Sunday, July 31, 2016

Trip to Florence and Pisa, Italy (June 2016)...

Italy is a charming country in many aspects.

It has a rich history including the Roman Empire and the Venetian Empire. Under Benito Mussolini's fascist rule, Italy was on the world stage again by participating in the World War II mainly because the Kingdom of Italy was a puppet state of the Nazi Germany.

It has tremendously precious architecture from the pre-historic times. It has religions. Vatican City is within Italy, the center of Roman Catholic. Italy is also infamous for mafia. Italy is famous for so many things and places: Venice, Milan, Amalfi Coast, Naples, Rome, Pompei, Sicily, Italian Alps etc.

More than anything else, however, I treasure Italy's foods and its diverse culture. Pizza is from Italy. Pasta is from Italy. Moreover, Italy was at the center of the Renaissance. It was Florence where the Renaissance started.

Kristin and I had an opportunity to visit Florence and Pisa, both of which are part of the Tuscany Region where slow-sloped hills and golden fields harmonize well with beautiful flowers and people. Wines are ample and all kinds of foods are everywhere.

Italy has a population of 60 million. Pretty sizable. Florence has a population of approximately 400,000 inhabitants. It is a small city, but is the capital for the Tuscany Region that covers a land area of 22,000 sq. km. Many people have been attracted to Tuscany for various reasons. We were lucky enough to visit two big cities of this region: Florence and Pisa.

Florence:     The river that runs through Florence is Arno River.  Ponte Vecchio or Old Bridge is the oldest bridge that is similar to Riato Bridge in Venice in that shops are positioned on both sides on the bridge. It was originally built in 1218 and rebuilt in 1345 after a flood. This bridge was the only bridge that the Nazi Germans did not destroy. It also survived another flood that caused a collapse in the embankments in 1966.

On the way into Florence, we passed by a fountain statue called Rain Man. It was cute.

We visited the Piazza de Michelangelo where his famous David's statue stands overlooking the city. The panoramic view was stunning and breathtaking.

We walked in the city visiting St. Mark Plaza, Library, Piazza Duomo, Baptism Place, Gate of Paradise, Basilica, St Lorenzo Basilica, Central Market, Piazza della Signoria, Tuscan Hills by the Arno River.

 Italy is well known for fine leather products. All over the places, merchants were selling their leather products. At one of small market in town, we found a statue of warthog or boar (Il Porcellino meaning the little pig). The story says that it could bring you good luck if you rub his snout and put a coin into his mouth. For fun or real, many tourists were crowding around the bronze statue.

Pisa:    Pisa has the world famous attraction: The Leaning Tower. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The tower is 56 meter high and 840 year old bell tower. It has a cathedral, baptistery and cemetery in the same compound. People try to make all kinds of photos that use the tower. We tried also, but the sun was not very much helpful. It was strange that the photo would not capture the degree of the leaning correctly. The tower looked quite leaning but the photo diminishes the degree of the leaning.

Other than the tower, there is nothing much to explore in Pisa, although I am sure there would be more to experience only if we had more time.

Anyway, we felt that we did not fully experience Tuscany and pledged to return to this region, Lord's willing. - Jeffrey

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