Thursday, March 31, 2011

Leaning towards Lucca

Yesterday was a field trip day:  we went to Pisa (which, frankly, is a one-time type event for tourists, as far as I'm concerned -- but the Duomo really is pretty).

We emerged from the train station.  And walked.  And walked.  And felt like Pooh as we stopped for "provisions" at the local grocery store. 

Sta. Maria della Spina
And then we came across Sta. Maria della Spina, a Gothic confection that's very plain inside to make up for the decoration load outside.

A happy James in the sunshine!
The building was leaning, not me!
On the way, we saw a leaning building.  Apparently, the name "Pisa" comes from some language (Greek?  Etruscan?  I don't remember) meaning "marshland" -- in other words, "don't build here."  No wonder the campanile didn't even make it to the third floor before it started going cattywonkus!

After a few more steps, we saw the tip of the campanile (the leaning tower) over the trees.  I sped up to go to the ticket office, and arrived there at 11:45.  The reserved ticket time we received was 12:00-- in other words, no wait to speak of!  There was just time to feed the children some of the provisions to prevent meltdowns on the way up (can you imagine a puddle of bad temper oozing down those steps?).  Promptly at noon, the children and their daddy went bounding joyously to the tower, while I "usefully" watched all the bags, knitted, and read my book.  Any guesses on who was the happiest?

Waving from the Top!
Ceiling of Duomo
A few waves down at their mother apparently flattened against the pavement, and the kids zipped back down the stairs.  Then into the duomo -- which is really, really pretty.  Really pretty.

Florence and James getting Holy Water
Typical Catholic church, though:  it's like a family home where stuff has accumulated over the years, and no one has the heart to get rid of the sentimental favorites, even though they no longer "go" and so on.  Quite dear.  I have more pictures below for those who are photo gluttons!
Quite a pulpit!

Michael and Ashley in the gallery, for scale
Into the baptistery.  Just in time, too:  a few young men came in who apparently thought that "silenzio" translated as "laugh at the top of your voices."  The guide book says that the acoustics in the baptistery were amazing and that you can ask a docent to sing.  No docent being nearby, I proceeded to mortify the adolescents in the group by checking out the acoustics for myself.  They are excellent.

 Lunch, then on to Lucca, a little fortress town!

Ashley was NOT impressed with the toilets at the train station
Out of the station, we were confronted with a 30-foot wall within a few steps.  Tell me if this isn't adorable:  you curve around the corner of the fortification, go through a little archway, up a ramp (curved), around again, up some more steps, and into the sunlight!  You're now on top of the wall!

We had read about a gelateria, so this was a high-priority item.  And it really was good, I must say.  Then we wandered into the duomo (under restoration, so filled with scaffolding), and went up the main street, which is an outdoor mall of overpriced items.  I mean, really -- 310 euros for a pair of shoes

We found a really cute piazza -- La Piazza dell'Anfiteatro -- used to be a Roman amphitheatre, and had been changed into housing, shops, etc.  Really cute.
Aren't the curved buildings sweet?
Piazza dell'Anfiteatro with my favorite family!
Closeup of the best part of the trip....
And then home to Florence in a double-decker train! 
Our train from Lucca.  We were in the top!
Dinner -- and bed.

Love, Alexandra

The cupola in the Duomo

Main altar in the Duomo

Floor leading up to the main altar

A side altar in the Duomo

Inlaid stone to the side of the main altar

Isn't this a wonderful depiction of the Fall?
The baptismal candle


  1. Ashley, I'm sorry you didn't like the train station toilets......but at least they were porcelain! I have used some in Spain and France that were basically just holes in the ground over which you squatted.....nothing clean or polite about it! I bet Mummy has too. Nice pictures of everything. Are your eyes tired of all the colors, mosaics, statues, carvings, etc yet?
    Good thing you found the gelateria so quickly.

  2. Were the last pictures of the Duomo in Florence or Pisa?
    They are fabulous anyway.