Monday, October 20, 2008

Hmmm...that tower's shorter than expected

7th day in Europe, 3rd day in Florence.

We're off to the city of Pisa, an hour's train ride from Florence. We located the tourist office in Pisa, obtained the tourist map, and made our way to the Field of Miracles, (it's a nice name, isn't it?) where the leaning tower is located. The city of Pisa is very small - the southern edge of the city centre is the Pisa centrale, where our train arrived at, the international airport is just 2km further south, and its places of interest are situated mostly at the historical centre. Hence it is easy to get around the city by walking, though comfortable shoes are a must, due to the cobble-stoned paths.

Pisa Centrale Train Station

On the way to the Field of Miracles (about a 20mins' walk), we saw the following sights.

On a bridge towards the Leaning Tower, with the church of St Sixtus in the horizon

Spotted this overgrown backyard of someone's house while walking past this residential area

A Duomo spied in the horizon

The leaning tower, at last.

From this perspective it doesn't look so leaning, does it? It leans at an angle of 3.97 deg, btw.

As we all know, the tower's inclination was not deliberate. According to Wiki, it started to lean due to a poorly laid foundation. Fortunately, because work had to be halted as the Pisans were engaged in battle with people from other cities, the soil beneath the tower was given time to settle, hence preventing the tower from toppling. Perhaps if the tower weren't leaning, it wouldn't have enjoyed its current fame. I was quite surprised to note that the tower was shorter than I expected. Given the predominantly low Italian skyline, I guess this is considered a rarity already.

As everyone knows, this is where NO self-respecting tourist would walk away the leaning tower without doing that pose for the camera. You know, that pose with hands pretending to push against the tower, complete with that look of utmost concentration on the face? Yes, that pose.

Yes, we are self-respecting tourists =)

The partially restored baptistery and cathedral

A very elaborate cathedral door

We did not climb up the leaning tower, because 1) The leaning tower had an entrance fee, 2) It's not that high, 3) Who wants to climb the leaning tower when you can climb up the baptistery and see the leaning tower on the opposite side?

I am not too sure myself, but I think the style of the cathedral, could be a cross between Renaissance and Gothic. Renaissance because of its classically styled columns and hemispherical domes; and Gothic because of its stained glass windows.

First glimpse of the cathedral

Beautiful stained glass windows that tell stories of old biblical themes

A statue of Madonna and child

An intricately sculpted pulpit from which the priest preaches

These were the paintings decorating the cathedral. I'm not sure who the artists were.

The Baptistery, just behind the Cathedral, was pretty small, and had an echo-y emptiness to it. In fact, to demonstrate the acoustics of the Baptistery, this person minding the Baptistery took to the "centre stage" and started humming. All the tourists milling around literally stopped in their tracks to take in the wonderful harmony. The acoustics was wonderful and I felt like I was treated to a miniature acapella performance of sorts.

Dome of the Baptistery

The "centre stage"

Down the stairs from the top of the Baptistery.
The no. of stairs aren't as daunting as the Bell Tower in Florence

We got quite hungry after all that sight seeing and so we walked southwards, along a less crowded stretch to find a nice cafe for lunch. The most memorable thing about lunch, aside from the delicious food, was a pretty heated discussion we had about food wastage. Ms Rehau and I against Mr Irish. Guess who took the stance that food wastage was alright? hah. Anyway, it was a good discussion that certainly livened lunch and brought forth our debating predilection.

After lunch, we walked back to the Field of Miracles where we entered the reputedly "the most beautiful cemetery in the world", Camposanto Monumentale (according to Mr Irish's guide book). Hmmm... I haven't been to enough cemeteries to verify that claim.

There were a huge collection of sarcophagi around the building, as well as many wall frescoes, some of which were damaged by the fire that occurred in 1944. Restoration had been done, but the ravages of the fire were still apparent on some.

The exterior of the Cemetery

We rushed quickly ahead of the initial throng of tourists entering the cemetery to ensure that we were able to take pictures of the empty hall

Statue of Leonardo Fibonacci, that mathematical genius born in Pisa, whose namesake was used for the Fibonacci number sequence, though it was not discovered by him

The interior

A lovely rose in bloom in the cemetery's central green patch

The restored wall frescoe

Took more pictures after exiting the Cemetery.

The cathedral

I couldn't resist taking this shot of the cute kid throwing a tantrum

More lazing on the field, with the cool breeze in our hair and feel-good grass beneath us. Apparently, the grass appears to lose colour on Mr Irish's jeans for some reason (but not ours)...

This is hilarious. Look at that girl behind Mr Irish doing the pose in unison with his pose

On our way back to the train station, we swung by this building that is also supposedly slightly leaning, like the leaning tower (according to Irish's guidebook again). Makes me wonder if there is something intrinsically wrong with the architects there.... hmmmm...

I can't tell if this building is leaning, can you?

River Arno runs through Pisa, cutting it into 2

A peaceful demonstration cum performance along Pisa's shopping belt

I like Pisa - it's nice and laid back!

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