As if Barcelona and Provence weren't enough, our 2nd port day finally found us in Italy. And I knew the day was going to be beyond amazing. These two Italian Stallions were our tour guides:
(Gian - L, Walter - R)
Uh huh. It's ok to take a few minutes to drool.
As we made our way from the port in Livorno into our first stop, we passed Camp Darby - an American Army base. They were setting up for the annual community day where they invite the locals in for big BBQs, games and socializing. You know, so the Italians don't feel threatened by the big, bad, American army? Apparently it's quite a shindig, and very popular event.
Another interesting tidbit found in this picture: the taller trees are the umbrella pine trees. Like the pine trees you & I are used to seeing in the US, the umbrella pines also have pine cones. And seeds in those pine cones. The umbrella pines are called "pinoli" in Italy, and yes, those seeds are "pine nuts". Mmm I can taste the pesto now!
Our first stop for the day was Pisa. As in the "Leaning Tower of" fame.
Which means - you guessed it - the obligatory "hold up the tower" picture:
Whew. that is just hard work right there.
We were informed that the tower had been under renovation, and the scaffolding had been removed just a day or two before our visit. How lucky is that?!?
Seriously, I wasn't that excited to see the Tower - figured it was just another "check that item off the list" thing. I was wrong.
The tower - indeed the whole square - was beautiful.
Here's a view of the Basilica, with the tower in the background:
The square in Pisa is actually quite large, and includes the Basilica & Tower (Bell Tower), as well as the Baptistry. There are other building (now museums) surrounding the square). Here's a shot looking from the baptistry towards the exit of the square. For reference, the tower is just out of the left of the frame:
The little white line there, with hordes of people wandering in front? Knock off & junk shops. I kid you not.
But the Tower is of course the main attraction. Let me attempt to show you how much it leans:
The right side of the base, notice it's only about 2 tiles high:
and here's the other side - about 5 tiles down.
It really was amazing. Here's another view of the "lean", with my mother there at the base (she was game for ALL of my pictures!)
Here are the old city gates, along with a gorgeous lion who guards the entrance:
Here's the front of the Basilica
The detail of the inlaid marble is unreal.
Oh! I almost forgot this one - the UNESCO World Heritage Site Plaque
Sheesh. McD's is everywhere, even 100 meters from the tower. And in case that's too far for you to walk...they will TAKE YOU THERE.
See - here it is!
It's ok, I totally rolled my eyes too. And no, I didn't go in.
Instead I took in this scene, on a side street just off the square
The bicycle, the glorious door, the orange building, the market - just beautiful!
After our brief (hour) stop in Pisa, it was time to meet at the designated spot. I was delighted to find that a) it was a bar, and b) it offered a wonderful picture opportunity! the "bar" is actually more of a cafe (at least at 9:45 in the morning!), so a great chance for pastries, coffee and water.
We boarded our buses and headed off to Firenze (Florence).
The drive there offered beautiful vistas of Tuscany. I even found my future home:
Or even this one:
Under the Tuscan Sun, anyone?
Hello? is this thing on?
next up: Firenze (Florence). As glorious as Pisa was, you ain't seen nothing yet!