Thursday, June 16, 2011


While looking for a parking space in Pisa, I couldn’t help but remember Kenna’s story of driving round and round trying to get to the tower but somehow always missing it. There is a huge wall around the Field of Miracles, probably to prevent tourists from catching a glimpse without running the gauntlet of tacky souvenir stands. The closer you get to the tower, the less you can see it and the city around the tower is not all that swanky, let me tell you. That coupled with the fact that many Italian cities have hefty fines for unlucky tourists who mistakenly drive in the “forbidden” zones creates a sort of angst when approaching tourist sites. Much of the driving in Italy is a sort of guessing game, though. What is the car at the stop sign going to do? Why is the car ahead of us drifting into our lane? Why are speed limits posted? It’s all part of the fun.

We did find a spot to park and we didn’t get fined…I don’t think. They send it to your home address so since our address is posted as the man we bought the car from, we’ll find out when we take the car to resell it to him if we’ve got any fines. Again, a sort of surprise the tourist kind of sport.

The most interesting thing about Pisa is that the whole city leans, not just the tower. It is built on unstable soil which apparently didn’t stop construction and as the buildings have stood for centuries turned out to be not all that big a deal. Personally, I would feel a wee bit uncomfortable entering my sagging home each night. Is this the night the house collapses? It does add to the tourist charm.

The tower was breathtaking. It is another one of those icons that makes you feel honoured to just be in its presence. I stood on the same tower as Galileo and I was tempted…oh, so tempted, to drop something over the side…but they all came back down the stairs with me in the end. The climb to the top was like something out of a fun house. Though you can see the angle from the outside, it doesn’t have the same impact as trying to climb the staircase that spirals around up to the top. The stairs start out quite steep and then suddenly you feel almost like you are going down the stairs as you circle around. It plays with your sense of balance, making your head feel a bit woozy like three or four glasses of wine can do.

We also visited the Baptistry and the Duomo (read: church) where Galileo got his inspiration during the Sunday service. He was watching the pendulum motion of the incense burner and noticed it took the same amount of time no matter how wide the arc, (see picture below). This just creates some lovely images for me. How did he get the thing swinging? What was the rest of the congregation doing? How many were swinging? Are all sermons this much fun? And how did Galileo manage to make the connection between the party time in the duomo with measuring the universe?

The whole Field of Miracles was gorgeous, white and green. The buildings were white. The lawn was green. We did only spend half the day there, though, because we wanted to cycle the rampart walls in Lucca.

We rented bicycles and did our thing on the walls. The walls were crowded with people so cycling wasn't so much about enjoying the view as cleverly negotiating the human obstacle course. However, we managed to get around more than once. As we went for our second round, the sky grew dark, thunder rumbled and sure enough, water began to dump from above. The kids were far ahead so Tom and I ducked beneath a tree to wait it out. Most of the wall-walkers were doing the same thing and there was a certain feeling of camraderie as we all huddled together.

The rain seemed to lift after a while so we hurried to catch up with the kids but we hadn't gotten far when it became hard to see so we stopped again under a tree. We were pretty sure we were close to where we were supposed to meet the kids so we decided to make another break for it. By the time we got within sight of them, the rain was coming down so hard, sheets of water were running in rivers along the wall. The kids were both out in the deluge cycling in circles without a care in the world. Ah, youth. We managed to convince them to come down to where we had rented the cycles and huddle under a doorway. We had to yell above the roar of water falling to make ourselves understood. Finally, the clouds had spent themselves and it stopped. The sun came out and it warmed up. However, the damage was done. We were all completely soaked. We skipped the rest of the town and headed to the car, hoping to dry out on our drive home.

Our car has an unusual feature just above the rearview mirror. There is a vent of some sort, though I'm not sure why. It obviously leads to the outside because when it rains, water gathers inside and as the car turns a corner, that water turns on like a tap. This is quite hilarious to the rest of the car passengers as the tap is centred directly over me. So, as the family dried out, I endured the frequent spouts of water. I am pretty sure that Tom takes those corners hard just to see it happen.

This day was the first of many like it. The day would start hot and sunny and in the late afternoon the clouds would roll in, the wind would pick up and suddenly it would get dark. Boom! The thunder would begin, then the lightning and pretty much within an hour there would be torrential rain. It was always warm, although the temperature would drop by up to 15 degrees. We got caught in these torrents more than once but by the time we started carrying an umbrella in the sunshine, the weather stabilized. Naturally.

1 comments: said...

Loved all your pictures. Particularly the one of the family leaning with Pisa Tower straight. You all look fantastic. Looking forward to your return! Love Mom