I laughed so hard when I returned to my dictated travel notes to write the post for day two of our trip. This is how it read:
Day 2: Pisa, Cathedral & Baptistry, lunch, gelato, then marina de Pisa, feet in the med sea, drinks overlooking the breakwater just north of Lavorno. Airbnb for dinner: most of the same ingredients but mixed the salad and added lots of cucumber, put red pepper, tomato, basil & olive oil with fresh tomatoes and pesto to make a cooked sauce for the pasta, and had green salad on the side
I didn’t laugh when, after hours writing, researching, and editing this post, I posted it and somehow the entire post erased itself. Literally a blank post went up. There is a pit in my stomach and I could honestly cry but, with a deep breath and perhaps a few less web links, here we go again…
I love how after an amazing day exploring Pisa and eating the best gelato of our lives, all I wrote down was what went into our evening meal! You can tell what my priorities are! Haha. I’ll try to paint a better picture of the day with pictures, because Pisa is such a unique site with its historical buildings together in one massive square. We toured the cathedral, which offered a stunning introduction to the mind-blowing architecture and artwork that we would come to see as the norm over the course of the trip.
We parked just outside the city walls (yippee for free parking) and walked a couple of blocks to reach the wall, then past a quaint church and some side streets before coming upon the Leaning Tower of Pisa- from the back, of course, because that’s how we roll.
We walked to the tourist building to buy tickets. It gave us a chance to giggle at the countless tourists balancing precariously to get that magical “holding up the tower” shot. We didn’t succumb to the temptation but we did take pictures of some of the people who did! 🙂
We decided to skip the crazy line up and pass on climbing the famous tower itself (we also skipped going up the Eiffel tower in Paris) and instead went up to the gallery of the Baptistry, which gave us a spectacular view. It was built to replace an older baptistery, and construction ran from 1152 until 1363. It was built after the cathedral, but before the tower, and is slightly taller than the tower. It has a whopping circumference of 107 meters which is difficult to imagine even after having been inside! It’s size is impressive enough, but the staggering level of intricate detail in the architecture is what captivated me most- oh- no it was a tie! It also has perfect acoustics as demonstrated by a staff member who sang a few notes, which rang and resonated through the building in the most hauntingly lovely way. How I longed to stand there and sing!
From there, we toured Pisa cathedral (Duomo di Pisa), built in Pisan Romanesque style beginning in 1063, and inspired by Moorish and Byzantine design. Even the doors are art: massive bronze gates, they are “covered in beautiful relief, depicting different biblical stories” (according to the World Site guide). The cathedral is home to St Ranierius, the patron saint of travellers, and Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII. Fun fact: though not as severely as the tower, the cathedral does also lean! Oh- and so does the baptistery, but only a tiny bit (less than a degree).
Inside the cathedral, stunning inlaid artwork, gold detail, and an elaborate pulpit are all reflections of the sanctity of the space, as is the work dedicated to restoration, seen beautifully in the contrast between a restored and original painting:
Also: the tallest candelabra I have ever seen! I’m about 5’5″ so it must be 7 feet tall!
The pulpit features stories throughout the New Testament, and was sculpted by Giovanni Pisano between 1302 and 1310. Hilariously, it was built in replacement of another! At more than 700 years old, it is hard to imagine it being a replacement for anything.
After some touring around, we got lunch at I Porci Comodi, which is a popular lunch spot for students, and exactly as wonderful as all of the reviewers claim on TripAdvisor. The staff made some suggestions, laid out a stunning platter, and even explained how to eat it, beginning with the simpler items and working up to the more complex flavours. We had packed our picnic blanket, which we laid out in the square to eat on. I like to believe we looked at least a bit like we belonged there, because nobody tried to sell us anything and we were left in peace. Win!
We stopped for a quick chat with the guys from I Porci Comodi and asked for a gelato recommendation. Best. Decision. Ever. The suggestion: De’Coltelli. Casually situated alongside the Arno River, it’s a narrow, busy gelateria with fun orange walls and helpful staff. I made the Jessika-safe dairy free choice, but T ordered the classic chocolate. In a moment of weakness/kindness, he offered me a bite- and omg it’s gelato worth an allergic reaction! We renamed it “eff off chocolate” because it was too good to share (even though T did, because he’s a great human).
Really, all you need to know about Pisa is that it’s where we had the best gelato. If you’re there, go to Gelateria De’ Coltelli, and make your life better.
Satisfied with our afternoon in Pisa, we drove west to the coast to Marina de Pisa. May is the shoulder of the season, which meant that boardwalk parking was ample and also free- so we were able to spend some quiet time in the water, taking it in. It was warmer than last March in Barcelona, where we first dipped our toes in the Mediterranean. From there, we sat outside an unassuming little cafe, enjoying beverages as our feet dried in the sun.
It was a peaceful drive back to Fiano, where as you already know, we made a smashing pasta accompanied by a green salad 😉