Our next port included Lucca and Pisa. You could also choose to go to Florence, but we wanted to check out some new towns (even though we loved Florence). We were going to take the trains on our own, but Jef found a tour that would take us by bus that we thought would be easier and get us inside the towns faster. We were glad that we chose the tours. The shuttle from the port dropped us off in the same square that the tour buses met. I think the drive to Lucca took about 45 minutes to an hour. Tuscany is a beautiful section of Italy and I enjoyed watching the scenery as we drove. The tour guide told us a few things about the area. We even drove by some marble mining, which was really neat.
As you can see from the picture, Lucca has a lot of bell towers. You can climb several of them. This view is from the top of one. The bus dropped us off outside of the town wall. Lucca has one of the best preserved walls around the city in the world. There is a pedestrian pathway on top of the walls so you can walk and bike all around the city. We did not have time to do so on this trip, but I would love to go back and bike around it. Our tour guide led us into the city and showed us where we would meet after lunch. It was a square with a church that had this beautiful facade.
The guide gave us a few suggestions as to where to visit and then left us to our own devices. I think my favorite thing about Lucca was the lack of obvious tourists. There were very few people out and about and I felt that it made it a more authentic visit for me. Jef and I wandered the streets and found the Lucca Cathedral. The entrance fee had a deal that included the cathedral and bell tower, a museum, and another church and bell tower. I may have mentioned before, but I’m not a big fan of churches. I think it’s because I visited so many while living in Spain. I admire the architecture, but they are all eerily similar even when extravagantly ornate. The cathedral was no exception.
There is a wooden cross with a carving of Christ that is considered to be the oldest wooden relic in Europe. It is also said that it was once in Christ’s tomb. Although it says the cross is located in the cathedral, they were working on renovations in the area it is said to be located. I’m guessing it was in the museum we visited and I didn’t grasp its significance while we were there. After the cathedral, we decided to climb the bell tower. This was no easy feat. It was almost 200 steps and they were not renovated steps. The first section was all stone. It was quite an experience. I was happy that there was only one other person climbing the same time as us. The views from the tops are spectacular, as you can see from my previous picture of the town. You can also see the aqueduct that used to bring water into the city. It spans over three kilometers.
If you were the kind of person that wanted to ring those bells while up there, you could. I’m sure someone would not be happy, but you can easily do so. My nephew saw this picture and asked me if it was the Liberty Bell. I think they are the same size. After carefully climbing down all the stairs, we went over to the museum. It was a very modern building and I liked how they set up the exhibits. Our last stop with these tickets was the Church of Santi Giovanni e Reparta.
The neat part of this church was that they have excavated the Roman ruins of the Baptistery and it’s underneath the present day church. Even cooler is that you can walk down there and explore! We were the only people that were there. I love seeing old mosaic floors. They are still working on the excavations.
We were starving at this point and hoped to find some pizza. However, we found something better: a place that had fresh focaccia sandwiches. Jef had one with sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and I had one with cherry tomatoes and burrata. Delicious!
After lunch we stopped in the church of San Michele and saw what looked to be a mummified skeleton. I read a little about him in the church and found that he was a pilgrim who was said to have miraculous powers. His name was San Davino and he died in the 1100s. After we returned home, I tried to look him up and found very little information. Instead, I found that there is ANOTHER skeleton saint on display at the church with the beautiful facade. We did not go into that church and therefore missed the patron Saint of Lucca, Saint Zita, patron saint of servants and lost keys, who died over 700 years ago. Neither of these skeletons were mummified. They are said to be miraculously intact due to their saint status. The Catholic Church has a lot of artifacts that were once part of the human body. I find it a bit odd.
Our last stop in Lucca was to visit the statue of Giacomo Puccini, one of the best opera composers, which was located in front of his childhood home.
We met our tour guide on time and got on the bus to head to Pisa. It took about 45 minutes to get there. I was very excited to see the leaning tower of Pisa, even though I knew we would not be able to climb it. You need to get a ticket months in advance in order to go inside. They give you a timed ticket. You can also enter other buildings in the square: Cathedral, Baptistery, Camposanto, Sinopie museum, and the Opera del Duomo museum. We opted to enter the Cathedral. Although they gave us a timed ticket, it is free and you can enter any time you wish, but you must have a ticket. Luckily our tour guide told us this before we exited the bus. We had a bit of a walk from the bus parking lot to the Square of Miracles. Before you even enter the square you walk through a ton of stalls selling numerous souvenirs. There is a massive number of people there and only thins out when you get into the huge Square of Miracles.
The first building is the Baptistery, which was under renovation so we could not enter it. The next building is the Cathedral and you can see the tower in back, which is the actual bell tower for the Cathedral. The bell has never been rung. Why not? It’s already leaning. Why tempt fate? We got our tickets first and then took some pictures. EVERYONE is trying to take silly pictures of them holding up the tower. It’s kind of ridiculous. I just wanted to get up close to it. It’s amazing to see how it has sunk into the ground. It’s very difficult to take a picture of where you go inside, but I thought the other side of the tower (where no one is taking pictures) showed the lean a bit better.
The Cathedral was ginormous. The first picture is from the other side and then one from inside.
My last two pictures are of the fallen angel, which is on the lawn to the left of the tower and I think the last picture is the Camposanto.
I’m happy that I got to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was really cool up close, but I hated the tourist scene. I was upset that the Baptistery was closed because it’s supposed to be really neat inside and there really was not that much we could do in the short amount of time we had there. The Square of Miracles is nowhere near the city center, so I have no idea what the actual town of Pisa is like. Perhaps because I liked Lucca so much, I felt let down by Pisa. However, I find when I visit somewhere that people talk about a lot or has an iconic structure to view, the visit is not as impressive as the build up. Don’t get me wrong, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is very impressive, but part of me was expecting more from my visit.