You step out of the train station in Pisa. It is late March and the early
mornings can still be cool and damp. You have been on the overnight train
from Paris and although you slept well you slept little. Your compartment
mates were fine company and the wine was good and it was well into the
night before the sound of voices and wine put you to sleep.. You did wake
up once and peaked out the window. All you could make out were large dark
splotches which could only be the Alps. At least you have seen them if
And now it is six am in Pisa. You are really on your way to Firenze but
you decide to make this stop over to see The Leaning Tower. The two expressos
you had just had in the recently renovated cofffee shop have begun to
work and you feel that momentary rush of energy. There are taxis available
but you decide to walk. All your bags are in the gardaroba and the path
to the Tower is short and well marked .
In fifteen minutes youn arrive at the Tower with its less famous companions,
the Basilica and Baptistry. Together they make a magnificent triumverate
and the field they occupy becomes the Field of Miracles. Even in the mist
of an early spring morning the trio glow with a reverential beauty.
It begins to rain and the Basilica is not open. You risk a drenching
in order to walk around all three. The grass in the surrounding field
is lush and when the rain suddenly stops and the sun shines through, it
It is almost seven and souvenier hawkers that nearly surround the site
are already open. There is no such thing as too early for them. They stand
by their stalls, smiling, as another slightly tired and completely overwhelmed
group of tourists come by.
You decide to move quickly past the collection of trinkets and t-shirts.
As you wait to cross the street you hear one woman say to another that
these are the most inexpensive souvenirs she has come across.
The original plan was to catch a later train to Firenze but the day has
turned sunny and the bus would be a different sort of ride. Train tracks
seem to attract a certain kind of clutter that is not always flattering.
The highway would provide a different sort of view. You would be seeing
the front of everything rather than the back.
The drive is quick. You are surprised by how flat the route is. You see
hills rising up from a short horizon but around you for now the road stretches
You watch the succession of small farms, each with its now blossoming
olive grove. As you hit a small rise you see the countryside is dotted
with white patches. The houses lool new and like villas. The farmyards
neat with flowers and shrubs and large pottery and sculptures. Some still
had remnants of past generations that could be seen. Perhaps it was the
old house once but now with the front remodeled it was a workshop or a
storage area or a garage. Modern and old Tuscany finding a workable present.
The deep greens of spring are everywhere. Not your ordinary greens but
rather a green that shines with a certain flouresence. These hills and
valleys of Tuscany have been tended for thousands of years and you realize,
as the bus rolls along to Firenze,
that it is not the spring of this year but the spring of every year. It
is the time of never ending renewal.
The bus pulls over at a roadside restaurant for what appears to be an
unscheduled stop. The driver says fifteen minutes and there is a grumble
from some. Others go out for a cigarette. You step out to stretch your
The air is filled with the smell of fresh growth. The hills are not far
away now and you can see a farmhouse sitting on top of a rise. Before
it, sweeping down to the roadside is the lush bright green of vinyards.
You inhale deeply and you want to be up on that hill where the fragrance
of spring is even stronger.
Before you get back on the bus you take a last look around at this countryside.
It is only a few minutes yet to Firenze's
hinterland and the colours of spring will become less obvious.
It is only here in the country that you can see Tuscany renew itself,
in the places in between the monuments, where the true monument is the