Monday, 9 August 2010

Pisa, more than just a tower.

The Leaning Tower for which Pica is most famous is, without a doubt, spectacular even though it's surprisingly hard to photograph in a way that truly shows the angle.  Tourists flock to it, to take photos of each other standing in front of it, or apparently propping it up.

The Square of Miracles, Piazza dei Miracoli, or the Piazza del Duomo (its original name) is the first thing most people would see in Pisa.  Many are dropped off there by coaches.  The cathedral dominates the square.

The largest baptistery in Italy

The Baptistery is opposite the end of the cathedral.  The Tower isn't the only building in Pisa to lean, they all seem to have their own version of vertical.  At times it's hard to know how to line things up while taking a photo.

On the left is the Monumental Cemetery, the Campo Santo, said to be the most beautiful cemetery in the world.

Tabernacle above the Campo Santo
This was the original doorway, surmounted by a Gothic tabernacle containing the Virgin Mary and four saints.  It dates from the second half of the 14th century.

A panel from one of the bronze cathedral doors, showing where people have touched parts of it: the head of the Virgin Mary, the baby Jesus, and unaccountably, the man on the extreme right.  Or maybe it's not unaccountable.

The Cathedral interior is probably less elaborate than some, but beautiful nevertheless.  Take the time to look carefully and look up, those who say it's a disappointment.

And that is more or less all anyone ever sees of Pisa.  Now, if you want to see all these properly, it will take you hours, all of a day trip which is what the vast majority of people do.  It is such a shame!  There is much, much more to Pisa than the immaculately kept UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Dare to stray a little further into the city and you will find fewer crowds and a thriving, vibrant city with history at every turn.  Its university students keep it lively, it's small enough to be easily to walk everywhere, and it's a voyage of discovery.

Just a few hundred metres, and you come across the church of San Sisto, one of the oldest
churches in Pisa.

Then you arrive at the Piazza dei Cavalieri, the Knights' Square and sometimes also called the Square of the Seven Streets.

One of the seven streets approaching the square.

The highly selective Scuola Normale Superior, part of the university system.

There are more historic and interesting buildings alongside the river Arno where once ships were built.

There are almost too many things to mention in a single blog post.  I would wish that people spent less time propping up the Leaning Tower** and more time exploring the ancient city.

** I am clearly developing into an old curmudgeon.  People were grouped all over the place attempting to produce "propping up the Leaning Tower" shots.  They aren't particularly easy to get right so they had to stay in position for many times longer than usual resulting in a "traffic jam" of photographers.

I've uploaded several more photos, too many to show here, on to Flickr.
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  1. Hi A --

    Weird as it may sound, your first three photos make the buildings look like toys -- one that humans would tower over! :D

  2. Wonderful! I like the cathedral. I always like your cathedrals.

  3. @YTSL, I know what you mean. When I first saw them they looked so pristine and white in contrast to their surroundings that they didn't seem real. Up close they weren't quite so pristine but there was still a feeling that they had been preserved in aspic.

    @Max, thank you. :)


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