The city of Pisa is the main gateway to the Tuscan region of Italy. However, it is more famous for its leaning tower located at the Square of Miracles, and a cemetery with soil brought back by Crusaders from Golgotha. Golgotha is the hill where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, making its soil sacred and holy. Locals believed that being buried with this sacred soil will ensure their path to heaven.
We were back in Pisa for the marathon. We flew with Ryanair on Saturday, December 17, 2016. The flight at 7:05 AM took an hour and 45 minutes before landing at Galileo Galilei Airport. The 12 euro cab ride took us directly to our weekend accommodation, Hotel Rellais Dell Orologio. It was too early for the 2:00 PM check-in time and the sport expo so we decided to have a leisurely breakfast. The buffet selection was not extensive but they did serve caviar for breakfast. Nice.
I thought the expo location was the same as it was in 2014 right outside the walls of the leaning tower but I was wrong. They moved it to the Centro Universitario Sportivo (CUS), a twenty minute walk away. Richard and I decided to walk and see the area outside the tourist haven. The sport expo for the 18th Pisa Marathon was bigger this year, with Ricola as a special sponsor. This race requires a medical certificate valid within the last year.
This Saturday market was on our way to the sport expo. We stopped by and walked through on our walk back. This was not a Christmas market but a regular weekend one. They sold all sorts of merchandise at bargain prices: clothing, makeup, underwear, kitchen items, and flowers.
Tried a taste of the organic cheese this duo was selling.
The room was ready for us when we returned. I took a short nap before we headed out again for more sightseeing.
The hotel is located a few meters away from the start and finish line in front of the leaning tower. We had dinner the last time we were here at Trattoria Pizzeria Toscana, a restaurant off one of the side streets. I ordered seafood pasta while Richard had margherita pizza and we shared the grilled calamari.
The marathoners started at 9:00 AM together with the half marathoners on Sunday, December 18, 2016. They also added the new fit walking category which was possible with the generous time limit of 6.5 hours. The route was mostly flat, passing interesting old structures, housing areas, vineyards, and the Pisa marina.
There’s something to be said about crossing the finish line with the leaning tower in the background. I felt I am but a blip in time running by a structure that has existed for 600 years. The finisher’s medal has a colorful drawing of surrealist Spanish painter Salvador Dali, a nod to the exhibit of his artwork being held in the city.
I now have two Pisa marathon finisher’s medals, one each from 2014 and 2016.
I cleaned up at the hotel and rested a bit before attending Sunday mass at the Pisa cathedral at 5:00 PM. The cathedral has incredible ornate interiors and it felt good to be able to attend even if the mass was in Italian. There are throngs of tourists outside but there were not that many churchgoers inside. It was a quiet and peaceful celebration.
Being creatures of habit, we were back at our now familiar restaurant after the service. Richard ordered the same grilled calamari while I tried the grilled seafood plate and shared the vegetables. We really like grilled seafood so why not order them again?
We left the hotel early to check in for our flight at 9:15 AM on Monday, December 19, 2016 and were back in Brussels by 11:05 AM.