Tuesday, July 4, 2017: Oh, to be that sophisticated traveler who passes nonchalantly by tourist attractions as if he or she has seen it all, has way more worldly experience to ever succumb to those ridiculous antics others perform because they think they must. As that sophisticated tourist, I’d like to have the Grand March from Aida as the mental background music as I breeze by without wasting a coin tossed in a fountain, never posing for a photograph as if holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, never salivating over the cars in the Ferrari museum in Italy.
Instead, I heard “From the Indies to the Andes in his Undies” in my corn pone head and posed (mostly unsuccessfully) for dumb pictures in Pisa and left my DNA for the carabinieri to collect from the hoods of the many cars I drooled over in Maranello, Italy. I resisted the temptation at Trevi Fountain but only because the crowd was so thick I couldn’t get close enough to wet a euro.
When we arrived at the tower of Pisa, we split up, with Kathy headed into the cathedral while Cole and I got in line to climb the bell tower – after taking stupid pictures, of course.
It’s 186 feet to the top of the tower, or 273 steps, which do not always go up because of the lean. The pitch is down and then up as you go from one side of the tower to the other, like climbing in and out of a bowl.
Construction of the tower started in 1174 A.D. and by the time it was halfway up, it was starting to lean. Efforts to keep it standing include adding lead for ballast. Glad it stayed upright while we were inside and on top.
From up there, you can see the entire “Square of Miracles,” a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose central feature (aside from the famous tower) is Il Duomo, the cathedral.
Massive but otherwise relatively unassuming on the outside, it is, on the inside, a marvel of marble, detailed mosaics, grand granite columns (68 of them) and stately sculptures underneath a soaring gilded ceiling, reports Kathy, our insider.
Among dozens of impressive art works stuffed into every nave and nook of this place is Giovanni Pisano’s eight-sided pulpit, considered his sculptural masterwork. Created in the early 1300s, its statues symbolize the virtues, and the intricate marble relief panels above depict scenes from the New Testament.
It’s interesting to note that not all the beautiful works in this place were acquired by, shall we say, honorable means. Loot from the Mosque of Palermo and other spoils of a war with Muslims in Sicily remain ensconced here. Pisa was into power, and the buildings here were meant in part to underscore its position as a major shipping and trading center. These days, it’s tourism that keeps the crowds coming.
Wednesday, July 5, 2017: From Pisa, it was on to Maranello to fulfill Cole’s only other specific request for his Italy trip (besides eating lots of good Italian food): Visit the Ferrari museum. That’s a place we never would have visited on our own, but we’re happy that Cole got us there.I believed deep down that I was so divorced from material wants and needs, from the constant coveting of more, more, more that I could walk through this resplendent display of $250,000 cars (minimum) without an envious whisper of “You should be driving one of these” echoing in my head.
Those whispers started in the first rooms of the museum as Enzo Ferarri tells his story through early designs and wood car models. The history of the Ferrari enterprise unfolds and Brigitte Bardot, Sammy Davis Junior and Jack Palance (born Vladimir Ivanovich Palahniuk) appear in photographs while seated in their sleek sports cars.
Then past row after row of polished automobiles, high octane racing cars, leather upholstery, chrome, bright shiny objects that shouted speed, style and sizzle.
By the time we got to the 166 MM, Barchetta Touring car from 1949, the theme from “Un Homme et Une Femme” was playing in my head and a voice was shouting, “This is THE ONE!” I was ready to hop in and drive it to Genoa for shipping back to Seattle. Alas, there were only 33 of these made, and they don’t go for peanuts. A cruise around the internet shows auction prices today hitting speeds of up to $8 million.
Reality started working its way into my fantasy, and I decided it was time for rubbery pizza (reasonable price) at the museum cafeteria before climbing back into the Citroen for the drive to Verona and Venice.