Day 338: To Florence, via PisaJanuary 18 in Italy
Super busy day today, one of the busiest we've had in ages! Up early and out the door, bidding a fond farewell to Cinque Terre. Caught the all stations train eastwards to La Spezia, the small city just outside the bounds of the national park. Here we changed again and caught the train to Pisa.
Pisa is obviously well known for the Leaning Tower, but the World Heritage site here actually covers not just the tower, but also the Cathedral and the Baptistry as well. We dropped our luggage at the station (4 euros per item was a bit steep, but the lady compromised and let us leave two small and one large piece for 8 euros).
As is often the case, the station was a fair way from the old centre, so we caught a bus across town to where the complex is located. It's an odd sight to see - something so familiar, and yet actually in front of you for the first time. The famous tower is actually the bell tower for the cathedral, and to my amazement the cathedral is a grand building of white marble - extremely beautiful and impressive. I've seen the tower so many times, it seems incredible I'd never really seen the cathedral before!
Wandered into the complex and decided to check things out. Quite a few tourists around for the first time in a while, though obviously nowhere near as bad as it gets in summer! Lots of people doing the lame "holding up the tower" photo pose which I think is trite as hell, and supremely uncreative. Doing it with a dog though is totally different, though I realised later it almost looks like he's throwing a Hitler salute.
The tower climb is 20 euros each, so we'd decided to pass on that, but the Cathedral was free so we went turn about inside it. Very impressive! Obviously quite similar to a lot of cathedrals we've been in, but this was built almost entirely of white marble - Pisa was very rich in its day, and the enormous marble quarries of Carrara aren't too far away (we'd been past some of them on the train).
The Bapistry was quite cool as well, a very large domed structure with almost perfect acoustics. I was lucky enough to be inside when a ticket checker wandered over to the middle and started singing which sounded super cool. It was a bit overpriced though at 6 euros; not a whole lot to see inside.
Finally we looked at the tower. The reason it leans so much is because it's 60 metres tall and made of marble, but the foundations are only 3 metres deep and in soft soil rather than rock. It took 200 years to build, though it was on hold for about 100 years while they fought a war with Genoa. The lean began almost immediately after only a couple of years, when they'd only built the first two levels. To counter-balance it, the upper floors are actually trapezoidal - the lower side of the lean has taller walls than the higher side, if that makes sense. And the crown on top is almost vertical.
It was slowly leaning further and further over the years, until it got to about 5.5 degrees in the early 90s. After about 10 years of engineering, it now leans about 3.5 degrees, isn't moving, and will be stable for a couple of hundred years. Lucky!
Visit finished, we caught the bus back to the station and grabbed a late lunch at McDonalds (it was now around 2:30pm) and waited for the train. Eventually it arrived and we piled on, heading for Florence which only took an hour or so.
Our place was pretty easy to find, just a couple of blocks from the cathedral but out of the tourist area thankfully. Only problem was that there was absolutely no grass around for Schnitzel to pee on! Eventually had to settle for taking him to a grassed plaza about five minutes away - annoying. Stayed in for dinner with some cold cuts, cheese, and bread.Read more