Notes From A Sometimes Judgmental Tourist: The Annoying Supporters Of Pisa



A World Winder exclusive by Guestblogger Brett Sills, Author of My Sweet Saga

The backdrop of my daily run

When I was in high school, and first saw Zeffirelli’s cinematic adaptations of “Romeo And Juliet” and “Taming of the Shrew,” I was taken by the setting and wondered where in the hell they could have shot the movies, as they featured buildings that looked straight out of the 16th century.  Recently, during a week long trip to Italy, I realized that those movies could have been shot in any small town in Tuscany.  Tuscany in a word?  Beautiful.  Hell, look at the picture of the backdrop of my daily run during that week.  Magical.  The cities of Florence, Siena, and San Gimignano?  To try to put them into words cannot do them justice.  They are places that make me feel bad for living in Los Angeles because I’ve willingly decided to domesticate myself in a modern dirt clod when I could, instead, live in beautiful history.  But in the middle of all this transcendent beauty that actually causes me to challenge my misanthropy … is a hole otherwise known as Pisa.


This is how it’s done.

And in case you haven’t heard.  It has a tower.  And it leans.


Sure, the tower is a worthy site, if not as awe-inspiring as, say, Michelangelo’s David. But if Tuscan cities were a family, Pisa would be the 40-year-old who squandered his potential and now lives in his parents’ basement spending his days watching too many x-rated films.  Other than the main square, which holds the tower, a beautiful duomo, a historical wall, and some really green grass, the rest of the city is a run down flea market of tourist shops that sell tsotchkes that have destinies no greater than a future yard sale.  You know, gifts that make you wonder something like: “I went to Italy and all I got was this lousy lighter…that leans?”  (OK, in all fairness, I didn’t traverse the entire city, so there might be some other pretty parts, but I certainly did not see them.)


The little girl in front doesn’t quite get the concept. Or just wants to touch the hiney.

But because foreigners come in droves to see the leaning tower, there is an annoying tourist tradition worthy of note.


Years ago, some young chap probably came to Pisa, gazed at the tower, and said to his friend: “You know what’ll be fun?  Imma position myself just right, hold out my hands, and when you take a picture, the perspective will seem as if my scrawny body is holding up the tower.  It’ll be brilliant!”  And, thus, one of the lamest tourist activities was born.  And people do it … by the dozens.


In fact, if you look around the main Pisa square during any given moment, you will be struck by the number of people who don’t want to miss this once-in-a-lifetime experience.  In context, I suppose it appears like a “cute” photo opportunity, but out of context, these people look like a swarm of poor mimes all stuck inside their imaginary boxes. My brother and I were so taken by the mass tradition that, in lieu of photographing the tower, we thought it

Poor form, sir. Now we know who to blame if the tower collapses.

would heighten our Pisa experience to, instead, snap pictures of the people “supporting” it.


And the best part of the entire experience is watching the satisfaction on their faces once the picture is taken.  They giggle and laugh, as if they were the first ones to ever think of it, even though there are several people right next to them doing the same thing.  I imagine, years from now, these same people will open up their photo album and make light of their super strength and ability to hold up the tower, while elbowing the person directly next to them in case they didn’t realize it was a joke.


Even the nuns are in the habit.

As mentioned, the tower is a sight to behold, and the walk up the landmark, as well as the view from the top, is certainly memorable.  But, clearly for me, not nearly as impressionable as the many fine tourists who do their part in keeping the tower steady.

Brett Sills' debut novel is also available on Kindle.

Brett Sills is a multi optioned screenwriter/freelance ad writer who would love nothing more than to move to Europe and sell fruit. He just released his first novel, My Sweet Saga, which is available online on and all other major retailers.

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