Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pisa in Pictures

Yesterday, June 6, Dave and I went to Pisa with a handful of students who are completing independent study research with me this summer. We could not have asked for a better day on all fronts! The weather was a perfect 78 with low humidity and, as a result, brilliant blue skies that set off the soft grey architecture of the Cathedral and surrounding buildings beautifully.

Once possessing a strong naval presence in the medieval Mediterranean, Pisa eventually succumbed to its more powerful and domineering Tuscan neighbor, Florence. Later the ducal and grand ducal Medici controlled Pisa during their 200+ year rule of Tuscany. And today, the cities are similar in many ways.  For example: they both sit on the Arno in a valley, they both possess large, impressive cathedrals and the streets and shops of this much smaller city also look much like those of Florence, and yet, Pisa offers something else. Something different. As a group we attempted to put words to it--Was it less tourists? More pedestrian-only areas? A slightly different light quality due to the proximity of the sea?  Or was it the famous regionalism, which still defines and shapes Italy's culture, art, food and fashion 500 years later? What follows is our experience of Pisa in pictures (mainly).

Departing Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence, 8:28 a.m. (For those of you who have been here with us before, note the computerized arrival/departure boards. The flipping boards and the frequent click, click, click sound as the boards change -- something I must say, I really miss -- alerting you to trains bound for Berlin, Paris, Munich or Pisa, now silently change.  I'll never forget the first time I stood in this train station as a student and realized that this station was connected to the whole European continent by rail and I literally COULD go anywhere I wanted!)

Me with Suzi Tisdell and Mary Piepmeier at the feet (where he would no doubt like us) of Duke Cosimo I' de Medici in the Piazza del Cavaliere.

Our first glimpse....

The Cathedral's distinctive facade.

Dave and I. Note the degree to which the tower is off of vertical. 

Cypress trees and my favorite tree in the world--umbrella pines. These trees form part of the perimeter of the Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles), which contains in a rich green field (very recently mowed)--the Cathedral, Baptistery and Campanile, a.k.a The Leaning Tower of Pisa.

More umbrella pines (and a lot of tourists!). Note the old city wall in the background.

Inside the Cathedral. For the artists and/or art lovers reading--note Giovanni Pisano's 13th C. carved pulpit on the left. I consider this one of the highlights of the day. I teach this pulpit, as well as Nicola, his father's, located in the Bapistery here and felt like I really "saw" them for the first time this trip. There's so much to see. In such visually rich environments, I think everyone probably preferences some visual material over others. This time the pulpits felt like magnets pulling me in.

Florentine artist, Andrea del Sarto's Virgin and Child with Saints also held our attention. Dave and I in front of Dave's favorite artist and one of the stars of my dissertation. Sarto's slightly later contemporaries referred to him as the "painter without errors" (pittore senza errori). We weren't able to find any.

The aforementioned pulpit of Nicola Pisano in the Baptistery of Pisa. Note the gorgeous eagle with spread wings acting as the lectern.

Inside the Camposanto, a Gothic structure that still acts as the final resting place of special Pisan citizens and contains an enormous number of ancient Roman stone coffins.

Arrividerci, Pisa e Grazie! 
 Me, Mary and Suzi about to board our train for Florence, tired but happy. What a great day!


  1. Beautiful, Heather! Brought me right back and I still feel very lucky to have trudged up those dizzying stairs to the top of the tower!

  2. Hi Eileen! Good to hear your "voice" on the blog. We've thought of you guys often since being here and especially in Pisa. Great memories.