The leaning tower and a cooking class

Much as I despise crowds, I did want to see the famous leaning tower at Pisa. I guess. And yes, it sure does lean. In fact it is a bow leg – leans one way for a few courses, then the engineers tried to straighten it up, building the following courses at a slight angle. It has had that lean since it was built in the twelfth century. According to Wikipedia, it was due to inadequate preparation of the foundations before construction. It’s certainly not the only leaning tower in the world. Venice has quite a few, and Amsterdam has a lot of leaning houses, if not so much towers. Sandy or marshy ground is usually the culprit. We were offered the option of climbing the tower but everyone declined.

The bow shape is clear in this photo. Yes, the lens has exacerbated the curve, but it’s really there

The tower is actually the bell tower for Pisa’s cathedral. Remember the marble mountains at Carraras that we spied form the train? This is where quite a bit of it went.

It’s a lot of fun watching everybody trying to get pictures of somebody apparently holding up the tower. This is just a few of them.

We walked around the outside of the cathedral to the baptistery behind the main building. As we walked I overheard somebody say, “Oh that’s new. I was here in 2012 and I’m sure that building wasn’t there.”

Rolls eyes.

The baptistery

Our guide explained that people who had not been baptised could not enter the cathedral. They were taken to the baptistery to be baptised and then they could enter the cathedral through the magnificent doorway directly opposite the baptistery, a sort of progression into the glory of God. I have to confess that most of the interior photos were taken by Pete, whose simple tablet coped with the low light conditions better than my Canon. (Flash is not allowed in these places.)

Entry to the baptistery is strictly controlled. Groups of a certain size enter at fifteen-minute intervals. I thought that was just crowd control, but it isn’t. Everyone was asked to be silent, then a woman walked over to a central point, and this happened, as recorded by Himself.

The singer

Every time I listen to this a get goose bumps. It’s one voice in this wonderful place. I think this would be THE highlight of the entire tour for me.

Then we went off to the cathedral. Although it looks plain on the outside, the inside is as opulent as you’d expect. Here’s some basic information on its design. The article refers to the on-going rivalry between Pisa, Genoa and Venice, all major maritime powers during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Florence and Siena, all the world’s financiers, were in the mix for different reasons.

The amount of money spent on these religious buildings is staggering, especially when you think about the lives of the ordinary folk. Still, I suppose it provided employment to any number of tradespeople who kept the economy going.

Like most of these towns, other people can hop into a horse-drawn buggy to be taken on a sight-seeing tour. It’s something I have to take into account because I’m very allergic to horses – despite the fact I adore them. We retired to an air-conditioned café for lunch, which was once again a pizza. I never thought I’d say this, but I was just about pizzaed out.

That evening we went off to a country pub to have a cooking class and dinner. Our bus driver , Roberto, had to negotiate a bridge which was only slightly wider than the bus. I’ll bet I wasn’t the only one remembering the recent disaster at Genoa, where a motorway bridge collapsed.

But, since I’m writing this, we obviously survived. The hotel chef put us to work, preparing vegetables and pasta dough while sipping wine. It turned out to be a heap of fun and we got to know our fellow travellers a bit better. I’m sure dinner was not what we prepared, but something the chef had whipped up earlier. Once again, the food offered few vegetables, although chopped carrots, onions, celery, and tomatoes were used in a simple pasta sauce.

Dressed up and preparing vegetables. Note glass of vino.

The next day we would be travelling to Siena, another of the powerful city-states of middle-ages Italy.

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