We witnessed a lovely sunrise as we approached the very busy port of Livorno in Tuscany and travelled to Pisa, home of that amazing leaning tower.
En route we were surprised to pass a huge American army base. Camp Darby was first established in 1951 and is apparently the largest base outside of US territory. It seemed an odd contrast to the peaceful Tuscan countryside.
Back in medieval times Pisa was one of the most powerful Italian maritime regions, but today the city is about 20 minutes from the sea (blame river silting for this). Now the residents’ main income comes from two sources.
One is as a university town (founded in 1343!) with approx. 25,000 students. This is where Galileo was born and studied and they are naturally proud of this, showing such relics as the swinging lamp in the cathedral he studied to come to his theory of isochronism in pendulums – “that the period of the swing is independent of its amplitude”. There is some dispute about this as the present lamp dates from 1587 (after Galileo had moved away) and cost over 600 scudi! However, there probably was another which preceded the one now hanging there. Nice story and nice lamp and of course the original was candle lit! The lamp would have had to be lowered to light the candles and there would have been movement induced at that time…
Pisa’s other income comes from tourists like us visiting its art and architectural treasures, mostly in the buildings in the Piazza del Duomo, the so-called Square of Miracles. The Leaning Tower is a bell tower and is probably the most famous building, but this piazza also contains a cathedral, baptistery and a cemetery.
Gino was our wonderful guide and has been teaching tourists about Pisa since the 1970s. He lives in an apartment within the area where the tower is predicted to fall in 2126. As he pointed out, that will probably be of little concern to him!
It’s worth mentioning here that almost all the places we have visited on our trip have been under restoration or reconstruction – which has made photographing them awkward – and ugly sometimes, although it must be said that efforts have been made to mask off these construction processes.
We had enough time to have a fortifying un bicchiere di vino bianco e una birra among the hundreds of hawkers plying their wares… And that was how we met the only other West Australian couple travelling on the same cruise. It is a small world indeed!