into a shop, museum or hotel and you put your mask on straight away or you're not allowed in. Same goes for airports and train stations. Yes it can be uncomfortable in the heat of summer but if it means businesses can stay open because people are following the rules, then that's fine by me.
I suspect this won't be the only trip abroad I take that requires a face-mask until the magic vaccine comes along and sorts out the coronavirus situation. Ah, what a strange time we are living in right now. The keys, wallet and phone check before leaving the house has become keys, wallet, phone and mask. Well, if that means we can travel more safely then it's a very small burden.
Stay safe, help each other out and remember things will get back to normal eventually. And in the meantime, why not gaze admiringly at the photos below.
It does lean a bit doesn't it? Someone should probably fix that.
Who knew holidays in 2020 would include wearing a face-mask everywhere? The Leaning Tower of Pisa decided to take it one step further, by issuing visitors climbing the tower with a buzzer you wear around your neck, which goes off if you stand too close to someone else. But that included people in your party, so it went off all the time and was probably a bit of a waste of time and money for the tourism board if you ask me.
I was challenged to take an 'ironic' leaning on the leaning tower picture. I rose to that challenge.
Keith Haring went to Pisa in 1989 and painted this huge mural on the side of a building near the train station.
Rose and Harriet in front of a door in Lucca that's clearly much too large for them. Or perhaps they are too small.
A view along the waterways of Lucca. Can't really call it a canal as you couldn't fit a boat along it, more of a walled river I guess.
Lion statue that watches over Lucca.
The church of San Michelle in Lucca dates back to the 795AD and was rebuilt in 1070. So it's pretty old. And just behind it is an excellent pizza place called Pizzeria Pellegrini that has been going since 1972. Not quite as old but still pretty good going.
Touristing hard around the walls of Lucca on a four seater bike/wagon. Fun way to spend an hour.
That's Manel on the front, he is Portuguese but also speaks Italian and English because other countries are much better at learning languages than us British and Irish folk.
The gardens of Villa Garzoni in Collodi. Collodi sounds more like it should be a rural town in Ireland but is in fact a town near Lucca which also contains Pinocchio Park, an attraction much-loved by the Irish contingent on our trip.
A section of Piazza dell Anfiteatro in Lucca. The buildings go all the way round it like a large amphitheatre, hence the name.
I think this building is the Institute of Botany in Lucca but don't quote me on that. It's in the botanic garden anyway so it's got something to do with plants.
Ate a lot of gelato on this holiday. I'm not normally one for getting ice cream in a non-edible container but I wanted to pour some coffee onto the ice cream and do a DIY affogato. Because I'm classy.
Back in Pisa and a view along the Arno river. It's only now, writing this caption that I have realised this is the closest we came to seeing a sunset in Italy. And I bloody love a sunset. You don't have to get up at the crack of dawn for it like a sunrise and you can probably have a drink too.
We walked the walls in Pisa and once you get beyond the main square you don't actually see much. However I did like the staircase at the exit, so that exposed walk in baking sun was probably worth it.
Piazza Cavalieri (Knight's Square) in Pisa.