Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Miracles of Pisa

Pisa (not Pizza) is known for a certain tower that was built before the invention of a level. What it should be known for is everything else - although the tower itself is amazing and it really does lean. We couldn't straighten it with our hands from a distance like so many tourists try to do in their pictures (actually we didn't even try that or take the cliche picture). What Pisa should be known for specifically is the entire Piazza dei Miracoli, or, the Field (technically "Square") of Miracles. It was called this by an Italian poet in the early 20th century because of his personal experience visiting it, and the four breathtaking sites within it, and the enduring miraculous effect it had on his senses.

First, there is the Camponsanto, or "Holy Field".

I always find cemeteries to be very peaceful, but this place was so beyond description. It is said to include sacred soil brought from Golgotha during the Crusades. The specific tombs and grave-markers are unique and sobering. It once contained a large collection of Italian sculptures and frescos, only a few of which still remain. One of which, The Triumph of Death, is indeed terrifying, and allegedly at one time included mirrors that allowed visitors to see themselves in the picture being tormented. Yikes.

Second, there is the the Baptistery.

The acoustics in this building are unmatched, and on the hour a staff-member sings a brief song to show off the echo. We were lucky enough to be inside during a rendition. Impossible to explain. This amazing structure includes a couple other aspects of architecture that were particularly memorable to me. One was the screaming figures at the top corners of the pillars, and the other was the pulpit:

Third, there was the Duomo. 

Not to be confused with the Duomo or the Duomo. As I explained in Siena, it just means cathedral. But when you know it as Duomo, that usually means it is awesome. Pisa's Duomo does not disappoint. 

And speaking of pulpits, are you kidding me with this thing? Unreal. Notice the lion and animals being crushed symbolizing man's superiority to the beast.

Last (and perhaps of these four sites the least, to be honest), there is the tower. You know all about this. 

This tower is the campanile, or bell tower, of the city. You can read about the reasons and extent of the leaning on the internet (the one with email). One thing perhaps you didn't know is that as recently as the 1990s, the tower was closed because the lean had gotten so bad that they were concerned that it actually was at risk of tumbling. So, they spent more than 10 years reinforcing the ground underneath it with concrete. Allegedly, it is now good to go. (Thumbs up emoji). Here is some visual perspective on what is going on with this thing at ground level:

Next up: Cinque Terre. Five beautiful towns on the coast with colorful houses, stunning views. and pesto. Yes, pesto.

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