Capalbio and Pisa

The Friday morning before our visit to the Cinque Terre began just as quickly as Thursday ended. I awoke to Mike’s stupid duck alarm once again and finally recorded one of my most vivid dreams.

Stumbling to the kitchen, I quickly made two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the day. Then I wolfed down a heaping bowl of cornflakes with kiwi and blood orange. The breakfast of not champions, but winners.

We took a two-hour bus ride to Capalbio to enjoy another hill town. With splendid views overlooking the countryside and yet another historic center, we were quite busy. Only I elected to enjoy the view, I just couldn’t get enough and this time I had over an hour to enjoy the city and sun.

The Mediterranean is not as salty to me as the Atlantic, by the way. A short while later, most of USAC had taken over a beach in the area. Not a cloud in the sky, surrounded by most of my friends, the day was about to heat up … literally. Three hours on the beach without sunscreen, I turned into Larry the Lobster from Spongebob. At any rate, being at the beach reminded me of home. The sand felt so good between my toes. Swimming is also a great stress reliever.

With a sizzling back and deep-fried sunburn, I hopped back on the bus headed to the Tarot Garden. Influenced by Gaudí´s Parc Güell in Barcelona, and Parco dei Mostri in Bomarzo, as well as Palais Idéal by Ferdinand Cheval, and Watts Towers by Simon Rodia, Niki de Saint Phalle decided that she wanted to make something similar; a monumental sculpture park created by a woman.

In 1979, she acquired some land in Garavicchio, Tuscany, about 100 km north-west of Rome along the coast. The garden, called Giardino dei Tarocchi in Italian, contains sculptures of the symbols found on Tarot cards. The garden took many years, and a considerable sum of money, to complete. It opened in 1998, after nearly 20 years of work.This garden was built by Niki de Saint Phalle, (October 1930 – May 2002,) who was a French sculptor, painter, and filmmaker. In the pulsating sun, the mosaic giants reflected rays of sunshine all throughout the park. I marveled at the incredulous structures with a certain appreciation that a tarot garden deserves. This place was like an Italian theme park. There were things to climb, buttons to press, and ice cream to be devoured. Sad to leave, but anxious to get to Cinque Terre, we hit the train tracks.

Three and a half hours later, La Spezia Centrale had four more Americans to worry about. An expensive cab ride due to out-of-service buses landed us at a super cozy hostel on the outskirts of town. Our hostel was like my friend Jake’s loft and den – a slanted roof, with two rooms and a bathroom. I felt at peace here. The sheets were also colorful, and that was a positive mood enhancer.

A quick dinner and we were off to bed, ready for the challenge of Cinque Terre.


It was another morning awaking to my roommate’s ungodly duck alarm. After a quick breakfast at the caffe, we walked to the train station; except our tickets were not valid due to a train mix up. The train we were going to take was only a weekday train. Therefore, we bought new tickets for Pisa Centrale and arrived 20 minutes ahead of schedule – just another example of turning a bad thing into a good thing. My dad always taught me to make the best of a bad situation…

We had lunch at Pisa Centrale before heading into the historical city. We passed shops, coffee bars, and local souvenir shops. For such a small city, it was pretty Americanized.

Most of the Italian shop owners spoke audible English. I knew then that I would never be able to study abroad here.

Before we reached the Leaning tower of Pisa, there was the defiled statue of Nicola Pisano, from whom the city gets its name. I couldn’t believe what I saw, though. The statue was the first defiled statue I’ve seen in Italy.

Reaching the tower, we took our perspective pictures. You know the shot everyone takes. I also had one taken of myself ‘leaning like a cholo’ because of a scavenger hunts my friend made me. The Leaning tower of Pisa is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its unintended tilt to one side.

It is situated behind the Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in Pisa’s Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo) after the Cathedral and the Baptistry. The tower’s tilt began during construction, caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure’s weight. The tilt increased in the decades before the structure was completed, and gradually increased until the structure was stabilized (and the tilt partially corrected) by efforts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.The height of the tower is 183.27 ft from the ground on the low side and 186.02 ft on the high side.

Looking at the tower, I had the same recurring thought that strikes me every time I visit a place or monument that I’ve previously studied: wow, I can’t believe I’m here.

We also looked around at the shops and monuments Pisa’s historic area had to offer. There were two museums and a baptistery in addition to the cathedral. The cathedral, however, was the only thing that was free.

Once we did everything in Pisa, which really does not take long. We began our long journey home that involved a bus ride to Florence, a train to Bomarzo, and finally a bus to Viterbo. Even though the trains were difficult, we all still had a blast. Henal, Kevin, and Mike were fun to travel with; its nice traveling with friends who share the same interests.

2 thoughts on “Capalbio and Pisa

  1. I just have a few questions:

    What is a USAC?

    I see you mentioned “audible English,” what would this be opposed to?

    In what way was the train difficult? I would like a more clear explanation.


    • Hello Sid,

      Thank you so much for commenting on my blog. I’m so sorry that I wasn’t clear enough in my post, I will work on that for next time. Thank you for the feedback.

      As for your questions, USAC refers to the University Studies Abroad Consortium that administrates my program. When I said audible english, I meant that when most Italians speak english in places where english is not that prominent it is much harder to understand because of the accent. Often, I will just ask them to repeat what they said, only slower in Italian because its easier for me. Finally, the trains can be difficult because they can be late, be it delayed or because of a strike. When this happens, it creates a domino effect across your transportation itinerary, especially if you are relying solely on public transportation. Also, schedules are not always accurate at the older, smaller stations. Consistency is something Trenitalia severely lacks.

      I hope this answers your questions, please let me know if you have anymore!

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