A View Like This

Pisa, Italy
Angie Peng

PISA, Italy—There is no view quite like this one—and I’m not talking about the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I’m talking about the swarms of tourists milling around, posing with the aforementioned crooked piece of architecture.

To be honest, I hadn’t really been planning to make the trip to Pisa just to see this oft-mentioned tourist attraction. It had never held any real appeal for me. It wasn’t as steeped in the history and culture and everyday residential life that I was looking forward to seeing in other cities, and I had fully intended on going straight from Florence to Rome. However, after being in Florence for a few days with two friends, 50 euros, and one traveler we had picked up in Venice, our new friend, whom we had known for all of 24 hours, convinced us to accompany him to the train station so that he could look up times for his own journey.

Ten minutes and a panicked sprint to the platform later, the four of us were aboard a slow-moving train, which was carefully chugging along the hilly Italian countryside toward the small town of Pisa, Italy.

Upon arrival, my first thought had nothing to do with the tower itself, but more with the half-zoo, half-circus that was taking place on the nearby green. There were those leaning against nothing but the air, pretending to “rest” against the tower at the exact angle of that famous lean. There were those lying on their backs, feet in the air, single-handedly keeping the tower from falling over. Couples posed in a cutesy “tug-of-war” over the tower pose. Parents held their babies in a fashion suggesting the infants were sitting on the tower. And of course, there were those repeatedly squatting and leaping into the air, attempting to capture the perfect “jumping picture” when the click of the camera aligns with the moment that one’s hands are triumphantly raised and one’s legs are bent elegantly and one’s body floats above the solid earth.

The tower itself was just the backdrop. The prop in a school play. The setting for some prom pictures. The Christmas sweater pulled out of the closet once a year for holiday photo shoots.

It’s hard to describe the pandemonium and absurdity of it all, but just as I was about to get on my high horse and self-righteously lecture to my friends about the touristy nature of the place, I noticed my friend lying on the ground, camera aimed upwards, beckoning for me to stand in front of her.

“I want you to do a jumping shot,” she said.

I opened my mouth to say no. I was about to say no. I almost said no. But there is something to be said about acting like a tourist sometimes, to let loose and admit to everyone around you the novelty of certain things. So, I closed my mouth and did as she asked.

After all, I am tourist—and I got my jumping shot.

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