It’s time for a bit of a story. Sit back, relax and enjoy the magic. I hope you can feel it like I did.
Once upon a time, I took a trip to Pisa. Pisa is about an hour away from the Florence central station and one train can take you all the way there. My Austrian friends were visiting family in Pisa that morning so we all took the train there together at the crack of dawn.
Somebody once told me that Pisa is incredibly small. They said it would take you about 30 minutes to walk through the entire city to reach the Leaning Tower and that was pretty much all there was to see. I trusted their judgement, having not found a legible/free map and walked straight ahead, hoping I would hit the tower. In just a short period of time, there it was! There weren’t very many people in the city on my walk there and I quickly discovered why. Everyone seems to flock to the tower alone. Otherwise, Pisa is just a scaled down version of the Florence streets. Much quieter and cozier, it seemed.
I was wondering how I could possibly get a photo in front of this thing. Especially one with the classic illusion of holding, kissing or kicking the tower (it was hysterical watching hundreds of people grabbing and kissing the open air). Luckily, a girl slightly younger than me asked me to take her photo and it turns out that her and her Mom were from Toronto! They were the first Canadians I had come across. I was beginning to think we weren’t big travelers! We even got a quick photo together before parting ways!
The tower was very neat and I made sure I took some time without my camera to sit in front of it and admire the view. I’m trying to balance that a lot lately. I want to appreciate these things from both sides of the camera fully and completely.
This is where the story comes in. I had it in my head that I was going to see a field of sunflowers even if it killed me. There were photos on post cards and framed in my hostel and they always looked so vibrant and inviting. I thought it would make for some great photos but most of all, I just wanted to run around and dance in one. Wouldn’t you? What is happier than a field of big, yellow flowers in the Tuscan countryside?
I felt like I was the only one with this idea. It certainly wasn’t something people rushed to see. Probably because you aren’t able to find them unless you travel closer to the hills on the outskirts of the Pisa area. I was more than determined. I asked several locals but they all either laughed at me (it happened twice) or directed me to the closest florist. Whoops, not at all what I wanted. Then there was the struggle of finding the tourist booth. I was pointed in several different directions by several different people.
But along the way, I met this stunning lady! She tried to sell me a bracelet but instead I took her photo and gave her one euro. A fair trade, I thought.
When I finally found the tourist office, the lady there told me that the sunflowers were late to bloom this year but there may be some out where her parents lived. She told me to take a bus down to its last stop, get off and walk along the arches until I found a field. There was no estimated time given or even reassurance that there was definitely going to be a field in bloom but I needed to see this. I had the thought in my mind and I wasn’t leaving until I made it a reality.
First I waited for my bus for an eternity, not knowing if it even came on Sundays at all. When I got off at the correct stop, there were two different directions I could have headed. I really should have asked her which one and at that point I was hitting myself for not doing so. They both seemed to stretch on and on. My gut said left but my feet said right so I listened to them instead. Haven’t I learned yet that my gut always knows? I walked for a long time until I realized that I was heading further into a residential area and the chances of a field were slim. So, I turned around and walked all the way back. Damn, I do a ton of walking in a day! The town was also completely dead. There wasn’t a person in sight and all the shops were closed. I guess they shut down the city on a Sunday afternoon so there wasn’t a soul I was able to ask for directions. I was praying and wishing for my IPhone to fall out of the sky with the Google Maps app open.
When I reached my starting point again, I walked along the arches and kept walking, walking, walking, walking and walking. I was ready to give up. Even after my first mistake I had thoughts about calling it quits. But I thought ahead to what future Sam might think if she left Tuscany and didn’t see a sunflower field like she wanted and I knew I would deeply regret it. Hell or high water, I was going to find one.
I started losing track of my steps and just continued to go. Then I saw it. It was in the distance on a small path that I wasn’t planning on heading down. Had I been on the other side of the arches, I wouldn’t have seen it. It was like an angel in the distance. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but I was so close to throwing up my arms and turning around. It came at the perfect moment and restored my spirits immediately.
The next thing I knew, I was laughing and running towards the field. I couldn’t stop laughing, actually. It was such a light after my tiring mission and made the whole thing worth it. Lesson number two: It’s always worth it.
I’m telling you all now that the moral of this story is to never give up… because you just might find the sunflowers.