We had a peaceful night's sleep at our €10 digs in Lucca. At the entrance to
the toll road we paid the fee in to a machine, the barrier went up and we were away. Needless to say we pulled over at a toll road office to try and sort this ticket out. Unfortunately the office, as well as lots of other things, shut at 08:00 to start the
National Holiday. We got there at 07:55, and there's no way the Italians can work that fast, so The Chef was sent away. We do now have a form we can fill in as the case for the defence which we can fax off to them. Once that's done we're just going to forget
Naturally our Satnav took us the long way to Pisa, twice as far in fact, because it seems to think we like spending our money on toll fees. But never mind, the journey was soon
over and we were parked up in a huge car and coach park which I'd discovered on good old Google Maps (GPS: N43.729289º E10.391732º).
My original plan was to get here early crack off a few photographs before the masses
arrived, then hit the road again. However this being a National Holiday, I felt the roads would be far too busy for our journey to be either safe or enjoyable, and so we decided to stay the whole day, doss here tonight and then set off tomorrow morning. As
it turned out I'm very pleased we did.
For much of the Middle Ages , Pisa's powerful navy ensured its dominance of the western Mediterranean. Trading links with Spain and North
Africa in the 12th century brought vast mercantile wealth and formed the basis of a cultural revolution that is still reflected in Pisa's splendid buildings - especially the Baptistry, Duomo (they can't spell Cathedral), and with
every Duomo comes its Campanile, or Bell Tower, and that's what the Leaning Tower of Pisa is - a leaning Bell Tower www.opapisa.it
Pisa's decline began in 1284, with its defeat by Genoa, and was hastened by the silting up of the harbour. The city fell to the Florentines in 1406, but suffered its worst crisis in 1944 when
it fell victim to Allied bombing (that'll be the Yanks then, they were probably aiming for the cathedral).
We are only a short walk away from the Leaning Tower complex and we were
probably there by about 08:40. We'd beaten most of the masses thankfully, and as I'd missed going in to the Baptistry in Florence I wanted to make sure I got to see inside this one. So we bought a ticket for two 'attractions' the Baptistry and
the Camposanto, with the cathedral thrown in with it. The Leaning Tower is a completely separate ticket and costs, I think, €18. I wasn't that bothered to go up it so we didn't bother with that one.
In to the Baptistry then, no fancy wall paintings in here, this was a functional building constructed I understand for baptisms, as the name suggests. Baptisms were big business in those days and seen as the first step on a path
to child abuse a Christian life, and that's why there is a path from the Baptistry to the front door of the Cathedral.
The building was
basic, yet impressive. What blew my mind was the door attendant, who obviously has a very good voice, stood in the centre of the Baptistry whilst we were upon the top level looking over the balcony and began to sing, or chant, or whatever you call it. The
acoustics were amazing. I thought he had three or four people with him, but no, just one voice, maximising the echoes from the walls and ceiling, it was truly wonderful.
Next it was off to
the Camposanto just across the way. Now I don't know what a Camposanto is, but the building was impressive with two long cloisters linked by a couple of short ones. Within the floor were burial sites of former Whoever's, with added, what
looked like water troughs for horses which I assumed to be former 'coffins' for yet more Whoever's. There were, what looked to be drain holes near the bottom of the 'troughs', which I assumed were there to drain the body fluids of the deceased. I bet the truth
is much more boring. Anyhow for me, right now this is a possible burial site for Billy the Kid and the 'Hole in the Wall' gang.
Most impressive of all, I think, were the numerous wall
paintings around the cloisters, many in need of restoration, and some under restoration at the current time. We were so pleased we visited these two sites, but unfortunately we then had to join the throngs for a visit to the Cathedral.
Ahead of us in the queue were group tours, behind us were group tours, though very quickly we were joined by a queue - jumping couple of elderly Italians who clearly had no intention of going to the back
of the, by now, very long queue.
In we went to join loads of groups of b****y Yanks from the 'Viking Star' cruise ship. Oh how I love them. Who wouldn't want to spend time with Franklin J
Arsewipe 3rd and Fanny from Arkansas.
There was a gang of scaffolders inside who were beavering away erecting a very large gantry, which I assumed would be used to bring down the higher scaffolding
gantry which had been used by restorers to clean the dome painting and upper walls. Areas at that end of the Cathedral which had yet to be tackled looked like Chartres Cathedral in France - a coal shed, it was so dark and dirty.
After that very interesting tour we decided to return 'home' for lunch, put our feet up and then make a second visit 'down town'.
second visit was again very enjoyable. The sun had moved round and the lighting was very different this time, so click, click, again. We then made our way in to the old city, which was very nice. I even got to take a picture of Pisa A. Garibaldi,
but only because I like his biscuits.
After a lovely, but hot walk around the old city and river area we started to make our way back. There was a slight detour to a local supermarket which,
amazingly was open, to buy a fresh baguette, the first we'd seen in this area, some bottled water and four packs of part-baked baguettes.
We are now sat here enjoying the cool of the
evening. Our two motorhoming neighbours, one Spanish, the other German, have left leaving us here on our own. Tomorrow we depart for, well, who knows where.