The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Italy by Bus

Day 11

Sunday, June 10, 2001 - Genoa, Pisa, Florence


Italian Lakes - Florence This morning we travel via the Plains of Lombardy and cross the Apennine Mountains en route to Genoa, Christopher Columbus' birthplace. Then we head down the coast to Pisa where we see the extraordinary Leaning Tower, before reaching Florence, cradle of the renaissance and former stronghold of the Medici family. (BB)

Optional Excursions

Michelangelo's Florence A guided visit to one of the world's most famous museums - the Academy of Fine Arts, to admire Michelangelo's most celebrated works, the 'David'. We will also have time to see some of his other great works, including the unfinished 'Prisoners' and a 'Pieta'. We then continue on to wonder at the beauty of the courtyard of the Medici Palace.

On to Florence

Today's wake up call came at 06:15AM, bags outside the door at 06:45AM, then breakfast and on the bus at 07:30AM. It was still raining a little, and there was a lot to do today, so Marco decided that we would not drive by the lake as he wanted to do yesterday, but take the direct route to Genoa instead.

Schedule Change

The Michelangelo's Florence optional excursion would usually be taken tomorrow (day 12), but since tomorrow is Monday, the museums are closed. So we will be doing this excursion when we arrive in Florence today.
Also, the optional Medici Evening and Sumptuous Banquet in a Renaissance Palace would normally be done tonight. Marco wanted to reschedule this so that we do not have to squeeze everything in today, but the Renaissance Palace is in use by the Rotary on Monday, so this optional cannot be rescheduled. During the drive to Florence, Marco worked the phone from time to time, and by the time we arrived in Florence, he had announced that the Rotary would be able to use another room in the palace on Monday, so we would not have to squeeze that optional in tonight.

More scheduling a la Marco.


The bus was delayed for a little while in leaving the hotel because the hotel porters did not get all of the luggage to the bus on time.
A branch of the Alps, called the Appenines, runs down through the country of Italy. However, on our drive to Genoa, we crossed the foothills of the Alps. Along the drive, we saw fields where they grow vercelli -- rice.

One of the good things about driving on Sunday in Italy is that the trucks are not allowed on the highways on Sunday. One of the bad things about touring on Sunday in Italy is the advent of what they call "ecological Sundays", where vehicles, especially busses, are not allowed into certain parts of the cities. This was the case in Genoa, and we did not get to see the house that Christopher Columbus was born in.

A ship in the port of Genoa, Italy We did drive past the port and see this ship from the bus

Heading for Pisa

As we left Genoa, Marco told us that there are 50 tunnels between Genoa and Pisa.
We took the A12 highway to Pisa, and there were more billboards along this highway than I had seen on any of the others we had been on. There were ads for sights and tourist areas mainly.

When we got to the Autogrill that they usually stop at for lunch, there were too many busses there already, so we continued on. We stopped at another smaller Autogrill, but it would have taken too long for lunch here, so we just used the smiley rooms, and Marco said that he would give us extra time in Pisa so we could get lunch there. While we were at the Autogrill, we looked for more of the Pocket Coffee for Doris (and a few other people who had become interested in them) but this Autogrill had none.

The marble quarry in Carrara, Italy, just visible in the mountains Along the way, we passed Carrara, famous for its marble. In this photo, if you look closely, you can see white patches on the mountains -- Alpi Apuani -- where the marble has been quarried.

An aqueduct on the way to Pisa, Italy Along this road also, we saw this aqueduct, which surprisingly was the only one I saw during the trip.

Pisa — the Campo de Miracoli and Lunch

We went to a parking lot where we rode a shuttle to the Campo de Miracoli

The shuttle in Pisa, Italy This is a photo of the shuttle that brings you from the parking lot to the The Campo de Miracoli

When you arrive in Pisa, the first sight you see is the Campo de Miracoli, the Field of Miracles. The large building in the foreground is the baptistery. It looks huge because of the perspective from where I took the photo.
At one time, you could not go into the churches unless you were baptized. So every church had a baptistery near it so people could be baptized before entering the church. The leaning tower is the campanile (bell tower) for the church. Off to the left, beyond the baptistery and the church, is an indoor cemetery which we did not visit.

The Campo de Miracoli, the Field of Miracles, in Pisa, Italy The Campo de Miracoli

The duomo in Pisa, Italy This is a close-up of the side of the duomo

The campanile in Pisa, Italy This is a close-up of the leaning tower -- from this photo you can see how much it is leaning

These close ups, if you look closely, show blocks used in the construction of the church and the tower that came from some other building. (See the photos below to see more detail.)

The duomo in Pisa, Italy In this photo of the duomo you can see a block with letters that are upside down, among other things

The campanile in Pisa, Italy In this photo of the tower you can see a block with a carving of ships

Take a look at the picture of the Square of Miracles. If you were to walk along this road until you were even with the leaning tower, you would see another road to the right. At this corner on the right is a restaurant, the Ristorante Antonietta, that some of us ate at for lunch.

The leaning tower from our table at the cafe in Pisa, Italy

I took this photo from where I was sitting.
We almost had to go inside to eat, but this table cleared
out at just the right time. From this angle, the tower
looks straight, but that is because it is leaning toward us.

Having lunch in Pisa, Italy

In this photo you can see Jasmine and Lee, the couple
closest to the camera. The couple behind them to the
left is Ken and Doris, and that is me and Karen on the right.

Here are a couple more photos I took in Pisa.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa The baptistery in Pisa

The baptistery in Pisa, Italy
The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The tower had begun to lean so much that it was in danger of actually falling over. A lot of work has gone into straightening the tower. They got it back to the point where it is leaning about 5 degrees. Fortunately for us, the restraints and cables had been removed some time before our trip.


At 3:20PM, we were on the bus, heading to Florence (Firenze). As the ecological Sunday restrictions extend until 6:00PM, Antonio and Marco had to be careful which streets we used. I'm sure we took some streets that we shouldn't have.

Those of us taking the optional excursion were dropped of with our guide at 5:00PM for the excursion, and then the bus headed to the hotel with the rest of the group.

A detail from a Medici palace in Florence, Italy A detail from a Medici palace in Florence

A garden in a courtyard of a Medici palace in Florence, Italy A garden in a courtyard of a Medici palace in Florence

This is all that we saw of the palace.

We also went to the Galleria de Academia, where Michelangelo's David is. However, no photos were allowed.

We got to the hotel at 6:40PM. This photo was actually taken the morning we left Florence, and you can see the Trafalgar bus which just pulled up ready for us to board.

The Grand Hotel Mediterraneo in Florence, Italy The Grand Hotel Mediterraneo in Florence

Included Dinner

Dinner was at 7:45PM, and consisted of spaghetti with black olives, turkey in cream sauce with mushrooms, salad, carrots, cake and coffee. We had two bottles of wine, the house red, and the house white.

After dinner, we walked with Jasmine & Lee from the hotel to the Ponte Vecchio, crossed the river there and walked back on the other side of the river, crossing again at a bridge next to the hotel. This bridge was the Ponte alle Grazie.


Marilyn and Beth

Commentary from Marilyn and her daughter Beth about their Best of Italy tour, September 7-20, 2001, reproduced here with their permission.

Day 11, Monday, 17 September, 2001 - Italian Lakes to Florence

Back on the bus this morning on our way to Florence with a 3 hour lunch stop in Pisa. I felt we were in Pisa a little too long. Basically all you need is maybe 2 hours at the most. All there is to do is look at the tower and maybe go into the church, it has a bunch of junk stalls around the square and that's it. [NOTE from Lee: I agree, we had about two hours there, and it was long enough to have lunch and see the tower, etc.]
We arrived in Florence around 3:30, at the Grand Mediterraneo, our home for the next 2 nights. This hotel was located across from the river's park. It was within walking distance of Signoria's Square. It was your average tourist hotel on a busy street.
We went on the optional dinner which was held in a country farmhouse ($51 pp). There was unlimited vino, antipasto, pasta, excellent roast lamb and pork, and dessert.

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Contents © Copyright 2001 Author: Lee Briggs except where noted. All rights reserved.