Saturday, November 5, 2016

Aventura Toscana: Pontedera and Pisa

It has been more than a month now since Sarah and I joined the Vespa Club del Mediterraneo for the Bella Italia Scooter Rally.  I had intended to post something every day, but there was simply too much going on and the ability to upload photos was limited everywhere.  So I put it off, then got caught dealing with work issues.

But today, I decided to get it started.

We joined the group in Pontedera.  Sarah and I rode the train over from Florence, then walked to the hotel from the train station.  There we met Al and Ardy, along with several other participants.  All were very pleasant, looking forward to the adventure.

We had to deal with some issues during the afternoon, then walked to dinner with most of the riders, heading to pizza at a local pizzeria.

The next morning was the day to pick up scooters.

The rental shop was in a small building on one of the larger roads in town, about a kilometer from the hotel.  We got there and were immediately told by Al that we would be getting a Yamaha Tmax that was sitting out front.  Because we were riding two up, we had requested a 250cc scooter.  I was expecting a Vespa, but we got this one, 500cc of nearly sport bike looks.  I was a little disappointed, but it turned out to be a good choice.

At the shop, running out of scooters.

I took photos of the damages on the Yamaha.  There were plenty, but it ran well.  The biggest issue was that the seat lock was balky and I couldn't open the fuel tank filler panel.  They addressed both and it ended up working well

After signing the paperwork, Sarah and I immediately headed to Pisa to see the tower that leans.  That is when I realized that two mistakes had been made.  I couldn't use my phone because we had opted to not get a European package from AT&T.  That meant that the maps would not regenerate and routes would be lost.  I also had not brought a GPS.

Pisa was only 30 km from Pontedera, but with no preparation or good map, I just looked for signs to Pisa.  Of course, that put us on the largest, busiest roads, but we made it easily.  Once in town. we were not sure how to find the tower, so we parked and I asked a group of police officers for directions.  They were very helpful and pointed us in the right direction.  Luckily, we also found that our phones on airplane mode were able to use the GPS to locate us on our rough maps.

We parked the scooter near the the Cathedral complex and walked a block to bring it into view.  The place was crawling with tourists, but that is to be expected.  We walked around, took the usual photos and decided to go to the top.  That required a ticket and a wait, so we got our ticket and went to the shopping area for lunch.  Once in the long line, we made our way inside, climbed the stairs to the top and enjoyed a wonderful view of the town and surrounding countryside.

We used the sketchy phone maps to take a more scenic ride back to Pontedera where we joined the group for the Welcome Dinner.

It is sinking

A look at the detail of the beautiful tower  Most people only notice that it leans.

This photo shows the extent of the lean.  It is hard to believe that it has not fallen yet.  They assured us that fixes have stopped the leaning and it is good for 200 years now.

About to go into the tower.

Inside, taking the stairs.

Me at the top

It is actually a campanile, or bell tower.  So here are some of the bells.

Nice views from the top

It was a clear day, casting a big shadow on the lawn.

Welcome dinner

Welcome dinner, another table.  That is Jess from MV on the right.  DougL on the left.

And more of the group


  1. This brings up memories. I remember standing in that rental shop, and nudging the MP3 250 I rented out of the herd of scooters in the shop and out into the daylight. What a day that was.

    Sadly, Pisa was an afterthought at the end of the day, and slipped away.

    Looking forward to the rest of the story.

  2. Oh yes, thanks for the memories. And David really missed out on visiting Pisa by scooter (all we could do to help him out was sending him some teaser pics.). Well, at least we got to ride together, enjoyed the beautiful Tuscan scenery und two/three wheelers, and visited the Vespa museum. Have fun in Italy!