Reed Our Italian Diary

Day Three

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Our walking days are over, Dora has blisters. Instead of using the stationary bike at the health club, she should have been training on the treadmill to prepare her feet.

Taxi to the Duomo, a magnificent display of Florentine architecture. The cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiori, the Florence Duomo, is a vast Gothic structure built on the site of the 7th-century church of Santa Reparata. It was built at the end of the 13th century, although the dome, which dominates the exterior, was not added until the 15th century. From close up, the sheer size of the Duomo is overwhelming.

The interior is massive, overshadowing any human, even Dora. We paused when entering, to light a candle for the victims and survivors of September 11, this day being the first anniversary. We opted not to climb the 463 steps to the top - our calves were already sore, we didn’t want to make casualties of our quads too.

Instead we had a nice pasta lunch at a nearby café (Duomo in the background).

Off to Pisa! We arranged a day trip through a local hotel and oohed and awwwed at the beautiful Tuscany countryside during the one-hour bus ride.

Our tour guide was Ricardo, a very funny and knowledgeable college student at the University of Pisa.

The marvels of Pisa are found within the Piazza del Duomo, also known as the Campo del Miracoli (Field of Miracles). We toured the dazzling Domo, built in the 11th century. It contained many beautiful paintings and sculptures.

Adjacent to the Duomo is the Battistero (Baptistry), built between the 12th and 14th centuries. The Baptistry is the largest in Italy and used rain water for baptisms that trickled down through openings in the roof.

A visit to Pisa wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Campanile or Torre di Pisa (Leaning Tower of Pisa). Here, Mark and Dora attempt to hold it up and it looks as though Mark might prevent it from toppling. Initial construction began in 1173 and then was halted and commenced up to 1360 when the belfry was added. It took so long to build because it started leaning almost from the beginning. During the following centuries, many famous architects and engineers studied the problem - the shifting subsoil, saturated with water, but couldn’t devised a solution (one attempt to correct it actually made it lean more). In 1990, the lean became so bad (15 feet out of plumb), the tower was closed to the public. In 1993, it was decided to stop ringing the bells in the belfry to prevent vibrations from shaking the tower. Two years later, a belt of steel cables was placed around the base, and engineers also compensated for the lean with heavy lead weights. The maneuver was successful and the tower is slowly - less than an inch per year - realigning itself. We don’t think the Pisans want it completely realigned, though, or they’d lose millions in tourist dollars. It was open to the public to climb to the belfry (only 40 people per hour), but we decided to study its beautiful essence from afar.

The rest of our short stay in Pisa was devoted to buying lots of cheap crap from the dozens of vendors who lined the wall of the Campo. Gifts and souvenirs for everyone!

Back to Florence, where we dined at another recommended 4-star. We were seated in, what appeared to be a special back room for loud and boisterous English-speakers, and heard every variation of English, Canadian, and Australian accent. The waiter was a hoot and spoke very good English. Dora drooled over the lasagna and Mark flipped over the veal.

Back to the B&B and to bed after another awe-inspiring day.


Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four | Day Five | Day Six | Day Seven
Day Eight | Day Nine | Day Ten | Day Eleven | Day Twelve | Day Thirteen | Day Fourteen