We weren’t going to go to Pisa.
We thought it would fit into the category of ‘horrendously tacky over-touristy chaos’ and the children protested that gross mistakes in engineering shouldn’t be a tourist attraction, but we were only 19kms away in Lucca so shrugged and went anyway.
We’re SO glad we did. It was actually pretty fantastic.
Before we left we said we wouldn’t do any ridiculous touristy things like holding the Tower of Pisa up, but when we got there everyone else was having so much fun doing it that we joined in. We now aspire to have as much fun (and as little self-consciousness) as the Japanese, because they’re always doing funny poses and jumps for the camera, and having a great time too.
Building begin in 1173 and it began tilting due to an inadequate foundation on unstable subsoil by the time they got to the second floor. But after a break for some wars, they got back to building. Instead of scrapping it they built the upper floors with one side taller than the other to compensate, creating a curved tower.
‘Hey Giovanni, it’s sinking, whatta we do?’
‘Ah, donta worry about it Lorenzo , just build that side taller, no-one will notice! Pass me my foccacia.’
They finally finished the bell tower in 1372. It’s since been pulled straighter, stabilised, and repaired in a number of ways, and will apparently remain stable for a few hundred years.
The children had said NO MORE CHURCHES before we returned to Italy, but we dragged them into Pisa Cathedral anyway. As expected, it was very Italian, which means insanely over-the-top and overdecorated. Why stop at one design feature when you can have frescoes AND mosaics AND gold leaf AND carving AND marble AND arches AND everything else you can cram in?
We entered a nave to find a dead body in a glass box, which was kind of freaky. We later found out it’s the body of San Ranieri, the patron of Pisa, who died in 1161.
We also found a human skull with some bones, but can’t find out who that belonged to. We decided the habit of keeping dead people as souvenirs is gross, we’re glad we now have photographs – would cut down on the plague for sure.