Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pisa – so much more than just a leaning tower!

June 25, 2010

Of cResized_DSC05514ourse, after our relaxing beach morning, we couldn’t leave the area without visiting the city of Pisa.  That’s right – the one and only place where resides The Leaning Tower of Pisa.  But I am heResized_DSC05524re to tell you – there is ever so much more!  As Wiki states succinctly; “Although Pisa is known worldwide for its Leaning Tower (the bell tower of the city's cathedral), the city of over 87,500 residents contains more than 20 other historic churches, several palaces and various bridges across the River Arno. The city is also home of to a large University with a history going back to the 12th century.”  So there!

I mean, you know about the beach – amazing and free only about 5 minutes from the city.  I need to also give a short shout out for the roads – which can be pretty dicey in Italy. We got to Pisa without a problem, lots of excellent signage, and parked.  We were heading for the tower, of course and I can’t give it short shrift.  It is a really amazing structure.  A campanile built over a period of 177 years, it really does lean – a lot – in fact it is a bit more than 12 feet tipped from where it would be if it war upright.  It sounds lame, but seeing it in person in sort of amazing.  BUT, the point is, it does not lean alone.  The tower is only a part of an amazing complex of buildings known as the Piazza Resized_DSC05518del Duomo.  

I was happy to see the prominent statue of Romulus and Remus, suckling the she-wolf on the Field of Miracles (Il Campo dei Miracoli) located right next to the leaning tower.  I was unable to find out how the field got that name.  Maybe because it’s a miracle that the tower hasn’t fallen over yet?   Anyway, the kids didn’t know about Romulus and Remus and it gave me the opportunity to tell them the legend of the founding of Rome.  Famous babies in baskets, Moses, Romulus and Remus – others??? We took lots of photos in the piazza of the tower, the baptistery (which tilts a bit too) and the church.  We opted not to climb the tower, it was ridiculously overpriced and we would have had to wait for hours.   We did opt to pay a small fee to go into the cathedral. 

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Once again, the cathedral was worth it!  The Duomo, a massive medieval cathedral, was a true work of art.  I loved the large bronze doors, the marble work and the Byzantine-influenced coffered ceiling.

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We left the church and started walking through the city – heading for, supposedly, the best gelato in all of Italy.  In every other city, we had just stopped randomly.  This time I wanted the best – and we had to walk to get it!  The walk was rather lovely though – with reasonably priced shops and lots of friendly people to help lost tourists.  La Bottega del Gelato was absolutely worth the hike.  The prices were low, the selection of flavors was incredible!  The servings were huge and it tasted awesome.  I am literally salivating as I write this blog, just thinking about the gelato…   Add it to the list of Pisa plusses please!

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We headed back towards the car, going a different way, of course and, typically, Griffin needed to go potty.  I mention this because Pisa, unlike any other European city we’ve spent time in, has lots of potties, free ones, out and about!  So, instead of embarrassing myself in a cafe or sullying another alley with little boy urine, we used the convenient port-a-potty.   Thank you Pisa!

We wandered along the River Arno. This is a gorgeous city.

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We stopped in a few churches we passed as well.  I like the smaller churches because they are always so peaceful – much more spiritual than the giant ones with tons of tourists.  We found beautiful buildings and architecture all over the place.

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But wait, just when you thought it couldn’t possibly be, there is, in fact , more! We thought we were done with Pisa until we realized we could rent a family bike for only 10 Euros for 40 minutes.  The prices here are cheap and the entertainment is right up our alley.  We knew this would put us past the time we paid for on our parking meter, but away we went, passing some Roman ruins and risking the wrath of the parking ticket gods…

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As we left the city, I noticed other things – they have neat sewer covers, don’t make you separate your recyclables here, there are obviously sights we have missed completely (check out those medieval walls), and hey, is that a spaghetteria??? 

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Finally, I can’t close without mentioning we did not get a parking ticket.  Pisa, thanks for the visit – I got so much more than I had expected!

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