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Pisa

With Alan's watercolor workshop scheduled in Lucca, Italy, we decided to fly into nearby Pisa.  Known primarily for the Leaning Tower, there are a number of other remarkable structures in the city.  We didn't realize that the Tower is located in the Piazza dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) within remnants of the Roman wall built in 1105 AD.  The Pisa Cathedral, the Baptistry and the Monumental Cemetery are 3 other major historical and impressive structures in the Field.

Construction of the Tower began in 1173, but was halted when the soft subsoil and a poor foundation caused the tower to lean.  Completion of the tower took almost 200 years due to various battles being fought over that period.  Access to the tower was closed in 1990 due to the lean, but was reopened in 2001 following a stabilization project which made the tower safe for visitors.  Though the lean of the Bapistry and the Cathedral are typically not mentioned, and are minor compared to the tower, these buildings were built in the same soft soil, their large footprint minimizes the amount of tilt, but it's noticable if you look for it.

During our first visit, on a Saturday morning, the crowd was somewhat reminscent of Disney World during a peak month.  Long lines were formed by ticket holders to get into the vaious buildings.  Cathedral entrance is free but a timed ticket is required in order to control the crowd inside.  Climbing to the top of the Leaning Tower is 18 euros ($24.39), with limited tickets dispensed because of the time it takes to climb the 284 steps to the top.  Tickets are timed, if you miss your time, you're out of luck.  Its's recommended that you buy the tickets in advance online, to avoid waiting in line to buy them.  Deciding we really didn't need (or want) to climb the Tower we didn't bother with that aspect.  Due to the crowds, we left to explore other parts of the city.  

A pedestrian area extends from the Field of Miracles, over the Arno River and on to the Piazza near the Train Station.  Varieties of shops and restaurants line much of the way, and on Saturday morning there were a number of street vendors selling everything from old books to jewelry.  Returning to the Tower area around 6 PM that evening, the crowd had thinned out, the waiting lines disappeared and the heat of the day had dissipated.  Obtaining our ticket for the Cathedral, we breezed into this Romanesque style building.  Started in 1063, it is beautiful structure inside and out.  Starting with the bronze  doors, each with panels in relief depicting stories from the BIble.  The pulpit is an exquisitely sculptured piece of art.  A gilded ceiling complimented by a frescoed dome wows you as you enter.  It is further decorated with great works of art from the 1600's.  (The original art work was destroyed in a fire in 1595.). We decided to forego the visits to the interior of The Cemetery and Bapistry.  During the summer months, all the facilities are open until 8 PM, so if you're heading that way during the busy summer season, plan your day accordingly.  

Catching a train the following morning, we headed to Lucca.


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