Week 2 – Pisa or Bust!

Hello everyone! This week has been quite the learning curve. I did a lot of exploring by myself this week, and let me tell you that without service, it’s very difficult. If you plan to travel alone and you don’t have wi-fi or service, and you’re worried about getting lost, here are my tips:

  • Tell someone you know where you plan to go (so that someone is able to help you if you get overwhelmed).
  • Additionally to that first bullet-point – make sure you have a way to contact someone should you need any help!
  • Either find a paper map, or download offline google maps! (You can download the map of an entire city and you can search for directions the same way you would if you were online).
  • Try to remember street names or landmarks so you can find your way back if you make a wrong turn somewhere.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask people for directions! (Although to be completely honest, a lot of native Italians don’t know street names either, so be prepared for that)

I’m letting all of you know these tips because I got overwhelmed and anxious several different times throughout the week due to being lost. I’d like to try and help the rest of you avoid that.

Now that we’ve covered that, let’s talk about sights to see!

Earlier this week, I went to the Selfie Museum. Basically, the premise of the museum is that you become part of the art. They have many different set ups and moods throughout for you to – you guessed it – take selfies (although I feel that it’s misnamed because it’s quite difficult to take actual selfies in there). Downstairs there’s this Pinocchio exhibit that can seem a little creepy at first because of all the wooden animatronics, but once you get used to that, it becomes much more enjoyable and interesting! Despite the fact that I went there during peak tourist hour at the rest of the museums, this one was essentially empty. I would definitely recommend though, that if you decide to check out this museum, that you bring a friend or two, because I think it would be more enjoyable that way.

I guess this is what’s behind Mona Lisa’s smile
Are you hypnotized yet?

Downstairs there’s this Pinocchio exhibit that can seem a little creepy at first because of all the wooden animatronics, but once you get used to that, it becomes much more enjoyable and interesting!

On Friday, I was supposed to go to Montepulciano to see where they filmed the Italy scenes from the second Twilight movie, but the transportation was very chaotic and disorganized, so I had to cancel. This is something that happened to me several times this week. I’m sure a lot of people plan the details of their trips to the very last detail, and I like to think I do, but sometimes things just don’t go according to plan and that’s something I’ve been learning this week to be okay with. I’m learning to just make lemonade when life hands me lemons.

Instead of going to Montepulciano like I had planned, during the afternoon I just ventured out into Florence and went shopping for some souvenirs and scarves/shawls for when I eventually make it into a cathedral. While on my mini adventure, I had some man, who came up to me and ask for a fist bump, and I was really weirded out at first, but when I fist bumped him, he said something like “Yeah Africa!” He was also Black, so I think there was something about solidarity in that moment, but I’m not from Africa. It kind of felt like that moment in the movie Mean Girls where Lindsey Lohan’s character, Cady, is getting introduced to her class as someone from Africa, and Tina Fey’s character says to a random Black student in the class “Welcome”, but that girl was just from Michigan. It was an odd but interesting nonetheless moment.

That evening, I went to this place that was mostly known for serving hugeee frozen margaritas, and they were absolutely delicious! I had a pineapple-mint flavored margarita, and it was so sweet and fruity. It was no wonder why people had suggested it to me.

Pardon the snapchat filter, it was unfortunately the only photo evidence I had of this drink

I Imagine this next part is most likely the reason you’ve continued to read this post – Pisa!

Now, for starters, I have to say that I was actually in Pisa for a very short amount of time. This is quite the story though, so buckle up and get ready to read along.

I had my trip to Pisa set for essentially all day today – Saturday – and I believed that I had everything under control, and everything was prepared. Before leaving my apartment for the train station, I had gone through my morning routine without rushing because I gave myself enough time to get ready and get something to eat along the way and still be early for my train…or so I thought. My departing train was set to leave at 9:28am, so I get to what I presumed to be the train station at around 8:45am and relax while I eat my very nutritious breakfast (it was a McDonald’s sandwich).

It wasn’t until about 9:25 that I realized I was not in fact at the train station and was instead at the TRAM station – that I later realized was directly across from it – and immediately start panicking. So, I start hustling, and I go to the underground stairwell to what I thought was the passageway to the train station (FYI – it was not) and I get all the way to the end of a shopping mall where I come across a dead end. At this point it’s about 9:27, and I stop inside this little store to ask for directions to the train station (to which the lady I spoke to did not speak English very well, and my Italian was certainly no better), and find out I have to go back upstairs to the opposite side from where I came in. So, I go up the escalator and I see lights, and for a moment I have this flicker of hope, and then I realize I’m just on the other side of the street from where I was originally standing before I went underground. At this point, I have definitely missed my train – because these trains are very punctual, and they do not wait for you – so I’m just hoping I can somehow find the station and get another ticket for a later train.

I keep walking forward from where I emerged, and lo and behold – there’s the train station. I nearly cried with joy, but I can’t celebrate yet, so I go to a ticket self-service machine and immediately try to book another ticket, only for some reason I can’t find a train that goes to Pisa! And I become so flabbergasted and try to walk a little further to ask someone who works there for some help (which was surprisingly incredibly difficult). I eventually find out that I was simply using the wrong self-service machine and find the correct one to rebook my ticket. Now, I feel a little better, because I book another ticket that’s only 30 minutes out, and I wait for the ride to show up on the departure sign… only it never shows up!

I start to think that maybe I booked the ticket for later than I thought, but I in fact did not. So, I again ask for help from someone else, only to find out I had been misdirected by them and I ended up missing the train I rebooked too! As a very last resort, I’m thinking maybe I can just refund my tickets because I’m starting to get overwhelmed and anxious, and I don’t have any service to contact my friends. So, I go up to one last service desk to ask for help and the lady working there points me in the direction of the next departing train to Pisa, only this train does not have Pisa as its final destination so I’m a bit mistrusting, but I just go on it and hope that I was not misguided once again.

Luckily, this time I actually made it to Pisa!

Obligatory cringey tourist picture

Long story short, if you book a train ticket to Pisa Centrale, don’t look for a sign that says Pisa Centrale (you won’t find one)! Instead look for the one that says Livorno. Livorno is the train’s final destination, but Pisa Centrale is a stop on the way.

As you can see, this week was fairly chaotic for me, but I’m going to look at it as me discovering new things and learning how to navigate life in Italy. I’m clearly still trying to adjust, but I’m hopeful that the upcoming weeks won’t be nearly as frazzling.

Until next time, ciao!

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