Thursday, July 11, 2019

Grand Tour of Italy: Pisa

Our first full day in Italy back in April was a visit to Turin.  The very next day, 4 April, we visited Lucca in the morning and Pisa in the afternoon.  That gives you a feeling for how quickly we went from one place to the other.

Lucca and Pisa, for reference, are in Tuscany, west of Florence.
The day after Lucca and Pisa, we went to Florence...and the next day to San Gimignano and Siena.
It's always good to have a reference point, don't you think?!

Basically, this is Pisa!  As you enter the Piazza dei Miracoli,
you first see the Baptistery, the cathedral and then the leaning that order.

And while we were there (can you tell?) we had the most torrential rain of the entire trip!

Lucky for us, we were let loose to explore on our own without a guide.
Guess where Astrid and I headed first, to beat the rain?

Everyone knows this place for the Leaning Tower of Pisa, of course.
Depending on what side you stand, the more you see the lean.

"In 1990 the tower leaned at an angle of 5.5 degrees, but following remedial work
between 1993 and 2001 this was reduced to 3.97 degrees, reducing the overhang by 45 cm
at a cost of £200m.  It lost a further 4 cm of tilt in the two decades to 2018."

Surely you know that in such places everyone tries the obligatory "gesture."
I was bound and determined to get a good photo of Astrid doing The Push.
Do you know how hard it is to get it right??

I finally settled on this.  HA!

It wasn't raining yet, so we walked around the cathedral square/piazza...

which really wasn't far.  See how close everything is!
Even Romulus and Remus are...right there.

At that point, the heavens let loose and it was all we could do to make it to the front of the cathedral,
without being completely soaked to the bone (as happened to others in our group).

The cathedral entrance is behind me where I stood in shelter to take this image of the Baptistery.
It's Italy's largest baptistery, completed in 1363.
We had hoped to visit it but had only one hour for the Pisa visit.  Seriously.

And since we were standing there at the Pisa Cathedral, the decision was made for us!
(The top image is the entrance and I'm standing at the Baptistery looking back.)

Of course, you know me and cathedrals!  It was the right decision.
It's dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, with groundbreaking in 1063.
[The leaning tower/campanile is the cathedral's free-standing bell tower.]

We were inside for only 20 minutes, so I grabbed what I could.

Something important happens in the Roman Catholic church in 2020, but I can't remember what?

I always grab the pulpit, of course, because of Preacher Dad.
But where was the organ??? Surely it was there??

I assume this was the lectern, used sometimes instead of the pulpit?

Then to the back of the church, which is opposite the altar and also the entrance from outside.

This was my second visit to Pisa and both times I missed the 4th part of the piazza:
the Campo Santo or Camposanto Monumentale, which is the cemetery.

But I did take a photo in 2007 of the tabernacle over the original doorway entrance.
The Virgin Mary with child is surrounded by four saints,
a work in the 14th century by a follower of Giovanni Pisano.

And yes, in 1987 the entire piazza was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Grand Tour of Italy: Lake Garda (Sirmione and Desenzano)

So, back to our Italy trip in April!

We were at the end of our trip and had just visited Verona the day before, with Venice the day after (for everyone else except the 4 of us who stayed behind).

That in-between day, day 16 (of 19 total), was our Lake Garda day.  Our bus driver had an obligatory day off, so it meant an Italian bus driver, with his own bus, was brought in for the day.  And because he knew the territory, he determined where we should go to get the most bang for the buck.

And boy, are we glad he did!

About 25 km from our first destination that day, he stopped at Borghetto on the Mincio river.
He gave us only 5 minutes to stop and take photos (tho' I'm sure we took at least 10 minutes!)

You can see why he did!
At that point, even before reaching Lake Garda, I felt the day was worth it.

We approached Lake Garda from the south and visited only Sirmione and Desenzano.
Our driver believed that, for the time we had, these were the best two choices.

After parking, we walked straight to the lake and took a 30-minute boat ride.

It was a good way to get the lay of the land...

and see sites we wouldn't have seen while on shore (except for the castle).

One of the first sites was the Maria Callas house, where the opera singer lived from 1952-58.
"In that period Callas considered this place an oasis of peace where she could take refuge,
far from the chaos that surrounded her."

As we rounded the tip of the peninsula, we saw the Grottoes of Catullus,
built at the end of the 1st century BC.

Grottoes of Catullus was the name given to this Roman villa.
If we had had the chance, it's the place I would have most wanted to visit on our own.

Then it was the Scaligero Castle, built in the 13th century.
"It's one of the most complete and well-conserved of Italy's castles."
Because we saw it later on shore, it was nice to see it from the lake.

Speaking of which!  
All these next photos were taken on shore.

Again, if we had had the time, the inside would have been the second place I would have visited.

What we DID see from the lake and pursued...

was the Santa Maria Maggiore church behind the castle.

It dates from the 15th century.

And of course, Santa Maria is visible throughout.

It's frescoes, from the 15-16th centuries, were totally worth the visit.

While walking through town to the church, I "collected" these doorpost tiles.
Don't you love them!

Impressions.  Impressions.  Impressions.
All from a total of 3 hours...before getting back on the bus to Desenzano.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

The distance from Sirmione to Desenzano is 11 km.

The first thing I took photos of was the lighthouse.

You know me.  Sometimes I just have to play around.
As you can see from the original images above, it was not this dark or dramatic!

But it was definitely the highlight of our short time there...

peering down from the breakwall to the harbor below.

We also walked along the shore...

before heading into town past this monument to the Italian resistance in WWII. 

Later we passed this monument to aviators.

We particularly wanted to see the Cathedral of Santa Maria Maddalena,
dedicated to Mary Magdalene in 1586.
Too bad it wasn't open while we were there.

Impressions.  Impressions.  Impressions.

After 1.5 hours, we sat and enjoyed the view before our bus driver arrived
to take us back to our hotel.

Memories of Lake Garda I will never forget!