Monday, April 15, 2013

Four hours in Pisa

Our planned bus trip to Barga, a medieval hill town in the mountainous Garfagnana region 40 klm to the north of Lucca, didn't come off today (confusion about the buses!!) so we made a last minute decision to "pop into Pisa" instead. Pisa always was on our to do list during the week we were staying in Lucca, but our day in Firenza had convinced us that it may not be a good idea - because of the hordes of tourists again.

But we went anyway! This was our second visit to Pisa and our expectations were relatively low, having already experienced a lot of tourists behaving badly then around the leaning tower - and also after what we had experienced around the Firenze duomo a few days ago.

It's an easy train ride from Lucca - barely half an hour, but the Pisa Centrale railway station is quite a long walk away from the northern end of the historic medieval walled city of old Pisa, the site of the incomparable duomo, the campanile (famous for its lean), it's wedding cake baptistery and the camposanto (cemetery).  The whole area was made a UNESCO World heritage Site in 1987 (that's two World Heritage Sites we've seen in two days!) in recognition that it is one of the main centres for medieval art and architecture in the world.

It's another gorgeous day in Italia - reaching 25oC max.  Our first goal after arriving at Pisa Centrale is to find the way to the duomo - my memory of how we did it 38 years ago fails me!

We just follow our noses...eventually crossing the Ponte di Mezzo over the River Arno (same as in Firenze).

... then up Borgo Stretto

......and Via Guglielmo Oberdan, then left on to Via Cardinale Maffi Pietro........until we're sure....yes, we've found it!

The whole Piazza dei Miracoli looks beautiful today in this perfectly clear warm sunshine with its freshly mown green grass surrounds.  There are lots of people doing the cheesy "holding up the tower" shots, but they're mostly young people and it's all good humoured and they don't dominate the setting like I remember they did all those years ago.

I found out that the wonky foundations of the campanile have been stabilized since we last saw it and it now leans over one degree less than it did then.

Another little gem of a baptistery - but much more wedding cake than the rather spare design of the one I admired so much in Firenze the other day. This one was built after the one in Firenze so it would include a few more Gothic elements.

All the grassed area around the Cathedral buildings has been kept free of hawkers, souvenir and food stalls. They line the edges of the Piazza but they don't interfere with everyone's enjoyment of these amazing buildings.

We spend ages admiring the duomo. Rob is always struck by these symbols of the power and wealth of the Catholic church and the artistic genius it nurtured in Italy from around the 1000s until the Reformation. He always wonders where the church found the money - from taxing the parishioners I guess!

By now it was time for another delicious Tuscan lunch and half litre of Chianti (between us). By this stage we were so happy that circumstances had conspired for us to see Pisa again, one more time, on such a perfect Spring day. It seems such a lovely, laid back, picturesque place to us...and another great lunch site!

It must have been the effect of the Chianti and the warm sunshine but I got us lost on the way back to the train station - and Rob found the way out of it!! A real role reversal for us.

Back in Lucca we went for a late evening stroll around the 4klm Leonardo da Vinci designed fortified city walls - like many other Luccese. You can see it's such a sociable activity for everybody, lots of families, groups of cyclists, friends walking together, children playing in the parks that line the walls. I took this pic from the wall showing the grassy areas surrounding the old walls (Were they the old moats?). Now they're a great place for exercising dogs.

Inside the old town of Lucca there is not much green space for kids to play soccer. I've noticed this area at the side of the San Martino Cathedral is always full of boys in the afternoons, playing their favourite game.

On the way back to our gorgeous apartment in Via Santa Croce I took this shot of the facade of San Michele in Foro, built over the ancient Roman forum of Lucca.  It's dedicated to the Archangel Michael and some people say it is as beautiful as a 12th century Romanesque church can get. It's only a 2 minute walk from our apartment.

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