Monday, May 21, 2012

Italy: Spring 2012: Tuesday, May 15: Day 21: Pisa

Italy: Spring 2012: Tuesday, May 15: Day 21: Pisa

The sun is out again today....we have been mostly very lucky with the weather up to now on this trip.

After breakfast in the charming garden in back of the hotel

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we walk over to the nearby Piazza dei Miracoli, the grassy field where the Leaning Tower, the Duomo and the Baptistery are located. This is one of the most crowded tourist sites in Italy, lined with stalls selling souvenirs and there is a never ending stream of people flooding in from all directions.

But it is also a very unusual open setting for the three buildings

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that somehow can handle the crowds, even all the people taking pictures of people holding up the leaning tower.

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We walk around the Piazza and then take a short stroll towards the center of town passing through the very grand Piazza dei Cavalieri (unfortunately being restored) with its elaborate painted palazzo 

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and the building with the clock that gives our hotel (Relais Hotel dell'Orologio) its name.


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We are meeting our friend (and my travel colleague) Maddie Bacarelli 

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for lunch in Quarrata, a town near where she lives.   Quarrata has been called the ugliest town in Tuscany by some but we think that is unjust...although its modern piazza with this war memorial is a bit strange.

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Lunch is fine....and we have a good time catching up.

We try to drive back through the countryside but our first attempt ends us up on too narrow and curvy a road for our comfort so we turn around and try a different route.  But we do pass a hillside with olive trees and poppies that are very striking.

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The ride is taking too long so we find the fast road and get back to Pisa in time for a rest and some work.  Later in the afternoon, we walk into the center of Pisa. We pass through section of town where the University of Pisa is located; there are students everywhere--walking, riding bikes, sitting in bars--which makes the town seem very lively.  We walk along the river Arno which is flanked on both sides with impressive palazzi and some scullers on the river

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past the statue of Garibadi in the Piazza Garibaldi

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and then back to the hotel by way of the main shopping street

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In this part of town, you wouldn't even know that the Leaning Tower and the enormous crowds of tourists was a kilometer away.

We have dinner at another Slow Food recommendation, Trattoria della Faggiola which is just steps away from the hotel.  We have some doubts when we walk in since only one table is occupied but we sit down anyway.  The menu is very brief 

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but dinner is quite good...asparagus soup and mixed salami and cheese plate for Diana and pasta with sausage and mushrooms and meatballs for me.   We drink a local Pisan red with dinner.

Tomorrow we will visit the Baptistery and the Duomo.

Jim and Diana

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