Parco Naturale Migliarino
We had spent the whole of Saturday exploring the streets of Pisa, with a visit to the botanical gardens, followed by a climb of the leaning tower and the other building of the Square of Miracles. The sun was shining and we felt like leaving the town behind, besides we had pretty much seen most of the sights in the centre anyway and so headed for the countryside. Pisa is located in Tuscany, one of Italy’s most beautiful regions. We had decided though, instead of driving into the hills to drive towards the coast, our first stop was at Parco Naturale Migliarino.
We had left Pisa behind us and were in the car for about 25 minutes. The park was part of a larger nature reserve that is located next to the Mediterranean Sea, between the town of Livorno and Viareggio. This large reserve used to be divided into large estates by wealthy families and is now a regional nature reserve. We reached the centre of the Migliarino Estate, where we could see some old stately houses, one of them had been turned into a restaurant and another into a visitor centre. There also was a place hiring out bikes but we decided to walk.
Start of the Walk
We could see other families and people already out, on their bikes or on foot. After parking our car we strolled down a beautiful alley of ancient looking pine trees. We could see the sea under at the end of the green tunnel of pines. Jerome found a huge pinecone and some dandelions already covered with white umbrellas, ready to for blowing. In fact it already felt like late spring in the UK, rather than the end of March. There were lots of colourful butterflies flying around and resting on the many blossoming flowers. To either side we were surrounded by a forest of deciduous trees, with the new light green leaves peeking trough the twigs, finally appearing after the winter.
In the Woods
After walking for a few hundred meters under the canopy of the pine trees we arrived at a barrier that told us we would not be allowed to walk further along this road which was a shame as we would not reach the sea. We had two options and decided to turn left, further into the woods. We were overtaken by cyclists and met a few other walkers along the soft forest path. The air was heavy with white seed pods, which looked like snow against the warm sunlight. I could imagine if you had a pollen allergy this could be a nightmare. Luckily we did not mind and especially Jerome seemed to like running through the drifting white tufts. Eventually we came to a cross road, with a narrower path leading to the left, which we took, as we thought it would be most logical if we wanted to end up back at the car park at some point.
The forest along this little walkway was turned into marshland, with the trees surrounded by water. The pollen had landed on the water’s surface and looked like floating snowflakes. It was an absolute dreamy sight and not something you could imagine seeing.
We walked on through the marsh for another half an hour when we exited the forest and were out onto a field covered with tiny little white flowers. In the distance we could see families with their mobile homes or cars having barbeques in the shade of the pine trees. I could totally understand that this was a great spot for a family lunch on a sunny spring day like this. We were quite sad to be back at our car after this enjoyable walk through the woods.
Marina di Pisa
Luckily, we still had a few hours left before we needed to make our way back to the airport. We were so close to the sea and fancied a walk along the beach with a coffee and ice cream along the way. The closest port was the Marina di Pisa, which was also not too much out of the way for our return journey. We drove up along side the river Arno, before it ends into the Mediterranean Sea at La Bocca D’Arno. There we found a parking space on the side of the road, where there were lots of other cars parked already.
We walked the last stretch before reaching the Port of Pisa and noticed the old fishermen’s huts in the sea. They are called “retoni” and were built between 1946 and 1948 by sailors and local fishermen. Whole families used to live in them, the huts contain a table and pantry, plus basic camp beds and an outside toilet…After World War II fishing was an important livelihood for many in the area. Nowadays there are only four of the fishing huts that have survived the storms and times, but some of them have been restored and I found out that one of them is even available for rent. How about spending a night out at sea in one of these rustic huts? I think I would not be brave enough but it must be an interesting experience and if you are lucky enough with fishing you could even catch your own dinner. I was content to admire these rare old buildings from afar.
The port and marina of Pisa was more of a disappointment for us. It looked like what probably once had been a charming little fishing port had been changed into a new marina for all the posh yachts that would like to anchor along the coast. We walked along the marina wall, Jerome enjoyed a run along the wooden walkway and we finally ended up at the promenade leading along the back of a white, pebbled beach. It was heaving with people and there was a long row of white vans selling cheap, tatty clothing and other goods, the local idea of a Sunday market! We strolled past some of the stalls but soon enough realised that there was nothing of interest for us and the stalls were highly repetitive in what they offered. We sat down in one of the little café’s to have some paninis and a relaxing Italian coffee.
On the Beach
After lunch we went straight for the beach and sat down on the white stones. Before coming here I definitely had not expected a beach like this, how come that all the stones were snow white? Apparently the stones were imported from somewhere else. Jerome did not care at all, he collected some of the flat stones and tried skipping them into the calm turquoise sea. I just sat there, enjoying the warm afternoon sun and watching the other people on the beach. There was a local man peeling fresh oranges, while others tried their luck on fishing with a rod. Other people enjoyed to just sit on the beach, just like us. We built a stone tower out of the stones, sadly I did not take a photo of it as it turned out rather tall and it leaned a bit like the close by tower of Pisa.
Time to Leave
When it was time for us to leave we walked back to our car along the back streets of the village.
Return to the Airport
Our weekend in Pisa had gone so fast and we really enjoyed our time in the area. We will definitely come back to explore Florence and the famous Tuscan countryside.