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Published: September 28th 2017
There was an hourly bus service to Pisa so we thought we had better get the 9 o’clock bus. We had checked out the bus station the previous day and arrived in good time, bought our tickets and got on the bus where we waited for the driver to arrive, in good Italian style. At this point we realised we had left our voucher for going up the tower behind but the next bus would have been too late so we carried on. The bus trip was supposed to be about 25 minutes but it took nearly twice that, however we had time in hand and got a good view of the Tuscan countryside and little villages. When we arrived in Pisa we went to the booking office and they had a record of our booking and printed out the tickets no problem.
While we were waiting we strolled round the complex of buildings and admired the ornate facades. Then it was time to climb the tower which is done using a spiral staircase inside with nearly 300 steps. You come our on a high gallery which has beautiful views over Pisa, and you walk round it which
is very scary if you don’t like heights. It was well worth the effort.
After we went down all the steps we went into the cathedral or Duomo which is decorated with black and white marble, has a beautiful gilded coffer ceiling, and many frescoes and paintings. We then strolled around the buildings again and round the nearby market which had large quantities of tourist trash. We caught the bus without difficulty and relaxed as the bus station in Lucca was the terminus and we didn’t have to worry about where to get off.
After more Tuscan soup for lunch we started out tour with the Church of San Michele which is pretty much in the middle of Lucca and has a most impressive facade. What we hadn’t realised was there was a Rolling Stones concert the next day which accounted for the hideous mouth and tongue logos everywhere, and quite a lot of tourists for the time of year. We were told that 100,000 people were coming to Lucca for this concert.
We admired the numerous and varied columns of the facade and then went to look at the basilica
of San Frediano nearby. The facade is decorated with a striking mosaic from the 13th
century representing the Ascension of Christ the Saviour with the apostles below, designed in a Byzantine/medieval style. The background is gold but it looked rather faded. We then walked to the Anfiteatro or Amphitheatre which is on the site of the old Roman amphitheatre which in those times was outside the walls. The base of the former amphitheater (dating back to the I or II century b.C.) is now some 3 meters below the center. It is now a
piazza created in 1830 , surrounded by private residences built using the remaining structures of the amphitheatre, and outdoor cafes all around.
Dave had spotted a school named for Niccolò Machiavelli so we made our way through a maze of mediaeval streets and found it. We decided not to pay to go to the Pfanner Palace but walked to the Guinigi Tower which is a square tower built of brick with trees growing on the top. It is the most important tower in Lucca and is a typical example of local Romanesque-Gothic architecture. The ancient trees are holm oaks symbolising rebirth and renewal. The
tower dates from the 1300s when a number of wealthy families were building bell towers within the walls of Lucca as status symbols. The kitchen was originally on the floor below with the rooftop serving as a kitchen garden. We climbed up the 230 metal stairs and enjoyed the views over Lucca and the surrounding countryside from the top.
We then walked to a different part of the city to see St Martins Cathedral which has a fine pillared facade with a statue of St Martin and the poor man. Somewhat on spec we went inside and were very glad we did as it was magnificently decorated and had many fine paintings and carvings. The ceiling was painted dark blue with stars. By this time we were very tired and made our way back to our lodgings for a rest before having a farewell dinner at one of the cafes in the Anfiteatro, enjoying the ambience.
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