Jul 2, 2012

Pisa, Italy

Pisa surprised me.

When I remember Pisa, I smile a Mona Lisa smile.

A smile of secrets.

A you had to be there smile shared between two friends across a crowded room.

Pisa is full of secrets of her own, then visit her and throw in your own secrets and, well, you've got...

Pisa began over 3,000 years ago as a seaside port.  When we visited, you could not see the sea.  In fact, we came from the sea and it was a long drive.

In the 11th - 13th centuries, Pisa became great due to its Navy.  Then the Arno -- a beautiful little river on which to watch the sun set -- the delicious little Arno began to silt up, creating a salt marsh that is now a nature reserve.

The current population of Pisa hovers around 100,000.  It is a dirty, mid-sized city and we breezed through it, stopping only at the Field of Miracles.  Sure, you could visit the university, the botanical gardens and some other museums in Pisa, but most tourists just go here - the Field of Miracles.  You just need one day, don't even have to stay overnight.

All around the leaning tower area are stalls of merchants selling souvenirs, jewelry and stuff.  Typical of Europe, there were a lot of aggressive guys stuffing things in your face and trying to sell them to you.  Very annoying.  Once you break through all that, the magnificence of the white marble rises before you and will just about knock you off your feet.

The Battistero (Baptistery) is beautiful, especially as the sun is setting.

The Romanesque bottom looks like a drum while the top is Gothic in style and was added on 100 years after the bottom.  It really does look like two separate buildings stacked on each other.

Upon recovery from your jaw-dropping moment of first seeing the "Torre Pendente" (the leaning tower), you will then notice all the people on the lawn in silly poses.

It looks a lot like the people in the parks in San Francisco doing Yoga and other Eastern practices designed to bring peace and longevity.  Then at some point you will realize these crazy people are posing for pictures that look like they are pushing the tower over.  Or holding it up.

Or both.

Or wearing it like a chef's hat.

And you will, with all high mindedness and pride, think that you would never do that, they look ridiculous.

But you will.
Because it's so much stinkin' fun.

And other people will take pictures of you looking like you are doing Yoga on the Field of Miracles.

As the sun went down, we walked down the alley to get some...... ugh..... {heavy sigh}.... yes, some pizza.

After our pizza in Pisa, we walked back outside the 12th century city wall, hopped in the Baddest Panda in the Land and set our gps for Greve-in-Chianti.

Other posts on Italy:
First night in Rome, Bicycle Protest at the Colliseum
Florence and the Drive from Venice
Pizza Joint in Rome
Ancient Rome
Art in Rome, a Dali Exhibit

Travel Info: 
Pisa is in the northern part of Tuscany, not far from the coast and about an hour out of Florence. It is easily reached by train or bus from Florence, the coast of Tuscany, and Rome.  We were in a rented car (The Panda) and had no trouble reading maps and following the highways ("autostradas").  Driving inside Florence or Rome is a nightmare (like driving in NY); driving in Pisa is not as bad, kind of like driving in Chicago.  Parking around the leaning tower is tough, be prepared to walk a bit.

Other places to visit in Pisa:

•Museo Nazionale di San Matteo is in the former Benedictine convent of San Matteo. The museum chronicles the development of medieval Christian painting and sculpture in Europe.

•Santa Maria della Spina is a church near the river with pretty spires and statues.
•Pisa's Botanical Garden --one of the oldest in Europe.

•Piazza dei Cavalieri was the center of Pisa in its days as a republic and was remodeled in the sixteenth century, becoming the symbol of Medici power in Pisa. The square has some 16th century buildings, the church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri, and the Palazzo dell'Orologio (clock building) with two ancient towers joined by an arcade.

A recommended walk around Pisa

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