Annia Krzoska with permission for Varisity

Break-ups are tough. Returning to Cambridge fresh out of the holidays when you’re still mourning a relationship is hard, especially when your ex lives down the hallway from you. Still, these tricky situations leave room for developing some well-deserved self-love. For me, this situation left room for flights. Lots of them. For a while, I felt as though I was living in Taylor Swift’s Cornelia Street; suffocated by this city and generally just wanting to escape. Luckily, on a random Tuesday, Ryanair presented me with the perfect opportunity.

One particularly bad evening involving alcohol and lots of tears was followed by a relatively sleepless night, after which I urgently messaged one of my friends with a simple request: ‘Get me out of the country. Now.’ Fifteen minutes later, we discovered a £7 return to Pisa. There were two catches: one, the flight was the next day; two, the outbound flight was at 6 am and the return was at 2 pm the same day. With flight time and airport queues considered, we’d have roughly 2 hours in the city. For £7 and with my irreducible need to get the hell out of Cambridge, I thought ‘Why not?'.

"I urgently messaged one of my friends with a simple request: ‘Get me out of the country"

There’s something about Stansted Airport that has you feeling fairly awake even when you haven’t had a chance to sleep the night before. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s the Nero’s coffee, but I didn’t feel as tired as I should have. Mostly, I was just happy to be away from college. It was dissertation term and we had no lectures that day, so I wasn’t missing anything, and I was looking forward to some authentic Italian pizza. A bit of sun wouldn’t hurt, either.

"Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s the Nero’s coffee, but I didn’t feel as tired as I should have"

We boarded the flight and, as Fergie’s Glamorous played at full volume (who says Ryanair isn’t the same as flying first class?), we began our ascent. Given my slightly teary state two days prior, it felt odd landing on that sunny tarmac on a random Tuesday. I’ll admit, the weather was mildly concerning - how was I going to explain a potential tan to my supervisors? In October? Still, as an English student, it felt great to live out my dreams of being an old Victorian widow sent to warmer climates to cure me of my melancholy.

It wasn’t long before we’d left the airport and began our walk (yes, walk) to Pisa’s main square. I wasn’t dressed for the weather. It had been very cold in England that morning, and the double-jumper-polyester-skirt combo was lethal in 25-degree heat. Still, I was in Italy. For the next 2 hours at least. On a trip I booked last night. If that’s not insane, I don’t know what is.

"Still, I was in Italy. For the next 2 hours at least. On a trip I booked last night."

Once we reached the tower of Pisa, I embarked on a quest to snap the obligatory tourist photos. Given the crowds, it’s surprisingly difficult to line your hands up correctly so that it looks like you’re pushing the tower over. It took me quite a while to get the right shots. By then, it was 11 am and we were pretty hungry. Terrified of tourist traps, my friend led the way down a few side streets until we found a place that offered a large pizza for just €6. A whole pizza for the cost of my airport coffee. The restaurant also offered a Tuscan cheese board, which I still dream about a full term later…


Mountain View

Be not afraid of an unplanned Parisian layover

After consuming an inhuman amount of food (free bread included) we had the terrifying realisation that our flight was departing in two hours. We were an hour away from the airport. Shit. I was slightly terrified. I had plans the next day. I had lectures. I couldn’t be stuck in Italy. How would I explain that to my supervisor? After a race to the airport, including an unsuccessful stop for ice cream, we found a massive queue for security. Our flight was now boarding. Shit. My friend was unnaturally calm, promising that we could easily get the next flight if we missed this one. “They’d get us on”, apparently, but “We have plenty of time,” supposedly. I was less convinced. People pushed past us, yelling that they were on the Stansted flight. We were on the Stansted flight. A horrifying call sounded over the speakers: “This is the final call for the Ryanair flight to London Stansted…” Shit! As is usual for me, however, my panic was unnecessary, as we swiftly boarded the flight, with time to spare, even. Turns out ‘final call’ doesn’t always mean ‘you’re about to miss your flight’, and it’s probably a good idea to listen to the friend who travels more often than you.

On the way back, I felt myself happier than I’d been for a while. I was slightly worried that someone would notice the mild sunburn that now graced my cheeks, but it didn’t matter. We made it back to Cambridge in time for hall dinner, greeting the Porters as we sauntered in. Nobody would guess that we’d been in Italy that morning. After all, who hops on an international flight for a slice of Pisa? That would be completely insane.