Brian and me in Pisa.
"The Lindts came HERE to learn how to make chocolate." --Turin tour guide describing for what the city is famous.
We left Florence first thing in the morning and drove to the small city of Pisa, known for its famous leaning tower. There really isn't much else to see here so we only stayed an hour. The town is designed as a square with the tower, a church and a cemetary near the middle and cofee shops, restaurants and souvenir stands along the perimeter. Our first stop is outside the tower for some picture-taking. Historically, the tower started leaning from the get-go. As soon as the base was built, it was noticed that ti leaned to the southside. Building was abandoned for a century and then the main tower was added.
Brian does his best to hold up the tower.
The tower still leaned. Another century passed without construction and then the belfry was added. And of course, the tower still leaned though each century's additions lean at varying degrees. The ground below the tower is made of soft soil which causes the tower to sink to the right. Throughout the years much has been done to "fix" the leaning (support cables, underground levelings, etc.) although, of course, today the lean is the charm of the tower and the highlight of the city's tourism. Recently they drilled holes in the soil of the north side and found that helped slow the toppling process a bit (by sinking the north side to balance the south). The tower continues to lean at a rate of 1mm a year and it should stay standing for another 300 years give or take before it collapes completely.
Autogrill--our fabulous lunch stop!
So if you want to check it out, you'd be wise to do it sometime in the next 3 centuries.
After Brian and I visit the tower, we have some free time before our bus departs again. We stop in a small cafe for a drink and a chance to use the restroom before leaving. We have laready adjusted to Italy's bathrooms (no toilet paper, frequent charges to use public facilities), but this bathroom was a new shock. I open the door to the stall and what do I see? Nothing. No, really, I see nothing, but a hole in the ground and a flushing lever on the wall. This is very Renaissance indeed! I have officially begun to miss the comforts of home.
We get back on the bus and continue up the coast through Genoa--the supposed hometown of Christopher Columbus.
View of Turin from the river.
I say supposed because apparently every town in this region makes the same claim. Genoa is a port city and its also well-known for its denim. Years ago sailors from Genoa would bring the denim to other cities for trading. Eventually the material became known as "blue Genoa" which became abbreviated to "blue Gens" which became further abbreviated to the "blue jeans" we have today.
After we leave Genoa, we stop for lunch at a place called Autogrill. Autogrills are a chain of gas stations/mini marts/restaurants found right off the highways all over Italy. Our expectations were low (picture dining at a glammed up AM/PM), but the food was surprisingly good. Brian had some pizza and I had a delicious risotto.
We are back on the road again and we don't stop until we get to Turin, site of the 2006 Winter Olympics.
A plazza in the city.
Driving into this northern city, we felt comfortable right away (cooler temperatures helped the cause). Turin is on the banks of the Po River, the longest river in Italy and so named because its shores are lined with poplar trees. We liked the bustling city feel with lots of industry, shops and parks. This is where the car company Fiat is headquartered. According to our tour guide, Fiat stands for Factory Italy Automobiles Turin (not "Fixing it again, towtruck" as some locals joke). We were even reminded of our home when we passed a restaurant called the Texas Ranger Cafe. After a brief rest in the room, we had a guided city tour. We learn that Rosseau lived here and that the city is famous for its banks. In fact, Turin is where the term bankrupt was first coined (It means "broken bench.
Perfect capper to the day--gelato!
" When the banks owed money and couldn't pay it, they were pushed against the bench until it broke.). The city is also famous for its arches (it has more than 17km of arches throughout). We go to a museum that is the supposed home to the holy shroud (the cloth used to cover Christ's body after crucifixtion). The shroud only comes out in jubilee years (every 25, the last being in 2000), but we entered the church where its housed and saw a photographed copy of it.
After all this, it was on to a group dinner at a local restaurant. We had a delicious 3-course meal with wine with our fellow travelers. Following this full meal, we traversed back home (stopping for gelato along the way, of course).