Summer Hiking

Summer Hiking
Mt. Constitution

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Italy, Day 4 - Lucca and Pisa

Our tour coach left at 9:30 to travel to Lucca and Pisa.

Lucca is a city of some 90,000 people in Tuscany. Its long history goes back to Etruscan and Ancient Roman times, and the city retains pieces of Ancient architecture. Lucca's great era was in the Gothic era just before the Renaissance, and the city contains much marvelous architecture from that era. Lucca's current defensive walls were designed by Leonardo Da Vinci and were never breached. Lucca remained an independent city state until the end of the 18th century. Giacomo Puccini, one of italian worldwide known opera composers, was born in Lucca.  The area of most interest to visitors is still enclosed within the old city defensive wall. The top of these broad walls is a ring park, a pleasant place for walking.
There are over 100 Towers in this ancient city.

We stopped at this Bascillica de San Frediano, built in 1112.  
The Church houses the incorruptible body of St. Zita.  She became a housekeeper for a wealthy family and served them for 48 years.  She is well known for her generosity to the poor.  She is the patron saint of housekeepers.  

Church of San Giovanni

This is an original shop door.  The tour guide explained that a shopkeeper might choose to open just one or two panels, rather than the entire door.  Most of these doors have been replaced over the years.
We were set free at the Amphtheatre, built as the center of entertainment.  It's unique elliptical-shaped plaza housed spectacles and gladiator games, often attended by over 10,000 people.  Pieces of the original amphitheater are evident in modern buildings.  Marilyn, Phil, and I wanted to find some rental bikes and ride around the 2.5 miles of city walls.  We stopped to have coffee and cannelloni first. 
Even though we had maps we could not find the entrance to the city and ended up just walking the walls instead of renting bikes.  We enjoyed some great visiting and sharing stories of our families.  We noticed the ancient aqueduct that carried water into the city.  

We were determined to have farro (an ancient grain also called spelt) soup for lunch because Claudia told us it was the most traditional dish for this city.  We asked at two restaurants before we settled in at LaBrusketta.

We were not disappointed, even though we had to settle for vegetable instead of farro soup.

This modern sculpture, comprised of geometric and mathematical shapes, suggests that a person is complicated and not easily measured by one or two pieces....

Our tour manager led us back to our bus, and just a short distance from the amphitheater we saw several bike rental shops.  Marilyn posed for a picture even though we then had not time to ride the bikes.  I studied the map over and over to figure out why we had not been able to find the right exit from the city walls.

Next, on to Pisa!  This stop created lots of memories for our group.....emergency bathroom stops, long walks resulting in sore hips and knees, and a lost wallet.  Paula tripped on the edge of a sidewalk hidden by a scarf.  A nice gentleman helped her up and insisted she meet his daughter.  Paula said, "is she a doctor?"  No, he replied, "she speaks English."  Gratefully, Paula was able to continue, but suffered bruises on her knee and back.

The famous Church, Baptistry, and Tower sit in the Field of Miracles.

We toured the Baptistry first and climbed the stairs...

Marble, marble everywhere!

The tomb of St. Ranierius, the patron saint of Pisa, known for giving up his wealth and ministering to the poor. 
This is what we came to see!!!!!

Leaning Tower of Pisa and Cathedral
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the piazza's crowning glory.
Although only a third as high as the Washington Monument, it was a miracle of medieval engineering, probably the tallest bell towers in Europe.
With 207 columns ranged around eight stories, Tower of Pisa looks like a massive wedding cake knocked precariously askew by a clumsy giant guest.
The construction of Tower of Pisa began in August 1173 and continued for about 200 years due to the onset of a series of wars. Till today, the name of the architect is a mystery.
The leaning Tower of Pisa was designed as a circular bell tower that would stand 185 feet high. It is constructed of white marble.
The tower has eight stories, including the chamber for the bells. The bottom story consists of 15 marble arches. Each of the next six stories contains 30 arches that surround the tower.
The final story is the bell chamber itself, which has 16 arches. There is a 297 step spiral staircase inside the tower leading to the top.  (We did not attempt the climb).

Leaing Tower of Pisa detail

The top of the leaning tower of Pisa is about 17 feet off the vertical.  The tower is also slightly curved from the attempts by various architects to keep it from leaning more or falling over.
Many ideas have been suggested to straighten the Tower of Pisa, including taking it apart stone by stone and rebuilding it at a different location.
In the 1920s the foundations of the tower were injected with cement grouting that has stabilized the tower to some extent.

Our day ended with a great meal at our hotel, including Tiramisu!  

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