We had just a few hours at Pisa, but we could not travel all over Italy and not visit the famous leaning tower. So we asked a lady on a train what to do, and she wrote for us the name of the bus stop to which we needed to go to see the leaning tower.
We showed a bus driver the stop, written in my diary, and he seemed confused. He asked us a question in Italian. We did not understand. We shook our heads regretfully. “Leaning tower?” we asked.
He shrugged. “Torre pendente?” he asked.
We shrugged. “Leaning tower of Pisa?” we asked, leaning slightly, to convey what we wanted.
“Piazza del Duomo?” he asked.
“No, no, no duomo!” we said. We knew that word. ‘Duomo’ meant cathedral. “Leaning tower!” we cried. “Seven wonders of the world! Leaning tower of Pisa!” It’s strange how the subconscious believes that volume can surmount the language barrier.
“Pisa,” nodded the bus driver, and gesticulated to us to walk in.
We exchanged glances, shrugged and ascended. When we reached the stop, he announced, “Piazza del Duomo!”
That was not the name of the stop in my diary. My diary said ‘piazza del miracoli’, the square of miracles, we guessed. We remained seated. He gesticulated frantically to us. We tried to ignore him, but he gesticulated again, more frantically, the way only Italians can. What could we do except get off? We did not really want to see the cathedral, but there it was. We walked mournfully towards it. And there, peeping out, was the leaning tower. We grinned happily at the driver who had driven off, wishing we could have thanked him nicely, instead of having shrugged and made sad faces at him. Only later did we learn that the ‘Torre pendente di Pisa’ is known to be in the ‘Piazza del Duomo’. Maybe we should have found out before going there.
But then, if we had, we would not have been so delighted with and silently grateful to our helpful bus driver.