Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

We spent the day in Pisa. We had studied so much about other art in the area that I had completely forgotten that I was going to see the leaning tower of Pisa as well. I got really excited about that on the way there.

It was of course a very early start as usual on the days that we go out away from Pistoia. We have to catch two different buses to get to the train station and then take the train for an hour or so to get to our destination. Of course, because we want to see as much as possible, we start out early and stay as late as possible.

When we got to Pisa, we got out of the train station and got a chance to look around. Since we walk around the cities we visit and don’t use public transportation (because all the things we want to see are near the center anyway), we took a long walk through the city on the way to the Duomo.

Of course, along our long walk, we all stopped to get some coffee, use a bathroom, eat pastries and stock up for lunch. We stopped at a café that Jane swears has the best pastries in the world. She doesn’t eat wheat, but once a year she makes an exception when the school stops at that café, and she has something to eat. I decided that I should be trying it out as well, so I had a pastry. It was pretty good, but being pregnant doesn’t help with my tastes, so I have to reserve judgment on things I’m not craving until I’m no longer pregnant.

On our walk, I got a chance to take some photos. We walked over the river, and that was a beautiful view. Mostly, I was using my Woca, but I do still have some digital shots to work with.

Eventually, we ended up at the Duomo. The Leaning “Tower” of Pisa is in fact just the campanile (bell tower) for the church. We walked around the church and got to take a good look at the tower, the church and the baptistery. They are all very beautiful in style, and it was in fact the building that paved the way for a new style of architecture called Pisa Romanesque. The main features are rounded arches with green and white candy stripes. It sounds really dumb on paper, but when you see it as the façade of many of these beautiful buildings, it looks glorious.

We looked at the facades of all of the buildings and talked about the campanile. When we were done with that, we headed into the Duomo to have a look.

It was a very crowded building, but it was worth having a look. We got to spent time looking around with Jeffery asking the usual questions. How does the space feel? What does it look like? Is the style Gothic, Romanesque or other? What year was it built? Does it have columns or pillars? What was the space designed for? What do the capitals of the columns look like? This style of teaching really gets you to understand what you are looking at so that eventually you ask yourself the questions before he even starts talking.

We then spent some time looking at another one of the famous Pisano pulpits.

The Duomo was really fantastic because it had so much going on in it, and you could just tell that when the city was flourishing as a port for Italy that it was able to invest its wealth into great works for the city. The church is just crammed full of incredible things. I wasn’t feeling very well, but I did my best to stay with the group and get as much as I can, but I do tell you that it is possible to get a lot out of just sitting quietly in a church and observing the space and the art.

We then headed to the baptistery. It was built in a similar way to the Duomo, so it was easy to understand. We went into the space, and it was just wonderful. There wasn’t really a whole lot of art and other things compared to what we had just seen in the Duomo, but it was still nice. There was a very good sculpture of Saint John that I liked. We spent a lot of time looking at another Pisano pulpit.

When Jeffrey was done, he sent us upstairs to look around. I just went up there and sat down because it was so nice. I took a lot of photos of the architecture and other things, but it was really nice to sit up there and be able to look at the building from another angle.

We took a short break for lunch, and I ate what I had stored up from the coffee shop as well as some yogurt I had brought along. A group of us then decided to go and take photos holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. They were kind of touristy, but also a lot of fun.

After lunch, Jeffrey took us to an old cemetery to look around and see where the Pisano father and son had gotten the inspiration to make such beautiful pulpits (from Roman Sarcophagi). We looked around, and it was just a great place to take photos. We stopped and looked at one of the frescos that were really important to Pisa. It was huge and beautiful. The cemetery had been bombed in one of the World Wars, and the cemetery and the frescos on the wall were put back together piece by piece. It was really admirable and showed the quality of human resilience. I was impressed, but also very glad that it was done. We then looked at a lot of graves and sculptures. They were even restoring some of the other frescos, and I got a chance to watch. It was really fun.

We decided to head home. It was pretty late in the afternoon. Of course we went by a very good gelato shop on the way, and it helped purk everyone up.

Dinner was Spinach tortellini, Rabbit, Peas, mashed potatoes, salad, cheese and fruit.

We read Dante after dinner with Jeffrey, and then I headed off to bed.

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