Sunday, July 5, 2009

2009-06-16 Italy Trip - Pisa

Went to breakfast at 7:00 and asked for Robert’s table. The hostess told us that she hadn’t seen Robert this morning and that he had a big mouth and she would have heard him if he was there today. Apparently he was working the buffet today. We had Lloyd and (someone else) and still missed Robert. Justin had banana pancakes.

Worked on computer for a while, went to lunch buffet at Windjammer Café.

View Livorno to Pisa, Italy in a larger map

Went to Pisa with the Royal Caribbean tour at 13:15. We rode a bus with David (DAH-vid) guiding the tour. On the way he pointed out the maritime pines which are the strange, umbrella-shaped pine trees that grow here. Pine nuts (pignoli (pin-YOL-ee)) come from the pine cones of these trees. We passed the huge Camp Darby, a US logistical base established after WWII. It houses about 200 American and Italian troops and is mostly a depot for equipment and vehicles.

Upon arriving in Pisa we had about a 20 minute walk to the piazza since tour buses are not allowed into the historic section. We followed the big “22” sign David was holding up as he walked. We were to have another guide at the cathedral, but they didn’t arrive, so David continued the tour with us. He was VERY knowledgeable of the culture and history of the area and I thought he was an excellent tour guide.

At one time in antiquity, Pisa was the port city of the area since it was on the delta of the Arno river and an important commercial port. Since then the delta has filled and Pisa has been supplanted as the main port by Livorno.

He showed us the different architectural styles of the baptistry, the church, the cemetery, and the famous bell tower. It was started in 1063 and the whole structure was influenced by Arab architecture since the Pisans were the last defense against the Arabs who had already taken Sicily and many parts of Italy at the time. The Pope charged the Pisan navy with pushing back the Arab hordes.

The first floor of the baptistry was built in the accepted Romanesque style with open, rounded arches and the Arab style of using different colors of stonework to make stripes. The second story was added more than 100 years later and shows the gothic influence with closed, pointed arches. The third floor is also in the gothic style. Finally the roof is half lead and half ceramic tile since they ran out of money for the leading.

The church has five new arches added to the front of it since the Pisans didn’t think it was grand enough. Much of the stone was re-used from old Roman buildings and since the stone masons usually couldn’t read, the engraved words on the old stones are upside down or sideways. There was a fire in the church in ~1260 and most of the inside was gutted including the mosaics on the floor. It was rebuilt in the Renaissance style of the time, so it’s quite a mixture.

The cemetery was started in the Romanesque style and finished by a gothic architect so it has a mixture of the two styles.

The famous bell tower leans because of the sandy, wet soil upon which it’s built. Nobody knows the architect that built the original tower since there are no records of it. It was a very short tower until it was modified later. The Pisans were so proud they built their cathedral outside the city facing the sea so travelers would see the grandeur of their cathedral first.

A poet once came to the area and after learning the mottled history of the buildings dubbed it the “Field of Miracles” since it was a miracle the buildings were finished.

We stopped in a small café and Scott, Eva, and I shared a bottle of wine from the area. It was nice and we enjoyed it in the 90 degree heat.

There are MANY illegal immigrants from Senegal here that try to sell sunglasses, hand bags, belts, and watches to tourists in the streets. They are polite, but sometimes politely insistent.

We resisted the temptation to take pictures of ourselves pushing the tower back and instead opted for several group shots at its base. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to climb the 294 steps inside the tower since the line was too long.

We were held up in traffic and barely got back to the ship in time for dinner. I had the Tuscan white bean soup, a wonderful Coq Au Vin, and dark chocolate/hazelnut tart. Meredith had salmon.

Stephanie and Justin climbed the rock wall and Justin won the race both times. He climbs really well. We think it might be all those banana pancakes.

At 21:00 we went to the magic show in the theater and then off to the toga party on the pool deck. We all wore togas and had another amazing buffet from 23:30 to 0:30.

Maritime pines.

Piazza del Duomo, Pisa.
(Baptistry, church, bell tower)

Drinking some wine in the shade.
(Scott, Eva, and me.)

The gang at the foot of the tower.

Toga party!

The rest of the photos are here.

1 comment:

Max said...

Great part of the world. Food is worth the trip. Architecture is OK too. Ha ha.
Did you learn the church is sinking as well. I'll share some photos sometime.

Thanks for sharing.