If there is a tower Bruce will climb it, and I am not far behind!  Today was supposed to be rainy but we have been so blessed with the weather!  It was cool and windy but beautifully clear.  So we went to Pisa!  It was about an hour or so train ride so we read from our Rick Steves pages about Pisa while traveling.  In 1200 A. D. Pisa’s power peaked and rivaled Venice and Genoa as a sea-trading power.  It is also on the Arno river and 6 miles from the coast.  Pisa has 3 important sights – the Duomo, Baptistery, and the Tower.  This whole area where these three sights sit is called the Field of Miracles.  Most tourists who visit see only that area with the 3 main sights but the train station is in the center of town so we were able to walk through the center of town, which was very lovely.  It is about a mile so it did not take us long.  On the way we saw parts of the old wall and some Roman ruins(see pictures).  Once we reached the Tower area we purchased our ticket and time which was pretty much right away and got in line for the climb.  They will only take a handful at a time and you can stay only 20 minutes.  It was such a beautiful day for pictures from the Tower.  But boy! does it lean – 15 feet!  The first stones were laid in 1173 and within 5 years with only the base completed the lean was noticeable.  The whole field where these buildings were built was marshy, multilayered, unstable soil.  But they continued to build and the belfry was finished in 1372.  Over the years attempts have been made to correct the lean but to no avail.  So in 1990 they shut it down and stabilized it.  Our next visit was the Duomo(yes, another church).  This is one of my favorites, I think.  It allows a lot more light in so is less oppressive than some of these huge cathedrals.  In the apse there is a mosaic (1300) showing Christ as the Ruler of All, between Mary and John the Evangelist.  The pulpit in this church is very beautiful.  It is by Giovanni Pisano(1250-1319) and carved with 400 intricately sculpted figures.  In a glass-lined casket on the side altar, is Pisa’s patron saint, St. Ranieri.  His body is mummified and encased in silver at his head and feet, with his hair shirt covering his body.  The son of a rich sea-trader, Raniere (1117-1161) was a hard-partying, touring musician who one night was inspired to set fire to his musical instrument, open his arms to the heavens, and return to his father’s shipping business where he amassed a fortune.  he later gave away his money, joined the monastery, and delivered spirited sermons from the Duomo pulpit.  The third sight is the Baptistery in front of the Duomo.  It is the biggest one in Italy and notable for it’s acoustics.  This building also leans 15 feet to the south but is only 200 feet tall.  It was built in 1153.  Inside it is simple, spacious, and baptized with light.  A statue of the first baptist, John the Baptist, is in the center of the building.  The font has plenty of space for baptizing adults, plus 4 wells for dunking babies.  We climbed up 75 steps to get a higher view.  The pulpit in this baptistery is the world’s first Renaissance sculpture.  The acoustics are also wonderful with a good 10 second echo.  Although I did not try it – I was not warmed up(lol).  We then went to a café and rested with a cappuccino while looking at the 3 beautiful buildings.  On the road back to the train we walked through the Piazza dei Cavalieri, where back in the 1500’s this square was used to train knights.  With the arrival of Napoleon, this complex became part of the University of Pisa, one of Europe’s oldest, with roots in a law school that dates back as far as the 11th century.  In the mid-16th century, the city was a hotbed of controversy, as spacey professors like Galileo Galilei studied the solar system – with results that challenged the church’s powerful doctrine.  We got back to Florence by 4:00, had an early dinner(which is hard to find here) and called it a night.  The weather is really cooling down so we hurried back to our apartment to warm up!  Another great day of sight-seeing with more coming soon.

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