Saturday, May 16, 2009


Between Florence and the Cinque Terre, we visited Pisa. We only spent a few hours there and for good reason: the only thing to see in Pisa is Piazza del Miracoli, the Square of Miracles. The square houses the leaning tower, a cathedral, a large and oddly shaped baptistery, and a beautiful cemetery.

We are happy to report that the leaning tower is, in fact, leaning. There is a photo of some scaffolding set up in front of the door of the tower. The scaffolding is square and plumb and the door shows the angle that the tower leans. It’s really a large lean. The square is full of tourists and it seems like everywhere you look, there are hordes of people being really REALLY funny (or so they think) by taking photos of themselves “holding the leaning tower up.” Get it? It’s funny to turn around so the tower is behind you and see dozens of people standing there with their arms out in front of them like they are synchronized swimming or something. That being said, who can resist taking such a photo? It’s almost a requirement.

The baptistery has the most amazing acoustics of any building we have ever been in. Every half hour a woman comes in to demonstrate the echo effect. She spends a few minutes singing her heart out and the sound seems to be amplified by the odd looking dome above her.
While we were in the cemetery (it shares a ticket with the baptistery and the church) we happened to see an A-list celebrity visiting the same cemetery. Here is a hint: he went to the same high school as Daniel.

We came around a corner and Laura’s mouth dropped open while she gasped for air and pointed like the scarecrow from Wizard of Oz. Not 10 feet in front of us was the guru of travel, patron saint of Nerddom, and all around king of Europe, travel writer Rick Steves. Ok, so maybe not an A-list celebrity but still, who have YOU met? We were dumbfounded that after living to many years near Rick Steves, attending his travel seminars (taught by his staff), and lounging in his office for several dozen hours without ever so much as seeing him, we met him in the flesh in Pisa, where we only spent about 4 hours before leaving. He was kind but probably not as excited to see us as we were to see him. We refrained from giving him advice for next year’s book, but Laura did not refrain from telling several groups of American tourists afterward “Rick Steves is in there…” and pointing in the general direction of the cemetery. Many of those tourists did not refrain from asking “Who?” Unfortunately, this discouraging response did not seem to deter her.

All in all, seeing Pisa’s greatest architectural achievements become nothing more than curiosity is really enough to make anyone sick. It’s really sad that the hard work of so many people has come across the misfortune of being built on soft ground. The whole sight really is unfortunate. We won’t be retiring in Pisa. In fact we are a little bit ashamed that we visited.

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