Italy! It hits you as you get off the plane. That unmistakeable, pervasive smell of ... a variety of things best left to the imagination.
Having left Gatwick in the cloudy coolness of a late summer day we landed at Galileo Galilei promptly at 2.40pm local time with the sun burning down at 28° The flight was unremarkable, except that BA Economy has dumbed down to Ryanair standards. Unless you are First Class all you get on a flight of under 2hrs is a drink and a bag of nuts. I abjured the wine and settled for a tomato and Worcester sauce (for some reason I always want one when Im flying (these Italian computers have lots of strange characters but dont seem to have an aspotrophè. How annoying).
Pisa ariport is bright, modern and convenient for the city which seems not much bigger than Romford. You might think of the Dogtrack as where the airport is located. It has to be said that the similarities, definitely, end there. Being an adventurous sort I ignored the suggestion of ordering the hotel taxi and caught the bus. That was fine - quick and only 1.50 euro. But how do you stop it? As the hotel flew past I cried out in vain. "Stoppa" didnt work but, in the end, a kindly passenger showed me the tiny red button almost hidden by the door. So I aligfhted on the far side of the Arno and trugged to the hotel in the scorching heat of a Pisan aftenoon. But the hotel, Bologna, is central, 4* and located on a small thoroughfare. It even has free Internet.
Today I made my way to the "Field of Miracles" where the Duomo, Tower, Baptistry etc. are located. The cathedral is Romanesque and quite beautiful and the whole area truly breathtaking. The Cathedral was almost destoyed by fire in 1595 but still has a majestice Christo Pantocrator by Cimbuae in the apse and an amazing pulpit by Pisano, the major Pisan architect of the 14th cent. I didnt enter the Leaning Tower but did look round the Baptistry and heard its beautiful echo. But I found the "Campo Santo" very moving. Begun after Archbishop Llanfranci brought soil back from the Holy Land in the late 12th cent., it is a large, rectangular cloister of gleaming white marble built in the gothic style. Through the 15th cent. the walls were frescoed and were regarded as the finest in the world. Unfortunately they were almost completely destroyed by Allied incendiary bombs in 1944. But the original working drawings have been found and are housed in the Museo delle Simopie and give some indication of the sheer scale of the work. There are also some 19th cent. paintings of the complete series. They must have been breathtaking.
So the day was well spent and now for a rest before trying to find somehting to eat that doesnt come from some unspeakable part of an animal (last night I tried Trippa alla Pisanna. Why!!