Tuscany

Jo’s Monday walk : Dizzying heights!

Did you wonder why we deserted lovely Lucca so early to catch a train?  And did you spot those Medici balls again?  Hard to miss them in this part of the world.  When we landed at Pisa airport I was immediately smitten with the soft light, over the backdrop of mountains that I somehow had not expected.  The sun was sliding down in the sky, bathing even the unromantic Ryanair flight in opalescence.  I knew that I could not come this near to one of the wonders of our world without taking at least a fleeting look.  So Lucca was left behind, and that man Garibaldi took centre stage.

I think that faded grandeur best describes Pisa, though it was obvious that modernity was making a comeback.  I found it a ‘gritty’ kind of place, on brief acquaintance, but I’m sure that there are many more treasures to discover.  It’s an easy walk from Pisa Centrale station, crossing over the River Arno and heading up medieval Borgo Stretto, with its straggle of cafes and shops.

Very soon I was back in the company of Giorgio Vasari.  As well as Palazzo Vecchio and the Vasari Corridor in Florence, he was responsible for Piazza dei Cavalieri, the magnificent  Knight’s Square in Pisa.  In front of Palazzo della Carovana stands his former master, Cosimo 1 de Medici.

Following Via Santa Maria, a familiar sight soon appears.  “Look!  It does!  It leans!’

And then, ‘Are you going up?’  It’s a quarter to 4 in the afternoon and there is no queue.  What am I waiting for?  Of course I’m going up!

It’s a bright blue day, but with a brisk, cold wind.  The marble steps inside the tower are well worn and there’s no hand rail.  As expected, the ‘lean’ has a slightly disorienting feeling, but there is plenty of time to negotiate them.  At the top the wind is blowing fiercely and I step into the space between the bells for a brief respite, 55 metres up in the air.

The views are wonderful and I notice, almost for the first time, the sturdy walls of the city.  Still, it’s a relief to be back in the stairwell, making my way cautiously down the steps.  ‘Did you wave?’ I ask.  No, he didn’t.  Apparently at that moment the chief of police had appeared in a shiny new Lamborghini in the piazza below, thrilling the crowd.  It’s Italy, after all!

Piazza dei Miracoli, the Square of Miracles, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which lives up to its reputation.  I wandered around the huge green (albeit with a slight ‘list’ in my step) and was grateful that this beautiful tribute to the maritime might of Pisa had survived.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the Baptistry complete the miracle.  The doors alone, resplendent with Pisan history, are worthy of a visit.

Youngsters sprawled on the grass- it almost seemed sacrilege to me!  Out beyond the walls, life goes on.  I smile and shake my head at the traders, and head back along the outside of the walls, through Knight’s Square, for a tired return to the station.

What I could have done with a little more time, but that’s the story of my life!  This itinerary with Discover Tuscany would have been perfect.  They also have suggestions for 5 Days in Tuscany that might be of interest, Gilly and Jude.  You don’t need to drive to see most of it.

This completes my rambling in Italy, though there are many photos as yet unshared.  What a time I had!  As many of you will know, I’m in the Algarve when this hopefully appears.  My WiFi access is limited, and deliberately so, as it’s my ‘chill’ place.  I will attempt to keep up with you, but apologies in advance for anyone I miss.

I hope to return to walk with you on Monday, 10th April.  Many thanks for your company on Jo’s Monday walks.  Kettle on, it’s sharing time!

This man surely knows the way to my heart!  Many thanks, Drake :

Glimpses of Paris

Staying close to home, Eunice takes us on a fact finding mission in the West Pennines :

A walk up Winter Hill and some interesting facts

Anabel meets a very friendly chipmunk this week.  Maybe a touch too friendly!

Deer Mountain

Lady Lee extends her Philippines visit to the island of Sabtang :

Batanes Trip, Day 2 – Sabtang Tour

Still in Mexico, Jackie’s moved up the coast a little :

La Noria

Meet the Lucerne Lion this week, with Woolly :

Jo’s-Monday-Walk2017-Wk 12

Couldn’t miss this one out!  Viveka is always so colourful and I love the donkey photo!

Walkabouts in Marrakech

Vertigo sufferers beware!  Becky’s ‘on top of the world’ :

Walking across the ‘tallest’ stone arch in the world

Just one more of those places I’d like to see for myself, Jaspa :

Sam’s Ses Challenge#13 Water 

So lovely to have Lisa around again, though her life is anything but smooth sailing!

Singapore and Beyond

And isn’t it wonderful to have chirpy friends?  Thanks so much, Paula!

How green is my home!

Many thanks to all who have shared, walked or just read.  Please take care till the next time!

Jo’s Monday walk : the walled city of Lucca

Shall I quote Henry James?  Lucca is a city “overflowing with everything that makes for ease, for plenty, for beauty”.  With a recommendation like that, how could I fail to try to squeeze it into our precious few days in Tuscany?

There was an ulterior motive , of course.  The city lies in a flat plain at the foot of the Apuan Alps, an hour or more’s train ride from our base in Florence.  I would have an opportunity to see a little of the Tuscan landscape, and the other half would get to rest the weary legs after the dizzying heights of Florence .  He would need this in preparation for the 4km walk around the city walls.  Not too far, is it?

No matter that you’ve seen photos, the reality is always a little different.  I knew that the city walls had been turned into a boulevard for that much-loved Italian pastime, passegiata, but still I didn’t comprehend the scale.  I found myself grinning as I strode across the grass towards the nearest bastion, one of eleven positioned around these 16th century walls.

Over a narrow moat, through a tunnel and up some steps, and there I was, looking down on Lucca.  A friendly lion gave me a silly smile, and I began to stroll.  Far in the distance, the snowcapped Alps.  Near at hand, elderly couples enjoying the gentle sunlight, cyclists whizzing by, toddlers tottering on 2 or 3 wheels or pushing dolls prams, and students sauntering off to lectures. All of life, it seemed to me.

Looking down from the walls provides views of the botanic gardens and wonderful snippets of the life of the Lucchesi.  A pedalo comes towards me, a dog perched haughtily in the basket up front.  I’m so busy smiling, I miss the shot!

At intervals I’ve glimpsed the bell tower of the Duomo di San Martino, the cathedral.  Time to descend, beneath nodding magnolia, and seek it out.

Construction of this striking cathedral began in 1063, the great apse and campanile remaining, still, from the original.  The nave and transepts were rebuilt in Gothic style in the 14th century, one of many reconstructions.  Entering, my eyes are immediately drawn to the ceiling.

I first learned the story of Ilaria del Carretto through a blogging friend, Ventisqueras.  Born in Pisa, and loving her native Tuscany with a passion, she impressed me with the magnificence of this tomb.  Wife of Paolo Guinigi, an influential politician, Ilaria died very early in childbirth. Jacopo della Quercia, of Siena, was commissioned to keep her beauty alive.

Leaving the cathedral, I go wandering in search of food and a place to sit awhile.  I’m heading in what I think is the direction of Piazza Antifeatro but before too long I’m lost in the maze of streets.  Lucca has her share of lovely squares and exceptional architecture.  Eventually I settle in Piazza San Michele, the site of a Roman forum, with San Michele in Foro towering over me.

I feel sure that Lucca has much more to offer to offer me, but my companion has had enough. Reluctantly I return to the station, dawdling where I can.  The exterior of Basilica di San Frediano, founded by an Irish bishop in the 6th century, invites.  The square in front of it, idle with newspaper readers and peaceful observers of life, a serious temptation.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of this charming city, whose wealth was founded on silk and lingerie.  I wanted to show you Torre Guinigi and climb to the roof garden, symbol of the rebirth of the city under the Guinigi family.  Instead I must ask you to read the links throughout the post for a much fuller picture of Lucca than I can give you here.  I hope you enjoyed it.

It’s been a busy week for me.  Three days on the Isle of Anglesey and a walk through Farndale’s daffodils seem to have eaten up most of it.  I’m sorry if I’ve fallen behind with my visits but very grateful for your continued support.  I’ll be playing catch up this week because next Sunday I’m off to the Algarve for 2 weeks.  I will continue to welcome walks but won’t be posting while I’m there.  Details as always are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  Let’s put the kettle on now, and settle in for a good read!

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So much more than a walk, I really enjoyed Annika’s visit to Framingham.  I simply had to share this one :

‘Perfume of the Mountain Grass’

I love Debs to bits but I needed a big coat, scarf and gloves for this one!

Wintry Central Park

Much warmer in Lady Lee’s homeland, the Philippines :

Batanes Day Trip 1

I read this one with great interest, as I was Anglesey bound.  Thanks, Eunice!

A walk round Parys Mountain

On the beach at Barnes?  Only with Geoff (and Dog!)

Barnes by the Sea #walking#london

So nice to see my part of the world through fresh eyes. Especially such observant ones as Jude’s :

An amble around Durham’s Cathedral

Where’s Woolly this week?  Why Lucerne, of course!

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Jackie is still hanging around Mazatlan, and it’s easy to see why!

Just Another Day…

Ever wanted to volunteer on a kibbutz?  This is a good year.  Do read Lisa’s post!

Pura Nature Reserve

Bringing back such wonderful memories of my time in Paris!  Thanks, Drake :

Home away from home

Miriam is a joy to be with, especially when she’s feeling light-hearted :

Whimsical Walkabout Wednesday

While Carol knows how to appreciate a good hill or two.  I seem to remember that from our meeting :

Up to the Top

Please give a big welcome to Cadyluck Leedy for her wonderfully original introduction to Cairo :

Jo’s Monday Walk : Me, You and Agatha Christie

And that’s it for another week!  Brilliant, aren’t they?  I may be scheduling a walk for next Monday, but it rather depends how the week goes.  I’ll keep you posted.  Meantime, take care of yourselves and enjoy your walking!