Tuesday, 4 August 2015 – Day 10 – Montecatini – Pisa – Milan – Lake Como – (Day 56)

Tuesday, 4 August 2015 – Day 10 – Montecatini – Pisa – Milan – Lake Como (261 miles/420 Kms)  Day 56

Up at 7.00 and after breakfast we set off at 8.30 from Montecatini towards Pisa.  About 9.00 we arrived in Pisa. We caught the local bus to visit the Piazza dei Miracoli  (Square of Miracles), formally known as Piazza del Duomo  (Cathedral Square), is a wide walled area located inPisa, Tuscany, Italy, recognized as an important centre of European medieval art and one of the finest architectural complexes in the world. Considered a sacred area by its owner, the Catholic Church, the square is dominated by four great religious edifices: the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Camposanto Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery).

In 1987 the whole square was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As we entered the Square, I just thought what amazing architecture and so vast.

The Pisa Baptistry of St. John (Italian: Battistero di San Giovanni) is a Roman Catholic ecclesiastical building. Construction started in 1152 and completed in 1363. The largest baptistry in Italy, it is 54.86 m high, with a circumference of 107.24 m. The Baptistry is constructed of marble. In the heart of the Piazza del Miracoli is the Duomo, the medieval cathedral of the Archdiocese of Pisa, entitled to Santa Maria Assunta (St. Mary of the Assumption). This is a five-naved cathedral with a three-naved transept. The church is known also as the Primatial, the archbishop of Pisa being a Primate since 1092. Its construction began in 1064.

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The Camposanto Monumentale  (Monumental Cemetery is located at the northern edge of the square. This walled cemetery which some believe to be the most beautiful cemetery in the world, is said to have been built around a shipload of sacred soil from Calvary, brought back to Pisa from the Fourth Crusade by Ubaldo de’ Lanfranchi, the Archbishop of Pisa in the 12th century. This is where the name Campo Santo(Holy Field) originates.

The building itself dates from a century later and was erected over the earlier burial ground. The building of this huge, oblong Gothic cloister began in 1278 and was only completed in 1464.

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The heart of the Piazza del Duomo is the Duomo, the medieval cathedral of the Archdiocese of Pisa, entitled Santa Maria Assunta (St. Mary of the Assumption). This is a five-naved cathedral with a three-naved transept. The church is known also as the Primatial, the archbishop of Pisa being a Primate since 1092. Its construction began in 1064 by the architect Busketo, and set the model for the distinctive Pisan Romanesque style of architecture. The mosaics of the interior, as well as the pointed arches, show a strong Byzantime influence.The façade of grey marble and white stone set with discs of coloured marble, was built by a master named Rainaldo, as indicated by an inscription above the middle door: Rainaldus prudens operator.

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We were unable to go into the Cathedral. The massive bronze main doors were made in the workshops of Giambologna replacing the original doors destroyed in a fire in 1595.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa (Italian: Torre pendente di Pisa) or simply the Tower of Pisa (Torre di Pisa) is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its unintended tilt.

It is situated behind the Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in Pisa’s Cathedral Square after the Cathedral and the Baptistry. The tower’s tilt began during construction, caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure’s weight. The tilt increased in the decades before the structure was completed, and gradually increased until the structure was stabilized (and the tilt partially corrected) by efforts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

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Prior to restoration work performed between 1990 and 2001, the tower leaned at an angle of 5.5 degrees, but the tower now leans at about 3.99 degrees. This means that the top of the tower is displaced horizontally 3.9 metres (12 ft 10 in) from the centre.

On January 7, 1990, after over two decades of stabilisation studies the tower was closed to the public. The final solution to prevent the collapse of the tower was to slightly straighten the tower to a safer angle, by removing 38 cubic metres (1,342 cubic feet) of soil from underneath the raised end. The tower was straightened by 45 centimetres (17.7 inches), returning to its 1838 position. After a decade of corrective reconstruction and stabilization efforts, the tower was reopened to the public on December 15, 2001, and was declared stable for at least another 300 years. In May 2008, after the removal of another 70 metric tons (77 short tons) of ground, engineers announced that the Tower had been stabilized such that it had stopped moving for the first time in its history. They stated it would be stable for at least 200 years. We will just have to wait and see.


As we wandered back to get our bus back to our coach we passed lots of market stalls.  I purchased some toy pinnochios and a little giraffe. .

We were on the coach once more and headed towards Parma.  Got a glimpse of the sea. The houses looked really Italian in this area. There were lots of vineyards and olive groves and fields of sunflowers.  We passed a ski resort with a chairlift going up the mountain as in winter this area is covered in snow. Hard to imagine it is in the high twenties now.  At the pretty village of Aulla, we stopped for about 50 minutes and then our journey took us northwards through the Tuscan hills and across the Po Plain to MILAN – home city of our bus driver, Luigi.

We arrived in Milan at approx. 2.30 – a  very multicultural city. Known for its fashion, Da Vinci and the last supper and the Da Vinci code, formulae 1 circuit, Pirelli tyres, Alfa Romeo and risotto.

Our first stop was at the Piazza del Duomo  (Cathedral Square) – seems every city has a Cathedral Square. This Piazza was equally as impressive as the other ones we have visited.  The Milan Cathedral (Italian: Duomo di Milano is the second largest Catholic cathedral in the world: only Seville Cathedral is larger ( St Peter’s Basilica doesn’t count because it is not a cathedral). Milan Cathedral is 157 meters long and 40,000 people can fit comfortably within.  The Gothic cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete. Once again, we did not go into the Cathedral as the crowds were just too much.

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Nearby was the impressive monument of Victor Emmanuel II (14 March 1820 – 9 January 1878) who was King of Sardinia from 1849 until 17 March 1861, when he assumed the title King of Italy to become the first king of a united Italy since the 6th century, a title he held until his death in 1878. The Italians gave him the epithet Father of the Fatherland.  In 1896, the statue of King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy was inaugurated in the centre of the piazza. This marked the completion of the restructuring initiated by the city authorities in 1860.

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Wayne, Lou, Steve and Gay and I walked along the bustling alleyways where there were painters and a lady suspended in the air – a passer-by put his hand under her feet and there was nothing there – still has me baffled how these people can stay suspended up in the air for so long. The lady showed she was human as she pulled faces when the tourists posed with her and did not leave her a token of her appreciation.


We moved along to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II –  one of the world’s oldest shopping malls.  No, we did not have time to go shopping!  It is housed within a four-story double arcade consists of two glass-vaulted arcades intersecting in an octagon covering the street connecting Piazza del Duomo to Piazza della Scala. The street is covered by an arching glass and cast iron roof, a popular design for 19th-century arcades. The Galleria is named after Vittorio Emanuele II. It was designed in 1861 and built by Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877.

 On the ground of the central octagonal, there are four mosaics portraying the coat of arms of the four capitals of the Kingdom of Italy (Turin, Florence, Rome and Milan). Tradition says that if a person spins around three times with a heel on the testicles of the bull from Turin coat of arms this will bring good luck. This practice causes damage to the mosaic: a hole developed on the place of the bull’s genitals. Of course we all had a go.
We had a refreshing iced coffee had a refreshing iced coffee as it was 32 degrees and then started our way back to the coach passing by the beautiful cathedral once more.
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Our one and a half hour drive ended on a narrow road beside Lake Como (Lago di Como in Italian, also known as Lario. It is a lake of glacial origin in Lombardy, Italy. It has an area of 146 square kilometres (56 sq mi), making it the third-largest lake in Italy. At over 400 metres (1,300 feet) deep, it is one of the deepest lakes in Europe, and the bottom of the lake is more than 200 metres (660 ft) below sea level.

Lake Como has been a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people since Roman times, and a very popular tourist attraction with many artistic and cultural gems. It has many villas and palaces. Many famous people have or have had homes on the shores of Lake Como, such as Madonna, George Clooney, Gianni Verace, Sylvester Stallone, Julian Lennon, Richard Branson and Pierina Legnani. Lake Como is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe and it certainly looks like it.

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We booked into lovely Hotel Lario in Mezzegra-Tremezzina and had beautiful view of Lake Como and spectacular mountain landscapes of Mount Crocione and the slopes of Mount Galbiga.

After booking in, I had a lovely swim in the hotel pool. After dinner, Wayne, Lou, Steve and Gay went over the road to the Lake to watch some of the group have a swim in the lake. We then took a short walk across the road to a local bar for our usual nightcap and then returned to the hotel and went to bed.

Another full on day – full of history and wonderful buildings and fantastic scenery. Just seems to get better as each day passes.