Tuscany, Lucca and the World Record for not Sleeping

In the afternoon we took a train to the neighbouring city of Lucca.  At the Pisa Centrale railway station there was an information office and assuming that understanding the Italian railway system would inevitably be tricky we went in to get some assistance.  There was only one other person in there but she and the clerk were collaborating on a project to translate the complete works of Shakespeare (Approximately thirty eight plays and one hundred and fifty four sonnets) into Italian, so they were going to be there some time we gave up after a while and worked it out for ourselves; it really wasn’t that difficult after all except that when we got on the train we forgot to validate the ticket.

The journey took about thirty minutes and we were pleased when we arrived to be able to step out into the street for the first time today without using the umbrellas.

Lucca is everything that I expected from a Tuscan medieval city.  It is the largest Italian city with its medieval wall still completely intact and inside it has a number of attractive piazzas and a labyrinth of narrow streets and we explored some back streets and alleyways before settling down at a pavement café for a drink and a snack in the Piazza St Michele.

Unfortunately we choose badly and found ourselves at a table next to a group of Italian schoolgirls on a daytrip who, even though in Italy smoking in public places was banned in January 2005, clearly thought that it was compulsory to continuously chain smoke throughout their afternoon ice cream break.  But at least the weather was much better now and we were thankfully sitting outside in the sunshine even though some ominous dark clouds were beginning to return.

Lucca is also famous for being the birthplace of the composer Pucini whose best known works include La Bohème, Tosca and Madam Butterflyand Nessun Dorma.  It is an interesting fact that Pucini contracted throat cancer (also through chain smoking) and he was one of the first people to be treated by radiation therapy.  This wasn’t a great success and he died shortly afterwards from complications that caused continuous bleeding from the treated area and finally a heart attack.

Upon the return to Pisa we visited a supermarket with the objective of purchasing some alcohol and to replace the confiscated cork-screw.  We accomplished that and back at the hotel tested them both out thoroughly while preparing to go out for evening meal.

It seemed that we might have to go to the expense of a new corkscrew on every trip from now on if we were planning to only take hand luggage and I have bought quite a lot but then a couple of years ago I came across a cunning little piece of equipment which is a camping corkscrew which collapses down into a key ring and for some peculiar reason the airline security staff don’t seem to mind this being taken on board the aircraft.


After dinner and once back at the hotel we reflected on the day and went to bed.  As soon as the light went out the traffic noise immediately increased in volume and I worried that I might be about to suffer a night of enforced insomnia.

It became increasingly intolerable to the point that I even contemplated overcoming my reluctance to close the rotting wooden shutters.  This would have been useless because it was clear that even after carefully manoeuvring them into position this would make no discernible difference at all to the appalling din because there was a constant drone of vehicle noise made worse by the rattling engines of the Vespa scooters (bzzzzzz-bzzzzzz-bzzzzzz); Vespa is Italian for wasp and believe me these things are well named!  This was accompanied by the piercing sirens of the police cars (da-loo-da-la, da-loo-da-la) which although quite lyrical during the day are downright diabolical at night and these were competing with the shrieking ambulances (do-dah, do-dah, do-dah), and worst of all there was a loose inspection cover in the road directly below the room which of course every vehicle just had to drive over with irritating regularity (ker-chunk, ker-chunk).

Italy of course is the home of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and a nation with a reputation for a love of pace and reckless behaviour behind the wheel so everything seemed to be traveling at top speed and using full throttle.  I began to wish that I’d taken more notice of those hotel reviews!

I eventually managed to block out the noise, it’s amazing what half a litre of Chianti can do, and eventually dropped off to sleep.  But not for long and it became so unbearable that Kim even contemplated sleeping in the bath tub at the back of the room just to get as far away from the street noise as possible.  This was truly a room for insomniacs and the more I tried to blot out the dreadful noise the worse it got.   In May 2007 a Cornishman, Tony Wright, beat a forty three year old Guinness World Record by staying awake for eleven days and eleven nights.  If he had booked in to the Hotel Victoria in Pisa he could have gone on much, much longer.

5 responses to “Tuscany, Lucca and the World Record for not Sleeping

  1. Very ingenious corkscrew. Also handy I would imagine.

  2. Nice Photo and documentation

  3. Pingback: Travels in Italy, Graffiti and A Load of Baloney | Have Bag, Will Travel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s