Saturday, March 17, 2012

Christmas in Italy: Pisa

When planning out our Italian adventure, we could not find frequent trains traveling from Florence to Pisa, so we had to rent a car for this leg of the trip.  After picking up our car, we soon realized that it did not have a cigarette lighter to plug in our GPS!  Yikes!  Challenge #1 of the day:  finding our way the good old fashioned way, without technology. 

With a little help from the car rental employee, we found Pisa fairly easily.  The famous Leaning Tower was a different story.  I expected to drive into town and bump right into it.  How hard could it be to find a legendary tower in a little Italian city?  Well, Pisa was bigger than I remembered, and we drove in circles trying to find the leaning tower.  Finally, Dan just parked, thinking we might have better luck on foot. 

Soon, Dan approached an Italian man outside of a cafe and asked for directions.  The man did not speak a word of English, but eagerly gestured that he was willing to help.  He smiled and motioned "Let's walk, follow me" with his hands.  Usually, at this point, we've learned from our Turkey travels to say "no thanks" rather than follow a stranger  through a maze of uncharted territory.  But for some reason, this time we followed.  At first I felt (mostly) confident.  Dan seemed to trust him and I trusted Dan.  We walked quickly and silently, as our companion glanced back occasionally to smile and motion "Keep going".  But after 15...25...30 minutes of walking, I began to get nervous.  Where is he leading us? 

Finally, he smiled and motioned "Just around the corner".  I took a deep breath, praying he was right.  Suddenly, the leaning tower peeked out from behind a building as we all heaved a sigh of relief!  Dan offered our guide a tip, he smiled, refused, and disappeared quickly.  It was incredible.  This man walked with us for over 30 minutes, and accepted nothing in return.  God showed His providencial care for us through the kindness and generosity of this stranger. 

We made it!
The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Upon arriving, we happily snapped the "classic Leaning Tower photo pose" with the other tourists...

(Peter was snoozing in the stroller during this time, which enabled us to focus our attention on the perfect Leaning Tower pose.) : )

...and then explored the gorgeous cathedral and baptistry.

Pisa's Cathedral

The Baptistry

The interior of the Cathedral:  incredible!

The Cathedral's Ceiling

Next to the Pisa Cathedral is a cemetary called the "Camposanto" or "Holy Field".  The field is filled with soil from Golgotha (the mount where Christ was crucified). After the First Crusade in 1099, an Archbishop (probably of Pisa) brought back boatloads of soil from Golgotha to Pisa. Where the soil was deposited became a cemetary for the upper class of Pisa. A cloister was built around the field.


We finished our tour of Pisa at dusk.  The setting sun warmed the Leaning Tower with its vibrant pink and orange rays.  Peter was groggily just waking up from a nap.  We bought a miniature Leaning Tower (of course!) and started the trek back to our car.  Fortunately, our walk back to the car was much more relaxing.  We walked through a charming shopping district; full of shoppers, music, and sparkley lights.  We stopped for some tasty pasta and then finished our walk to the car. 

We drove to a nearby U.S. Army base (found it successfully...without a GPS...hooray!) and checked-in to our hotel.  Though I love Italy and its B&B's it's always rejuvenating to stay on a military base. It's refreshing to read signs in English and shop for American snacks at the Shopette.  It's just a little taste of home. 

The next destination on our tour of Italy: of my favorite cities in the world!

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