Florence – Day 3 (Pisa, Lucca)

We would start our tour at the train station. Walking is out of the question, the bus would be an hour so a cab it is. So a 30 minute harrowing cab ride (the streets of Florence are pretty crazy), we arrive at Florence Santa Maria Novella train station. This place is alive. Hustling, bustling, gesticulating, animated conversation, we find that we need to hit the button to take a number and wait for our turn at the counter. The trains run on the 10s to Siena so we buy 2 tickets that are good for any of them.

As is our usual pattern we are early, this time about 2 hours. We find a sandwich shop in the shopping gallery All’Antico Vinaio and Ruby is called by the Mortadella and we order the San Marco. Oh my God, what a surprise. So much better than it has to be.

We sat for a while and watched the press of humanity and then went back upstairs to our meeting place and continued to watch the press of humanity until we saw Alia, who would greet us and take us to where our driver and tour guide was waiting with the van. We realized that when the booking said private tour it meant private tour. We had Stephano (yes, another Stephano) to ourselves for the day. Into the van, buckle up and off we go to Pisa.

We are able to find a place to park not far from Piazza del Duomo and walk to the piazza where the tower is. The leaning tower is the campanile for the cathedral and we will see had quite a few bells at the top. What is most striking about the complex (Baptistry, Cathedral and Tower) is that instead of being tightly surrounded by city it is set in a spacious park-like setting making it easy to see as a whole rather than in glimpses between buildings and down narrow streets.

Apparently the soil here is very sandy which is why the tower leaned initially and pictures don’t do it justice. It leans.

They do monitor it constantly to make sure it doesn’t lean too much and have corrected the lean before but of course one would never completely fix the lean since that lean is so much a part of history.

There are only about 250 steps to the top so not undoable even for these knees and since there will be about double the steps tomorrow at Il Duomo in Florence I am feeling pretty confident. At once point in the climb my sense of balance all of a sudden told me, “Wait, the walls are tipped.” Kind of a funny feeling when you are in a narrow staircase and you realize something just doesn’t feel right.

There are two “tops” to get to. the first is a balcony around the tower with great views of Pisa. There is then a smaller spiral staircase that goes to the top of the bell tower where the views are from a little higher and you are surrounded by the bells that remind you that this is a bell tower that you are in.

Click here for a photosphere at the top of the tower

Here is where you can sit and take in the sites and remember that it was here that Galileo dropped different weights from the top to experiment with gravity. A place with deep history.

Back at the base of the tower we return to modern humans all posing for selfies that play with perspective trying to make it look like they were holding up the tower.

We resisted this time but it is not as if we’ve never tried this sillyness.

Sillyness at Giza (not Pisa)

On to Lucca the home of Giaccomo Puccini.

This was the home of Puccini. His home is here as well as a museum both of which we did not visit. I was whining to visit the torture museum in town to no avail. This town is interesting in that it still has it’s orginal protective wall which contributed to the reason that over the centuries of small city states being attacked and sacked and taken over, either due to the wall or reputation. They were never taken over. Even the powerful Florentines knew better.

The city is old as well. The main “square” which in fact is oval was build atop a previous Roman ampitheater. Otherwise being far enough from the madding crowd Lucca is atmospheric. Gentle rabbit warren streets, nearly all locally owned shops, no franchises in Lucca.

Another beautiful site in Lucca is Saint Michael’s Church with a gorgeous facade and a huge St Michael atop.

Enough for now. On the way home Stephano took us by way of the Piazzale Michelangelo which is not far from where we are staying and is on a hill with an incredible view of the city. Two days ago I took a walk and walked up the hill toward Piazzale Michelangelo but didn’t realize it was there. From the top of the hill the view is incredible and people gather every night to watch the sun set.