LEANING RICK IN PISA

The GPS in the van led us close to the Miracle Square, but we still couldn’t see the tower. We knew it wasn’t very tall, but as we neared the destination without any sightings we were a little worried. Then we rounded one corner of the main road, and there was an old wall with a gate entrance and a large grassy area on the other side. This I only caught in a glimpse as we went by. The real proof that we were at the right spot were the vendors. All of a sudden after rounding that corner we had gone from bland city road to row upon row, upon row of crowded, tented vendor stalls. “Yes!” Claudette and I almost exclaimed aloud. With a bunch a shysters selling all kinds of crap, this must indeed be the right place. We drove another half block before finding a parking stall and headed back to the entrance.

Never mind the varied, semi-sorted past of the Bell Tower, it was beautiful! The Cathedral, the Cemetery, the tower, and a museum were all finished in gorgeous marble with intricate styles and carvings. It was VERY impressive, even though I was well prepared to be impressed. We’re not quite talking about the seamless craftsmanship of the Taj Mahal mind you, but it was still fairly incredible. Claudette and I philosophically debated on who had originated the art of delicately etching precious and semi-precious stonework into marble. Both India and Italy had similar styles and reputations for doing this type of work. Obviously one had traded with the other some of these works, and the second one had picked up the concept and began doing it themselves. We had heard stories of Italian stores buying finished marble etched tables, shipping them North, and then selling them as Italian made works of art. The price was naturally tripled to account for realistic Italian craftsman prices. Wow, the Indians sure do work for cheap, on account of their economy being at a much lesser scale than Western countries. If only they had much better infrastructure throughout the country, they really would completely take over manufacturing and service from North America.

Back to the tower though… The lean was pretty dramatic, especially when walking sideways into the lean. It reminded me of the slanted, very narrow staircase of the Dome Walk for St. Peter’s Basilica. The steps were really worn on the edges in the center, just like the Basilica as well. Both sets of stairs were worn down about 0.7cm to almost 3cm deep in a bunch of areas. Granted there’s quite a huge number of daily visitors here all day long, throughout the year. They only sell tickets in pre-arranged time blocks, and after that forty minutes or so, everyone is booted down. This is to let the next group finish climbing from a staging area three-quarters of the way up.

We took some pictures, but NOT the traditional holding up the tower ones. Before our scheduled time we had gone through the Cathedral which was pretty spectacular. It had all sorts of amazing paintings, mosaics and carvings, but we were hard to impress after seeing the majestic grand scale of art at St. Peter’s in Rome. After climbing the tower we toured the cemetery which was pretty interesting and very unique. It was in a long term state of restoration, but the graves were laid out in a large outer rectangle with an inner, “undead” courtyard of grass, small trees and benches for worshipers to relax in. On the way out we took our time going through the hawkers booths amidst some light rain falling.

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