Thursday 17th November
We moved on from Florence Wednesday morning and had a really nice drive to Pisa, the roads were almost very good and after a quick detour to Lidls we were parked up in our sosta just outside the city walls.
City walls, I really never thought about Pisa having city walls, it just didn’t enter my mind but it is only fairly recently that Italy has been a united country. Pisa invested heavily in shipping and became one of the maritime powers of the Mediterranean, one of the other powers, the Genoese, attacked Pisa in 1284 and eventually the harbour silted up and by 1406 the city was governed by Florence.
Apparently over 300,000 people lived here at one point, now less than a third of that number remain. The main focal point of Pisa is off to the north west of the city and consequently there really isn’t a city centre as such. On the south side there were some of the familiar shops that we are becoming used to seeing in Italy such as Lush, Desigual, H&M, Zara and Footlocker. Strangely, you won’t get to see a Costas, Starbucks or Caffe Nero since they’ll be up against proper coffee shops.
This is what everyone comes to Pisa to see and it really is something. You can’t help but smile when you look at it. Basically there are five buildings in a free to enter area called the Field of Miracles, the Tower c1173, the Cathedral c1064, the Baptistry c1152, the Camposanto c1277 and the Sinopie Museum c1979. It is free to walk around the grounds but you have to buy a combined ticket to enter four of the buildings (€8) and it’s another €18 if you want to go up the tower.
It is hard to believe that the Tower is still standing after 850 years.
First stop, the cathedral built in 1064, the outside is beautiful but the inside was a bit bare although there were some parts which were wonderful..
One of the main things to see inside is Christ in Majesty, completed in 1302 but mostly hidden behind scaffolding at the moment.
I managed to get a closer view…
…and another from the other side.
Looking up the main nave you can see obvious Moorish influences in the striped arches and you need to remember that at the time this was being built there would have been a lot of trade with the Moors, both in Africa and in Spain.
The other main focal point in the Cathedral is the pulpit carved by Giovanni Pisano (the painter we met in the Uffizi) which took him 8 years to carve fron 1302.
A close up of one of the columns depicting Hercules.
And a close up of the top of the pulpit.
After the Cathedral comes the Baptistry built in 1152.
A close up detail of one panel in the font, I think it is called the font, it’s pretty big and even an adult could swim a couple of laps around it.
From upstairs you get a good view of the font (the octagon) and to the left is a pulpit carved by Nicola Pisano, Giovanni’s father.
Next stop the Camposanto, an enormous gothic cloister with frescos covering the outer walls, sarcophagi on both sides and tomb stones on the floor. In July 1944 allied incendiary bombs set the roof on fire spilling molten lead onto the frescos and irreparably damaging them. A huge amount of work has gone into trying to preserve the 2000 square metres of fresco.
We thought that we had found the tomb of one of the Pisanos, it says Pisani at the bottom…
… and then we thought that we’d found the other one but we now think that Pisani is just someone who has been to Pisa, or lived there, or got buried there. The dates didn’t really match up and it’s all written in foreign. I did amaze myself by reading a plaque commemorating a truce between Genoa and Pisa and as a symbol of friendship the chains that had been across the port of Pisa had been given to the Pisans. Between French, Spanish, Italian and even occasionally English words you can make up complete sentences from what at first sight looks incomprehensible.
We had to take some tacky leaning tower photos – Lucy insisted.
You can see how happy I was about it!
From any other angle it looks like you’re doing a bit of Taekwando but everyone was doing it.
Last two piccies. Lucy hadn’t even considered visiting Pisa and I thought that it was going to be a bit tacky but it isn’t, it’s really nice here.
I’m glad we came, the weather was much nicer that had been predicted and at this time of year there aren’t too many tourists about getting in our way!