The city's High School is the building on the right

A local tourist shop

Pisa, Old Town

An early morning view of the Baptistery, Cathedral and Leaning Tower

The Leaning Tower and Cathedral

The Cathedral

The Camposanto

The upper gallery of the Baptestry

The singer within the Baptistery stands bottom right

The Baptistery with the roof tiles missing - they've got the builders in.

The entrance to the Leaning Tower complex through the ramparts


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 it.

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

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'.

Our 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.

The front door to the Palazzo Pfanner

Palazzo Pfanner's garden, viewed from the ramparts

The interior of San Michele in Foro

Lucca Cathedral

The Ramparts

TUESDAY 24-4-18

Finally, thanks to our Brit neighbour and his assistance in fixing our gas problem we were free to leave the Florence area and make for Lucca, a walled city about eleven miles north of Pisa.

The Chef squared them up at Reception - €76 for four nights stay, all in cash, no cards. So I guess the Italians are as averse to paying their fair share of taxes as the Greeks.

First stop was a Co-op supermarket back down our Tuscan hill and close to the toll road. I stayed with the vehicle whilst The Chef went in and spent a bit on bits we needed. She returned telling me there was no sign of baguettes, it had to be a sliced crusty loaf but I can live with that.

On to the toll road, pushed the red button and out came a ticket as it should, and then we settled down to a nice easy journey to Lucca.

On arrival at the Camperstop (GPS: N43.84028º E10.48878º) we parked up, had lunch and then made our way in foot, as usual, in to the town. We needed to find the Tourist Information Office to get firstly a map, and secondly some help about this toll road 'fine' we have hanging over us. As I have mentioned in previous postings, that the problem with Tourist Information Offices, wonderful though they are, is that you need to find them to get a map so that you can find your way around their town or city. But you need a map to find the Tourist Information Office in order to get that map. That was the problem today, but no matter, we had a delightful walk around the city ( a city only because it has a Duomo (Cathedral), not because it is large) on the ramparts. This fortification was built between 1500 and 1645 ( I believe there were a lot of Bank Holidays during that period to slow them down). The walls were some of the most advanced of their time. One of the most curious feature was the open spaces that lay beyond them, and which survives to this day, cleared to prevent the enemy taking cover in trees and undergrowth. Ironically, the walls never actually had to be defended, and they were eventually converted in to a public park for dogs to shit on.

We made a complete circuit of the ramparts which was a very pleasurable experience. Lots of trees providing shade on the way round, together with picnic and rest areas , with a much appreciated bonus of water fountains all the way round it. It did have a senior moment as we walked the ramparts looking down to locate the Tourist Information Office. I thought I spotted one of those machines that will dispense a tourist map of the town, but when I reached it, it was a location  point for a portable defibrillator. - and there were more of them around the ramparts, so ten-out-of-ten for trying to save the lives of those daft enough to be jogging around the ramparts in this heat, Lycraman cycling at speed against the clock, those riding on those four-wheeled affairs you used to see at UK holiday camps, and us mere tourists.

We popped in to the San Michele in Foro church, the interior of which was very nice. Although the walls had a few paintings on them , I think it was one of those places that only warranted Dulux Brilliant White Emulsion. The problem was that due to the lighting inside the pocket camera was taking pickies at just 1/20th of a second, so a blurred picture  is dead easy.

We also saw the Palazzo Pfanner, an elegant and imposing house (1667) which boasts one of Tuscany's most delightful formal gardens. Laid out in the 18th  century , the garden's central avenue is lined with Baroque statues of the gods and goddesses of ancient Roman mythology. I had noted that it was possible to photograph the gardens from the ramparts.

At the entrance to the building 'residents' were mentioned and I saw no point in spending  good money (€6 per person) to look around what was probably an old folks home where the male residents would have been busy cocking their legs to mark out their territory.

 We eventually stumbled across the Duomo (Cathedral) San Martino. Very nice it was too. I took a number of pictures of the exterior before we moved on.

Before leaving we did pay a visit to the Tourist Information Office, from whom by now we didn't really need a map, but explained our problem with the toll road fine. They advised us to go the local police, which we did, and they advised us to go in the toll road office on the autostrada.

Tomorrow we make our way to Pisa, hopefully nice and early in an attempt to miss the worst of the crowds on their National Holiday.