Saturday, June 18, 2011



I had stayed in Venezia for a few extra days to really soak it up and to let 'steep' the idea of really being there. While riding the train back to Firenze, I thought about the entire course. I was sad that the course had ended, but was happy that I had enrolled in it; glad to have seen all the sights we did, and met all those very neat people. But also, I was looking forward to returning to Firenze for a welcome respite.

My days now, while very nice, seemed to just float along. I found myself getting lethargic. I guess the excitement of the course and the wonderful fullness of my friends, left me feeling deserted. After about a week of this, I decided that I needed to get out of the doldrums. The next day, I took the train to Pisa.

Seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa for the first time was a thrill. 
It is tilted at a very raucous angle—some say because of the poor soil-bearing conditions, others, because the architect wanted to show his skill. I climbed about three-quarters of the way up the tower but became dizzy because the stairs were at such an angle. The original upward spiral stairway had become alternately going up at a very steep angle and going slightly down on the other side of the tower. Most disconcerting!

Pisa has the feeling of a once important city from which life has departed. Its splendid buildings recall that past age in the 11th Century when Pisa rivaled Genoa and Venezia for world power, but its current flavor is very provincial.

At the cathedral, people who wore shorts or women not wearing a head covering were not allowed inside! 
Many modern tourists were rejected. I got a kick out of standing there for a few minutes watching the surprised look on their faces. I soon found an outdoor trattoria on the edge of the piazza of the cathedral and remember thinking that if the tower fell down at that very moment, I'd be dead. But I stayed several hours figuring that if it had stayed up for eight hundred years, it would surely stay up a little while longer.

  ---Pisa was a Tonic.

The next day, I felt new vigor. I planned a trip to Siena for a week later. I got into my reading again; I picked up various books on Italy, but especially on Firenze.

On the evening of August the 11th, there was a band concert in the Piazza della Signoria to celebrate the 38th anniversary of the Allies' liberation of Firenze. The program consisted of songs from America, England and France. It was attended only by old people. The young people didn't seem to understand or care what the Allies did for Italy. Humans have such a short-lived historical memory.

For a different afternoon, I went to the Piazzale Michelangelo to have coffee and enjoy the view. 
As I was sitting there reading about historical Florentine travelers, a black and white cat moseyed by. She enjoyed my petting, so I picked her up. She and I loved it; she stretched and rubbed and finally curled-up and slept on my lap for twenty minutes—instant friends! Two days later I went again and again she slept on my lap!

Next, Another Side Trip.


Caliban said...

The rejection of tourists with shorts at churches also takes place in Rome. I would not consider it provincial -- but insisting that visitors respect the sacred space of the church.

Joan Barton said...

Just curious: what about the human body is not sacred? Before the Fall, Adam and Eve were naked before God in the garden, according to the Bible. Sacred seems to me to be a state of mind that can be clothed in many ways. Look back at how Jesus dealt with the lepers and harlots...without blame or judgment, with love and compassion, regardless of their garments.

The respect of a sacred space (and maybe that is the deep forest on a quiet day with birds and a cool breeze as often as inside a building created by humans and not God, or in the arms of the beloved, or in the bliss of mediation) seems to come in the spirit of the approach rather than the garments one does or does not wear.


Don Voth said...

I agree with your statement. The more important thing is the sprit, not the way it's dressed!

Caliban said...

I think a church or any tourist destination for that matter has a right to determine its own dress code and to define appropriate dress as it sees fit.

It also has the right to prevent tourists from eating and drinking, talking loudly, talking on cell phones and other obnoxious behavior when inside their buildings or on their grounds.

I find it curious that people no longer understand this and find it objectionable or humorous.

There is now an assumption people can impose their own standards and behavior on others when on the property of others or within an institution that has its own set of rules.