Shane and I must now navigate the streets of Florence to catch the bus tour to Pisa on our own, no google maps to follow just our well used paper map written In Italian. Daniel has enjoyed an evening out with some locals and a lovely Mexican girl we met on a bus and is enjoying a sleep in – his mum has become his wingman. Shane is quite amazed that I am able to make our way through the narrow streets turning this way and that but as I say land marks are my best guide as well as a good map – “that’s where we had dinner last night, see those red chairs of the cafe, the balls that line the square, the carousel, the big iron rings the girl was swinging off to have a photo taken” – these are the things that head me in the right direction. We are early, by over an hour, so we enjoy a gelato and head for the bus at a leisurely pace.
We learn so much along the way about the war between Florence and Pisa with Florence gaining the upper hand by starving the city of Pisa into submission. Terrible times but you can’t deny what the Medici family did for this area of Italy, Michelangelo, Leonardo de Vinci and other artists commissioned to work and continue their studies. One of the smaller villages is pointed out for the bells that are rung every evening, apparently many years ago, a century or two, a young girl wandered off into the forest never to return. The bells were rung to hopefully guide her home and are still rung to this day.
I would think that most people have heard of and seen pictures of the leaning tower of Pisa but as you enter through the arches of the square of miracles, so called because of the exclamation made when the first outsider walked through and saw the buildings before him, you stand in awe. The tower is unique, of course, but the church and baptist are amazing feats of architecture that are nothing short of spectacular. These building took centuries to complete, the church first and then the baptist as a monument to John the Baptist. Considering that they are built so many years apart, each taking over 150 years to build, yet so symmetrically in sync is remarkable and must have been a true labour of love. No one will own up to the building of the tower as it began to sink into the mud on one side and became a bit of an embarrassment. Considering the hours of painstaking work to get the other buildings so perfect you can get some understanding of the situation. Now it is the building everyone wants to see, the humble bell tower, whose design was so involved with the other buildings, went so horribly wrong is now Pisa’s greatest tourist attraction.