Finally the time for travel is back.
I had Pisa on my list for quite sometime and I was glad we could finally travel although with mask on entering all public places. Starting August we (the vaccinated population), shall have a QR code on our devices, or, for the traditional type, printed on paper, called the Green Pass, which will allow us to go everywhere, from restaurants to free travel, to pools and gyms. And let’s hope for the best.
Back to Pisa, which is famous for its iconing Leaning Tower, which let’s say it; it is not its only attraction! Because Piazza dei Miracoli is quite a marvel.
On entering from the main gate—Pisa is also whithin walls—one can see three stunning white buildings on a beautiful green lawn.
The influx of tourists is still limited, so it was possible to enjoy the view as it should be. The Battistry, the Cathedral, and the Leaning Tower, all in white marble and richly decorated stand there in all their beauty.
The Battistry is beautifully decorated to look-like a wedding cake. The first entry portal is located West. The “sinner” was supposed to enter from that portal, be baptized, and the exit from the more elaborated Eastern Portal to proceed “in sanctity” to the Cathedral.
The Cathedral is imposing. It has the highest ceiling I’ve I ever seen. Construction on the cathedral began in 1063, It has a wooden 17th-century coffered ceiling, painted and decorated with gold leaf—and it is real gold all that which shines! It bears the Medici coat of arms; the reason is the the Florentine family Medicis paid for that ceilling after a fire destroyed the previous one. Even if they didn’t always see eye-to-eye with the Pisani. But they had the money and they wanted to show it.
The (actual) Bishop is rather fastidious, so if one wants to take photos of this marvel, he needs to make sure there are no religious services at the time.
Afterward, tours and photography are permitted.
And finally the Tower
The Tower started to tilt South even before it was completed, and the reason is simple. The sea is (now) not too far away, it was even closer back then. The tower is all built in blocks of massive marble. It weights 14k tonnes. Obviously the sandy terrain could not support such weight, on a somewhat limited area.
Thru the years many tries to correct the leaning were performed quite unsuccessfully. But between 1993 and 2001 some incredible engineering intervention successfully reduced the tilt.
There is some mystery about the identity of the architect of the tower. Many though think the the first architect once the tower started to lean south he quickly left town to never to be seen again. Pisano completed the work.
It is funny to observe the “tourist spot,” where tourists pose to have their picture taken while they pretend to support the tower.
The street leads to the Lungarno. Pisa like Florence is crossed by the River Arno. Although they do not have an iconic bridge like the Florentine Ponte Vecchio (they were always too busy keeping the towers up 😉), a promenade along the river is very nice.
Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina
On the river bank in fact there is a little jewel of a church; Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina. Built in 1230, is (now) incredibly close to the river, and it was even closer than this when built. In the 19th century it was dismantled; the stones numbered and the Church was re-assembled at a higher level in order to secure it from floods.
Scuola Superiore di Pisa
A stop is worth to see Piazza dei Cavalieri where the Scuola Superiore di Pisa is located. It is one of the finest Universities in Italy. It was founded by Napoleon himself. Napoleon didn’t do too many good deeds in Italy, but this was one. It worth a walk and to enjoy that neighborhood, with many universities and (of course) book stores.
Pisa was a city of excellent education, and with COVID and distance learning they had their losses, like many others.
From Piazza dei Miracoli, taking via Santa Maria there are plenty of choices of restaurants. Bars and Restaurants all crowded to the brimm. I chose to eat at Ristorante “Ai Santi”, just to stay on the subject of “holiness.” 😊
What to Eat
Vegetarians beware. A characteristic of Tuscan cuisine par excellence is the use of white meats and game. The farmyard products of the farm, where chickens, turkeys, geese, guinea fowl graze freely together with rabbits and game such as hare and wild boar. Pork is also widely used, just think of the famous Tuscan salami, finocchiona, salted ham, Colonnata lard with sausages and other products which are the result of the ingenuity of poor people.
Tuscan cuisine is mainly made up of traditional dishes and desserts that have kept their preparation unchanged for many years. Saltless bread is a custom that few other regions have adopted, it seems that the custom dates back to the XII century when, at the height of the rivalry between Pisa and Florence, the Pisans put into practice very high prices for salt, which Pisa being a port had in abundance.
In Tuscany, bread is sacred, never throw it away but of use it even when it is stale; and so there are panzanella, panata, ribollita, acquacotta, pappa al pomodoro, fettunta, vegetable soup.