Saturday, April 10, 2010
You don't realize what the major milestones of your life are until you actually complete them. Going to Pisa was one of those major milestones in my life I didn't realize I needed to do until I actually went and did it. I had one of these moments when I went to the Uffizi and saw Laocoon and his Sons, as you should all remember. To be honest I wasn't all that excited to go to Pisa. I'd had more than enough opportunities to go there. The train from Florence to Pisa is only 5 euro. I kept putting the trip off, though, because Pisa wasn't that exciting to me. I'd seen pictures of the leaning tower. Did I really need to be in one? Yes, in fact, I did need to be in one. I went with my school who offered a day trip there, accompanied by Casalinga and another friend who I'm naming Caaah. We took a bus and I couldn't help but be a little bit mind-blown as we rode through the hills of Toscana. I can't believe I live here.
We got to Pisa at around 10 a.m. We got ourselves some cappucini, took some bathroom breaks, and walked into the Piazza. We had a really incredible tour guide who told us how Pisa decided to be innovative and instead of putting their Duomo, Baptistry, and Campanile in the center of town they put it on the edge of town. Apparently in the 1100s Pisans were the center of everything, economically and artistically, and I find it a shame that the city was sacked by Florence. The Renaissance would have happened so much sooner and for so much longer if the Florentines hadn't have been so irritatingly over-confident. When we walked through the city gates and I saw the three buildings I staggered, practically floored. I was looking at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and damn does that thing lean. We went into the Baptistry first, a structure so advanced for its time (the 1100s) that it outdid every other church or cathedral then known to man. When we went inside our tour guide pointed out the sculptures of crazy animals particularly significant in their weirdness before leading us up a bunch of stairs. For a minute I thought I was going to be subjeced to another Brunelleschi-like hate fest but the stairs in this building ended far short of 463. After our tourguide loaded us with some more facts about the place, we were hushed by a security guard. She'd explained that the building was designed so perfectly (they can't decide whether this was by accident or if the Pisans were just so advanced) that it has never been matched for more perfect acoustics. A man stepped onto the alter, then, and I couldn't believe how truly other-worldly the acoustics were. He hit maybe three different notes, chanting, and it sounded like there were fourty-five men singing as loud as they could. The sound didn't just reverberate of the walls. It was too big for that. I felt like I was standing in a circular, marble death-trap because this man's voice was going to shatter the walls.
We went into the Duomo next. It done up in imported Renaissance paintings and sculptures because the originals were destroyed or something. The Medici family commissioned the renovation of it after it was burned down, I think. It was ornate, gorgeous, and exactly like every other Renaissance church I've seen. Snore. The real attraction, though, was right outside of the Duomo. The way these three structures are set up, in every Italian city, is the same for a reason. A circular Baptistry to signify the eternal life you're granted at birth during Baptism, the Duomo to represent the importance of law and whatnot to gain eternal life, and the Camanile, or bell-tower, that chimes out a reminder that yes, you're going to die. We'd made it to Pisa's bell-tower, leaning a solid four-feet, and I couldn't help but think that this bell-tower over any others was a reminder of death. If that thing falls it would snuff the life out of any unfortunates underneath. We broke for lunch before taking all the cliche leaning tower pictures. I'd packed myself some peanut butter (I rejoiced after finding a jar) and some bread but I'd totally forgotten to pack myself a knife to spread it with. I walked into a cafe and asked the man behind the counter if he had a plastic spoon. He informed me that I could only be in their store if I was going to make myself a customer. I guess Florentine rudeness stretches to coastal Tuscany. He had weird mutton-chops, anyway. I went to a gelato stand after that and asked for a sample of the menta. The guy gave me a little taste on a small gelato spoon, I thanked him, and left. I went and sat on the steps of a cherub fountain, spreading my peanut butter with my gelato spoon contentedly in the warm sunshine. I had a banana, too. It was one of the better lunchtimes I've had here. After my lunch I met my friends and we took close to a hundred cliche leaning tower shots. It was funny to just sit and watch the congregate in that field. All of us were taking the cliche shots, and without the tower to supplement the image of all those people pushing air, leaning over at strange angles, kissing air, doing handstands, punching nothing, etc. etc., was really hysterical. I felt like I was looking at a people zoo. I would go back to Pisa solely to people-watch.
We got back on the bus after that, headed to another famous Tuscan town called Lucca. I don't really know why it is so famous, there wasn't anything that special to me when I went there. It was really Italian-ish and it had some cool ramparts, but that was all. We rented bikes and rode along the ramparts for the remainder of the day. The bike ride was extremely pleasureable for me. Why? I rode through trees. Anything to do with trees, I guess. I'm a regular Mary Katherine Gallagher. It was nice to be on a bike, too, though. It made me feel alot like I was living in Italy rather than just staying here temporarily. Riding a bike is such a normal activity. I was able to work on my tan some more, too, in the bright Italian sunshine. I even had a little lemon lollipop.
I probably won't ever find myself in Pisa again. I'm not sad about this. Just like before, I'm not exactly dying to go back. The thing is, though, I can't imagine my life if I hadn't have gone. Its weird, but I somehow feel like going to Pisa was a HUGE part of my life. Arrivederci, for now.