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Published: April 21st 2018
The Coastline Is Surrounded By Mountains
providing beautiful scenery on our way to Pisa
We made our crossing from Imperia to Pisa - it took a total of 21 hours as we had to divert a couple of times in the night around some thunderstorms - they gave us quite the light show & fortunately we were able to avoid them. The first third of the trip we had the wind & waves on the aft quarter so it started off well, then the wind decided to shift around coming at us in all directions. We navigated around the 1st thunderstorm & then got a 2nd one. The wind piped up to 27 knots so had to go off course to have a more comfortable sail. Finally after sunrise the winds settled down some and we had a pleasant sail - 2/3 of the trip wasn't bad at all - guess that isn't too bad a ratio. The funny thing is that all the weather forecast had predicted that we would have calm winds in the night so we were actually expecting to just be motoring. Even with the detours around the storms we only lost an hour from our projected time and it took a total of 21 hours vs. 20 hours. Not bad.
Surprisingly though we had clear skies over night so it was wonderful for star gazing - seeing the Milky Way at sea is always a bonus!!
The location that we found to stay for a few days were we could catch public transportation to both Pisa and Florence was not at the Pisa Marina, but at a small place down the channel next to the marina. We had read in our books as well as were warned by friends of something that we would see when we arrived – fishing nets hanging out into the channel. It was hard to figure what it would really look like, but when we got there it was quite impressive. There was quite a current in the channel and we had to keep an eye on the depth sounder while traveling down past these nets making the channel narrower. There was a line of small buildings with each one having a large fishing net hanging out over the channel. We passed numerous places with docks and finally found the place that we booked. We docked by 2PM, had some lunch and then took a long nap as didn't get much sleep with the
storms last night. We are now ready to explore Pisa!
When Pisa is mentioned pretty much everyone thinks of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but if you are like us we didn’t realize that there were numerous other buildings of interest in the same area of the city. “The Miracle Square” is where the Cathedral of Pisa, the Baptistery and the Camposanto (cemetery) are located along with the famous Tower. These structures were central to religious life here representing the three major stages of life. The Baptistery for birth, the Cathedral for life and the Camposanto for death. The Tower was actually built as the bell tower for the Cathedral – a fact that many may not have been aware of.
These are not located in the center of the city where you might have expected them to be, but in the northwest edge of the fortified walled city which is where there was room to build the Cathedral back in 1094. One fact we found interesting was that the Cathedral was original built outside of the fortified walls of Pisa – this was to show others how powerful Pisa was and that its Cathedral did not need
the protection of the wall. There are numerous Arabic influences in the architecture as Pisa from the 11th
century was a maritime city with sailors visiting the Arabic world and bringing back ideas of the beauty that they saw there.
We all know that the Tower is leaning, but to see how much it leans in person is quite impressive to see – it leans 15 feet and continues to lean a little more each year, however, they have put in place some braces to help reduce that movement as much as possible. The Tower was started in 1173 but wasn’t completed until late in the 14th
C. It stands 56 meters (183.7 feet) tall and has seven bells at the top. The “lean” of the Tower started early in the construction process when the 2nd
floor was added in 1178. This was due to the fact that they only had a narrow foundation combined with the fact that they were building on very unstable ground. With the design being flawed and Pisa being engaged in battles with Genoa, Lucca and Florence the construction of the Tower stopped for almost a full century. This waiting period actually
was beneficial as it provided time for the ground to settle so they could continue construction in 1272. With the lean already started, the architects of the time decided to build the upper floors with one side taller than the other to compensate causing the tower to curve. With the amount of time it took to construct the style changed, but Tommaso Pisano in 1372 added the bell tower and was able to blend the Gothic style of the bell-chamber with the Romanesque style of the tower itself.
The Tower is not the only building that leans – if you look at the Baptistery it leans toward the Cathedral as it was built on the same unstable ground. It is the largest Baptistery in Italy with a height of 55 meters (180 ft) and a diameter of 34 meters (111.5 ft) The construction started in 1152 but wasn’t completed until late in the 14th
C. If you look at the exterior you can see the lower level was built in the Romanesque style with its rounded arches and ended with the characteristic pointed arches of the Gothic style. The building was made completely of marble and has numerous carved
Two Different Methods of Fishing
one by dragging nets & the other lowering nets
statutes on the outside. The interior is unadorned with details but is striking with its tall arches and the baptistery font as its focal point. We climbed up to the higher level in order to be able to get a better view of the font as well as wonderful visas looking over at the Cathedral which it faces.
The Cathedral was the first structure built in this “square” started in 1063 with wonderful marble inlay, the façade was added in the 12th
century and bronze entry doors in the 16th
century. The funding for the building of this Cathedral came from the spoils of their recent war with the Muslims in Sicily. The spoils of war provided various parts of the building as well. Some of the columns in the Cathedral were actually part of a mosque in Palermo – one of many examples of the spoils of war that ended up here. At the same time this was being constructed the St. Mark’s Basilica was being built in Venice showing the strong rivalry between the two maritime strongholds in Italy with each trying to out shine the other with its Cathedral. The inside is sumptuous with its mosaics,
stone carvings, gold gilded ceiling and numerous paintings. The pulpit made of marble was sculpted by Giovanni Pisano and survived a terrible fire in 1545. It contains sculptured figures from both the Old and New Testament with those figures being used in place of columns typically found in other pulpits.
The Camposanto built in 1277 was the cemetery for noble citizens of Pisa. It was built on dirt that had been brought back from the Holy Land as was the custom for cemeteries at that time. As soon as you walk in you are greeted with huge frescos on the walls. We learned that most had been damaged as a result of bomb fragments in 1944 that caused a fire. It could not be put out so the wooden roof was destroyed causing the interior sculptures, sarcophagi and frescoes to be severely damaged. Preliminary work to rescue the frescoes started after the war by the US Army’s Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Program which resulted with pieces of the frescoes being saved and a temporary roof being installed. Over the years restoration work has been done on the frescoes and they have been returned to their original location here.
As you walk around you can appreciate the details that went into the frescoes as well as the sarcophagi and grave markers showing the skills of the creators of these works.
There are a couple of other buildings here that house a variety of museums, but we took our time to visit the cathedral, baptistery and the camposanto taking up our day in Pisa. When we planned on visiting Pisa we didn’t really know what to expect but we truly enjoyed learning about the various buildings that we had a chance to visit. If you are in the area, Pisa is well worth a day’s visit.
Conveniently there was a bus stop just outside of the place where we stopped to stay over with our boat. We needed a few things at the store so we took a ride into “town” where the Pisa Marina is located as well as where the holiday rental apartments/hotels seem to be located as they are out at the mouth of the channel overlooking the Med. We had to chuckle some as there were numerous people lying on the “beach” but when you looked closely there all appeared to be much larger
“stones” and didn’t look very comfortable to us. They did have a wonderful view of the sea, but still didn’t look that inviting to us so we took our time walking along the shore. Eventually we made it to the grocery store with our trusty “Wegmans recyclable bags” in hand in order to pick up a few provisions before heading back to the boat.
We did take the time for 2 day trips into Florence from this location as well, but will tell you about that in the next blog post.
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