For my last day in Italy, I decided to stay in Pisa and take it easy. I knew I had a long journey ahead of me in the evening to get home, so I didn’t want to walk too far that day. I opted for a stroll along the side of the river Arno, a great opportunity to take even more pictures of the Pisan architecture.
The Museo Nazionale di San Matteo, which sits on the banks of the river, is home to an impressive collection of Medieval art, including bacini ceramici (decorated bowls) and polyptychs (a particular type of painted altarpiece). The building itself is part of an ancient Benedictine nunnery founded in the 11th century and named after Saint Matthew. The museum artefacts almost seem lost in the vast space in which they are housed. The building is incredible. Very little has been done to renovate it, it’s like someone has simply placed some pieces of art in an abandoned church. It felt a bit eerie when I first walked in, especially since I was the only person there, but then I began to appreciate the beauty of the setting. I was actually a little upset when two other visitors entered and disturbed my peace and quiet. There are huge areas of the building that still aren’t used for anything, just void spaces. Unlike the other museums that I had visited in Pisa, this one provided no signage to direct you to the exhibits or to even tell you which rooms were empty and which contained art. You’re left to wander round and work it out for yourself. Whereas this system would cause utter chaos in one of the busy Piazza dei Miracoli museums, here as the Museo Nazional di San Matteo it seemed rather apt. Just like the artwork that it houses, you fell like you’ve suddenly just found yourself in this grand building.
I’d hoped to also walk up to the top of Torre Guelfa on my last day in Pisa. Built in the 15th century, the tower was completely destroyed during World War II. It was rebuilt in 1956, and the views from the top of its 200 steps have been described as ‘enchanting’. Unfortunately, though, it turned out the tower wasn’t open whilst I was there. I think I need to visit Pisa earlier in the season so I don’t miss so much! I did manage to take lots of photos of the tower, however.
My last views of Pisa were doing something that I have never done before, anywhere in the world that I have visited. I walked to the airport. Yes, believe it or not, the airport was only a twenty minute (I could have done it in ten without my backpack) walk from my hostel. It was actually quicker to walk straight there than to walk to the station and catch the train. When I first read that my hostel was a ten minute walk from the airport, I thought it must have been a misprint. There was no mistake, though, and I enjoyed a leisurely stroll on a warm October evening. Definitely one of the more relaxed ways that I’ve ended a trip.