Monday, July 9, 2012

Our Italy Trip: Pisa


We left Florence in the morning, and rode the train to Pisa. The train station is across the Arno River from all the sights, so we checked our bags and walked over.

We first stopped at Piazza dei Cavalieri (Knight's Square). This square was the home of the Knights of St. Stephen. Cosimo I de' Medici still stands before the palace, which Napoleon later turned into the Scuola Normale Superiore. Adjacent is the Church of Santo Stefano. But the most notable sight of Pisa still looms large over this square.

I don't know if it was just that day, but there's something about our pictures that makes me think "Hollywood backdrop." The famous Leaning Tower is the campanile of the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles). The also-famous legend has Galileo experimenting with gravity from the tower, though we have no evidence. The tower began settling during construction. After the third story, the architects began compensating by making the stories taller on one side, but the added weight only exacerbated the problem.

The duomo is also home to a Galileo legend: it's believed that it was in this cathedral, while watching the incense lamp swing, that he formulated his theory about the movement of a pendulum. The elaborate pulpit was carved by Giovanni Pisano. His father, Nicola, carved the pulpit that resides in the neighboring baptistery. The eastern doors facing the tower depict scenes from the life of the Savior.

The battistero has an interesting feature: the acoustics are so good that sounds resonate for several seconds. An employee periodically demonstrates this by singing. He is able to sing a chord, one note at a time, and have the chord be heard together because of the sustain.

After taking in the sights (and picking up a few souvenirs), we headed for our next destination.