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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Florence - Day 37

We knew it was too good to last - this morning, as we left to go to the train station the carts were back to their noisy best. I have no idea why there weren't there yesterday but it was unbelievably pleasant to have them gone.

Our destination today is Pisa - yes it may be a bit clichéd but we've never been there before and there is more to see than just the tower.

It takes a little over an hour if you catch the right train and it was more crowded than we had expected. I felt sorry for a poor Italian women near us who was bailed up by an American couple who proceeded to, for the length of the journey tell their life story, complete with photos!

Actually I felt sorry for the rest of us in the carriage who couldn't help but listen to this conversation though at times it went from cringeworthy to amusing, especially when they started telling her how to make pasta!

If you are that American couple from Chicago, please give your fellow travellers a break and try shutting up for a few minutes.

Pisa Station is undergoing a bit of work on the underpasses so half the exits can't be used but generally it's in really good condition. Obviously the tourist dollars does something for the city.

As we left the station after getting ourselves a map, we spotted the American couple, exiting McDonalds! So much for connecting with your Italian heritage.

To get to the Tower you can take a taxi or the bus but we decided to walk and take in a bit more of the city.

As it seems in most cities, there's a bit of work going on. The first piazza we came to, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II was pretty much closed. I think they are putting in underground carparking.

Heading straight up Corso Italia

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we came to our first church, Chiesa di Santa Maria del Carmine

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Statues of St. Paul and St. John the Baptist are on the facade.

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A statue to sculptor Nicola Pisano stands on the small square in front of the church.

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It may look rather small and plain out the outside but it's deceptively large and quite ornate inside. The church was built by the Carmelite nuns in 1328 and modified in the 15th century when 15 private chapels were added.

Next door to the Church is this lovely building.

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Just before we head to the bridge, Ponte di Mezzo, to cross the Arno we pass the Logge di Banchi

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Built in 1605 it housed a cloth market. The upper floor now houses part of the State Archives.

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Looking down Lungarno Galilei

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Looking up towards Ponte Solferino

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Looking down towards Ponte alla Fortezza

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Looking up along Lungarno Pacinotti

On the other side of the bridge we find Piazza Garibaldi

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which naturally has a statue of Garibaldi.

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The next church we find is on Borgo Stretto, Chiesa di San Michele in Borgo

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Built between the 12th and 13th century the façade is from the 14th century and is a mix of Pisan-Gothic styles.

Not far from here on a side road we stumble upon the market - consisting of an open air fruit and vegetable section over two squares with the meat, fish, and delis undercover in shops surrounding the open spaces

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We passed by one shop that would particularly appeal to New Zealanders

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The Chiesa of Santa Apollonia was closed but just at the end of the road we spotted the Chiesa di San Giuseppe della Misericordia

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Founded in 1530 it was rebuilt in the 18th Century.

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Not far from here we get our first good look at the tower

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and a few moments later we're right in front of it

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It doesn't look crooked from here.

Everyone tends to focus on the tower but they shouldn't - there is still a magnificent church and baptistry right next to it.

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Unfortunately as with any attraction, the crap tourist merchandise sellers are also there. At least they have kept them well away from the buildings themselves and have preserved the Campo dei Miracoli

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Back to the Duomo (Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta) itself

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The church was completed in the 12th Century and is the best example of Romanesque Pisan architecture.

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The façade consists of four levels of open galleries.

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The mosaic above the central doorway is the Virgin Mary by Guiseppe Modena de Lucca

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The doors feature bronze reliefs from the late 16th Century.

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The Four evangelists sit on the corners of the facade

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and the Duomo is topped with the Madonna and Child

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Since it is November entry is free, photography is allowed as long as you don't use flash.

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From the back of the church looking down the central aisle - and looking towards the back of the church

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The central apse

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Left and Right side altars and the Coffer ceiling

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Close up of the 13th century mosaic in the central apse Christ the Majesty between the Virgin Mary and St John the Evangelist.

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Left: Side Altar
Right: central aisle looking up towards the 2nd level of the church


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Hello to this couple who are too stupid to know how to turn their flash off.

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Left: From the side altar looking towards the main altar
Right: View from the front looking towards the rear of the church

Onto the Battistero:

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You need to buy a ticket to see inside and how much it will cost depends on how many other buildings you want to see. As we only want to go inside this it costs €5.

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Building started in 1152 and it continued under differing directors until its completion in the 14th century.

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It is topped with a statue of St John the Baptist to whom it is dedicated.

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It was actually quite surprising to find the interior as plain as this considering just how decorated the exterior is

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Paalo climbed up those stairs to capture this view on high of the inside of the Battistero

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The other noteable structure is the Camposanto

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started in 1277 and finished in 1464 it was the cemetery for the nobles.

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Finally it's time to look at the Campanile

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You can climb the tower but it is a guided climb and they do place a limit on the number of people that can be up there at any one time.

Here's that classic photo

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that people ruin by doing this

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No-one believes you are holding the tower up!

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There were certainly people up there but none were replicating Galileo's experiments.

For our return trip through the city we went down Via Roma to cross the Arno at the Ponte Solferino

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On the other side of the river on Lungarno Gambacorti we couldn't help but notice that church.

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This is the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina

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The church started as a small chapel and was enlarged in 1323. In 1871 it was dismantled and rebuilt one metre higher to help protect it from the Arno's flood waters.

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Inside you'll find this statue of the Madonna del Latte.

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This has to be one of the lowest tunnels I've seen - it's just a little higher than the door!

By this stage we were well and truly ready for lunch and found a little place on Via Mazzini called Ristorante Il Nuraghe which offers predominately Sardinia food though it also does the Tuscan classics.

For starters
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Paalo had the seafood based Antipasto - tuna carpaccio, bottarga, scampi salad and warm octopus salad

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I had the Crostini Misti -soft cheese, soffritto, piquant salsa verde, tomato with arselle, spicy tomato cream

For mains

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Paalo had the Spaghetti with Arselle (Arselle are tiny clams)

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and I had the Pappardelle con Ragù di Cinghiale

For dolce

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we both had the Crostata con Marmellata

It was an excellent meal and the chef who also took our orders was quite the jovial sort. This is the type of place that if you were a regular you'd just come in and let the chef feed you.

We couldn't have timed our arrival at the train station any better only waiting about 5 minutes for the train. We had a great time and are glad we decided to visit Pisa.

You can see more photos from today at the flickr set Pisa 2007

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