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Published: August 2nd 2017
Many of the overseas conference attendees - including myself, Chris and Sue - had booked for an excursion to Pisa which took place the day after the conference ended, departing by bus around 8.30am for the 59 klm drive. Advertised as a guided tour to the Cathedral and the Camposanto, Italy put on another perfect summer's day for us to enjoy some of what Pisa had to offer.
The Leaning Tower - which was closed in January 1990, reopening in December 2001 after more than two decades of stabilisation studies and spurred by the abrupt collapse of the Civic Tower of Pavia in 1989 - has made Pisa famous all over the world. However, in addition to the Tower, the city has many other sites of interest; the Square of Miracles, the Cathedral and Baptistery, the Camposanto, the both Cathedral and Sinopie Museums, all of which offer the visitors many historical buildings to explore.
The city has many old narrow streets and the beautiful Piazza del Cavalier - also known as the Knights Square - once the heart of the political centre of medieval Pisa. Around the middle of the 16th century it became headquarter of the Knights of
St Stephen; founded by Cosimo 1 de' Medici, the first Grand Duke of Tuscanny whose objective was to fight the Ottoman Turks. The Palazzo della Caravana, overlooking the square, has a statue of Cosimo 1 in front of it; the building now housing the prestigious Scoula Normale Superoire di Pisa, a university founded by Napoleon Bonaparte.
While both Dickens and Ruskin walked the streets of the city centre, some years earlier both Byron and Shelley had lived in Pisa. So we were walking in all their footsteps, and, no doubt like us they were enthralled with what Pisa had to offer. One of the places we visited following lunch was Santa Maria della Spina, erected in 1230 and dismantled and rebuilt in 1871 in a higher position due to flooding of the Arno River. Altered in the process, John Ruskin, who visited in 1872, was outraged by the restoration. Nevertheless Sue and I were impressed!
However we began our tour, once we'd entered the Piazza del Duomo, known as the Field of Miracles and which is right at the edge of the old medieval city, entering through one of the oldest gates into the city. There, spread out
before us was the Baptistery of San Giovanni, the Cathedral - with a pulpit sculpted by Giovanni Pisano - the Leaning Tower and the Camposanto, all gleaming white marble shining against the backdrop of a beautiful blue sky.
Before being taken on a tour of the Cathedral we were equiped with earphones so that our tour guide could give us all the necessary information as we strolled around amongst the many other tourists. The architecture, workmanship and splendour was just amazing.
From there we went over to the Campo Santa, an ancient burial ground lying over the baptistery of the chutch of Santa Reparta which once stood where the present cathedral now stands. The Campo Santa was erected in 1277 to accomodate the graves that had been scattered all around the cathedral. it also houses frescoes, relating to life and death, which were painted in the 14th century while Roman epigraphs and sarcophagi were relocated to the corridors.
Lastly, before lunch, we went into the Leaning Tower - built as a free standing bell tower to accompany the Cathedral and Baptistery - which we climbed; up the almost 300 steps through the eight floors to the top
which houses the tower's bells. Each of the storeys contain 30 arches that surround the tower; the final storey which contains the bell chamber having 16 arches. Took the obligatory photos before climbing down.
Leaving the Tower we headed off to the restaurant where lunch had been organised. Not only did we have an elegant sufficiency, it included a carafe of wine. Lunch over, myself, Sue and Chris wandered off to explore some more of Pisa, taking in The Knights Square mentioned earlier and Piazza Delle Vettovaglie in which there was a statue of Garibaldi who personally led and fought in a large number of military campaigns resulting in the constitution of the unified Italy.
What a fantastic day we enjoyed in Pisa before we headed back to Carrara, where I said goodbye to all but Chris and Sue. Many thanks to Marzia and her crew for all the organisation of our extra curricular activity which was greatly appreciated.
It's taken me quite a while to write this entry - with more to come before I catch up to the present day - so please forgive any grammatical and spelling errors I've made.
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