Pisa 2000      Last Updated: 27-May-03

Monaco, again  Portofino (?) again  Italian coastline 

Because of the weather and the French Air Traffic controllers strike, we decided to fly to Italy, with Pisa as the first target. Now, it turns out that one needs to reserve airplane parking in many Italian airports, so they originally were not going to let us stay. With a little coercion ("what would it take to allow us to stay here?"), we did get them to let us park overnight. We found a hotel, and then walked towards that tourist mecca, the leaning tower. Along the way, our path was blocked by a parade of people dressed in colorful medieval costumes, including certain men who seemed to be in places of honor, and each of these men looked pretty big.

 

     

We eventually continued along to the tower and its surroundings, and took the usual tourist pictures. At the time we visited, the tower was still closed to visitors, but they had made progress on stabilizing it, and opened it shortly afterwards. We ate something, and then headed back.

Clear directions 
Where is that darn tower!? 

Waht are these people doing? 

Nice model  The real reason that it is leaning 

Careful - don't lean too hard  I think I felt it move! 

The tower was still closed  Cables and pipes used to stabilize the tower 

Scott noticed that people were only paying attention to the tower, but the cathedral needed help also.

Quick - help me! 

Cathedral door panel  Baptistry  Baptistry door panel 

Dinner - cheese, mussels, insalata mista  Pasta & and a special Pisa Pizza 

There were crowds, and people in bars and restaurants watching TV. Clearly, something big was happening, and we eventually figured that it was some event on one of the bridges over the Arno. However, we could not get in, so we remained unclear on what was happening.

What's going on over there?  What are they looking at?  What's that on TV?  Hmmm...something going on at that bridge  Looks like a big party 

We eventually got an explanation that this is a festival which has been going on since the 1200s to commemorate some sailing event. The North bank of town (Tramontana) and the South side (Mezzogiorno) compete on the Ponte di Mezzo which joins them. There is a heavy wheel-less cart; the goal is for the men of one side to lift and push this to the other side of the bridge, while the men on the other side are trying to do the same. Sort of a weighted push-of-war. This is done at night, with the sides of the river illuminated with torches. The winning part of town gets boasting rights for a year, and the losing side must turn off their lights for the night. This Battle of the Bridge is fought on the last Sunday in June each year.

On a previous trip, Roswitha had seen a large Keith Haring mural. When we woke up in the morning and looked out our window, there it was.

Keith Haring  Painted 1989 

An appropriate shirt for lunch  Lunch - more pasta

 

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Siena 2000     

After breakfast the next morning, we flew the plane to Siena, by way of the Piornbino Peninsula so that we could see the island of Elba. I was feeling pretty good; able was I ere I saw Elba. The airport in Siena had no problem with us parking the plane for two weeks (none of the three Rome airports would accommodate us), although we'd have to pay extra to get it on Wednesday, when they are normally closed. Our taxi driver suggested a guest house, and we then walked into Siena to look around and have dinner.

The Island of Elba - but we were not able to go 

A walled village - famous on postcards 

The ground crew  Our taxi is ... where? 

 

Siena claims to be the oldest intact Medieval city, and it is certainly impressive sitting on its hill in the Tuscan countryside. The Duomo (cathedral) is decorated with distinctive horizontal stripes. Unfortunately, it was not open, so we did not see the interior.

Repairing a façade  Il Duomo  An entry to the square 

Column base  Striking striping  Sculpted detail 

We wandered to the Piazza del Campo, the main square of the city. It was already being prepared for the Palio, the intense horse race run on July 2 and August 16. Dirt was being put down on the cobblestones, but restaurants were still operating, so we decided to have dinner. The sun was already off the narrow plaza; only the tops of the high buildings caught the last few rays. As it grew dark (and we had more wine), it became magical. (Unfortunately, the magic did not extend to the restaurant's service, which was like something out of Fawlty Towers.)

City hall - note that the Companile is surrounded by a painted construction cloth 

Meat     Alley     Street

Calimari insalata and Pomodoro Caprese  I'm holding my butt cheeks tightly together  Grilled melanzani 
Zuppa di fagioli 

A magical evening

 

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Roma 2000     

UNDER CONSTRUCTION - Hey! It wasn't built in a day!

The next morning, we boarded a bus for Rome. (Siena is off the main railroad lines.) We found a hotel at the top of the Spanish Steps, and started to explore the city. The ruins, the Coliseum, the Vatican - we did 'em all (OK, except for the Trevi Fountain). We got the Pope Bottle opener, and Roswitha, fittingly, got new sandals near the Vatican.

At the top of the Spanish Steps 

        Murano glass chandelier 

Centuries of wealth pouring from the world into the little country of the Vatican have helped to construct a magnificent cathedral and surround. The Vatican Museum holds treasures from many eras; the art is phenomenal, of course. (It struck Scott as a little heavy on the religious theme thing, however.) Brilliant marketing of Michaelangelo's masterpiece creates the major draw. From the first entry into the museum, one sees signs pointing the way to the chapel. However, these actually lead the visitor through a maze of galleries and halls, past the wondrous art. There were so many misdirections and turns (Scott kept count) that it became obvious why it is called the Sixteen Chapel.

This way...to the wolves 

World treasure  Spiral ramp  Look, the Pope's waving! 

Attenzione!  Hey, they're right! 

Perseus and Medusa's head  Uh, isn't the hole in the wrong place...?  Bacchus  Athena  Beautiful Mosaic floors  This way to the Chapel  An obscure camera    A shortcut to the Chapel?  That must hurt  Just a little farther... 

Incredible ceilings  Incredible ceilings  Incredible ceilings 

Double spiral staircase 

The Holy Cafeteria  I wonder if the Pope eats here 

From the Vatican Museum, we entered St. Peter's Cathedral. This is enormous, beautiful, and awe-inspiring. The power of the church is tangibly demonstrated. The space accommodates pilgrims and tourists, and rises above all.We decided to climb the dome (which has a hollow space inside of the dome walls) to get a view of both the inside and the outside.

Square in from of St. Peter's Basilica 

Incredible detail  Dwarfing scale 
Detailed mosaics line the walls  Beautiful magesty 

There are 320 steps - be in good shape 

A bee  Narrow stairs - not for the claustrophobic  The slope gets challenging 

Painted frescoes  Midway up the dome  The scale of the building is huge 

Vatican gardens  Vatican gardens 

Statues  The square 

The chapel and the pope's apartments 

Roma  Roma 

Basilikum (basil) on the Basilica 

    A smaller dome  The Swiss Guard 

It is hard to roll up all of Rome into a few pithy and humorous statement, so we won't try. (Not least because this was three years ago and it all blurs together.) We wandered through the ruins around the Colliseum and encountered an American theatre troupe performing Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in English with minimalistic props - but who needs props when it is done in the place where it happened?

  Hardian's road   

A random crowd of tourists formed  The prelude - or is it prelute? (Actually, it's a ukelele) 

Senators...  ...at the Forum  The conspiracy 

  The Colliseum 

As were were leaving, by subway, to head to the train station, we enjoyed a charming little incident typical of the city which is Rome. We were carrying backpacks, bags, and pouches. As the subway train pulled into the station, a group of women with children and infants got up and boarded just before us. One group crowded Roswitha against a wall of the car, and the other sort of blocked me at the door. This separated us and kept our attention as we were crowded on the uncrowded train. We both had a pretty good idea of what was happening; I immediately grabbed for my pouch, and found that it already had a hand in it, which I clamped on to. The owner snatched it back and looked surprised and a little offended. Roswitha was fighting a similar battle. Before the doors closed, they tried to get off, but a transit cop yelled at them and made them stay on with us. We sat down and did a quick inventory (noting missing), with all of us eyeing each other. I felt like going over and rummaging through their bags, but decided that I did not want a knife in my belly.

     

       

A fountain 

  Hey! That's my sister! 

Primera piatte  Yes, this is a pizza 

Breakfast with friends 

I need a break 

Dinner

 

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