I’m studying law at the minute. This is my second time round at university, so I wasn’t overly concerned about the shock factor of going back to studying. What I failed to take into account was that, last time, I was studying a practical music degree where exams were wonderfully rare and my creative brain and I were allowed to gallivant freely (although usually on Citylink buses between Uig and Glasgow). This time, however, I am studying a course-work heavy, exam-laden, academic subject straight from the fires of hell.
I loved the work, the reading and the research but I am truly terrible with exams. My brother was lucky enough to frequently witness me sitting and shaking, while clutching a double-shot latte and desperately trying to retain things like the difference between theft and robbery. Before each exam I got to the hall about three hours early in a futile bid to try and give myself time to calm down. Anyway, I got through them all in one piece (physically, at least) but I was exhausted and already nervous about the results so the only thing for it was to jump on a plane to somewhere cheap and cheerful. It was not terribly difficult to find a couple of co-conspirators for an affordable getaway – my brother, Liam, and our friend, Rachel, decided to join me – and less than twenty-four hours after my Criminal Law exam we were on our way to Pisa.
(Rachel and Liam)
We arrived in Pisa late. It was warm and the air smelled like parma violets and even though it took us several decades to figure out how to get a taxi we were in good spirits. Our beautiful little villa on the west side of the city was perfectly located for walking in to town so after a pizza and a cold beer we went in search of some landmarks.
(Our villa, situated just off Via Andrea Pisano, was close enough to walk into Pisa. Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission.)
We sort of stumbled upon the leaning tower. My brother will definitely debate this but none of us have particularly keen navigational skills so we were pretty elated when we looked up (and a little to the side) and saw Torre di Pisa in all it’s glory.
We half-attempted to find the student bars on the first night but it was already pretty late so we called this ‘getting our bearings’ and headed home.
The next day we got up at a reasonable time and made our way to Florence. This had vaguely been the plan as, from the second we decided to head out, we had been bombarded by friends and family with their passionate recommendations about the city. After a quick ride on a double-decker train (much to Rachel’s excitement) we found that our friends and family were absolutely right.
(Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore/our first steps into Florence)
The first thing on the agenda was to find food and beer. Insalata Caprese e una birra piccola, to be specific.
We probably could have sat eating cheese and drinking small beers all day but the growing bustle of Florence was calling us. It was still quiet when we made our way to the river and across the Ponte Vecchio but by the time we decided we’d gone far enough the bridges were all packed with tourists, taking in the sights up the Arno and jostling for the perfect photo op. We stopped for ice cream (and a litre of beer for Liam) before heading back towards the train. So grateful to have had the more peaceful moments in the city centre. Florence was overwhelming in the beauty of the imposing architecture in the centre and the friendliness of the people (even though it was apparently peak tourist season!) and I really felt like I’d need a fortnight to be satisfied that I’d taken it in.
(View west from the Ponte Vecchio/a bit of people-watching over lunch)
We got back to Pisa and decided that, since we were all on a tight budget, we’d grab some shopping and make dinner at the villa. Rachel really took the lead here and made us a delicious meal while Liam aggressively listened to the Arctic Monkey’s new album and I sat on the steps in the garden and drank wine. We ate, drank and laughed and for the first time in months study and exams were gone from my mind.
Soon, however, the call of the student bars along the river was too strong. We found our way a little better this time and quickly we became absorbed in the bubble of nightlife that based itself high on the walls surrounding the water, and occasionally nipped into the bars opposite for a 1euro shot. I don’t have any photos of this part of the trip and, quite frankly, that’s probably for the best. We had quite the adventure on the way home; plans for a shortcut went (very) wrong but at least by the time we left the last bar….it was…well it was pretty light outside.
We stumbled in around 7am, slept for what felt like seconds and then we were back on our way to the airport. Arriving back in Edinburgh was surprisingly joyous; I think the fact that I arrived back happy showed that the trip had done it’s job. I managed to last about, oh I don’t know, twelve hours before resuming exam-result panic but it was somewhat more tolerable when I had some photos to edit and a long and eventful walk-of-shame along the Arno about which to reminisce!