A Day in Pisa

It’s the weekend again!! This means it’s travel time again, and most of the people on the program have already either taken the train yesterday or today to Rome. Since I will be in Rome at the end of the program anyway, I didn’t follow, and instead chose to go visit Pisa. It was kind of a nice day trip, since there wasn’t really that much to see in Pisa, I got to spend all the time I want at each of the place I went to.

I took the train from Florence to Pisa, which took about 1.5 hour, and I actually saw two people got shoo off the train because they didn’t buy tickets. That Italian ticket checker was a very determined person. I tried to follow the walking route suggested by me travel guide, and ended up on the wrong spot, which was fine with me. Getting lost is a great way to find out more about a place, and Pisa is really not that big anyway. The same Arno River that flows through Florence also flows through Pisa, and once I found the river, I was back on track. I also found this tiny little museum that was actually free to go into for the permanent collections, which turned out to be not that impressive, but still. After that, I went to the gelateria suggested on the travel guide and got a huge cone of mango and zuppa inglese gelato for only 1.50 euro (the cheapest I have manged to find is 2 euro in Florence).

Walking does make a person hungry, so I bought half a pizza for lunch (eating pizza in Pisa!!), even though I have no idea what’s really on the pizza (some kind of meatball I am guessing). It was tasty anyway. I was walking and eating it at the same time, and at a turn, the famous tower just appeared at the end of the street. I have to admit, my first thought when I saw the tower was that, it’s shorter than I thought it would be. Then I got closer and realized that since the tower had been leaning and sinking into the ground, its first level is actually below ground level.

The building of the tower first started in 1173, was halted twice through history, and was finished in late 1300s. The tower was build on unstable soil, and was leaning toward south the entire time when it was being built. In the 19th and 20th century, the leaning became such a serious problem (to the point that the tower may collapse) that the Italian government tried various methods to stop the leaning. After multiple unsuccessful attempts, an international team was commissioned to stop the leaning and even reverse the leaning if possible. The tower was closed in 1990 for repair. The commission finally found a way to stop the leaning, which was to suck up soil from the north side of the tower, so that instead of leaning toward the south, the tower would adjust toward the north. The base structure of the tower was also reinforced.

Other than the tower, I went to the Duomo and Baptistery next to the tower. I didn’t actually climb the tower, as it costs a lot more than I thought it should to do that. The Duomo was a much better deal. It has amazing art inside, and I also saw the replacement of the bronze lamp that supposedly inspired Galileo Galilei to study and find out about the properties of pendulum. It was a pretty peaceful place, and I almost took a nap in there :)

The Baptistery is the biggest in Italy. The outside looks a lot more impressive than the inside, as there really wasn’t much. The interesting thing about the Baptistery is that it was also designed to be a musical instrument. If you make a sound in there, it echoes for a good 10 seconds. Every half an hour a security guard would come in and demonstrate this by singing. You can sing a chord without having 3 mouths or 3 people in this place!

Afterwards, I walked around the city, got myself a piece of focaccia, and happily munched away on the train back to Florence.

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