03 August 2011

Liberty of the Seas - Pisa & Florence (Italy) Part 1

Date of Exploration : 27 Apr 2011

Bon giorno principessa! Whenever I think Italian, the movie Life is Beautiful (La vita è bella) comes to mind. The 1997 Italian movie by Roberto Benigni who directed, co-wrote and acted as the main character won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

The movie retold the horrors of the Jewish holocaust set against a father's love for his son to keep the latter's spirits up while being held captive in a concentration camp. The show had me soaking through boxes of tissues. And I wasn't alone. The love of my life at that point watched the movie with me and nothing beats the feeling of having a love one hold your hand and share in the intense emotions of the moment.

Passion coursed through our clapsed hands as we identified with the universal theme that love gives us the power to unlock our impossibilities and conquer the dire. It's so fun to cry with with your gf, bf, wife or husband! So nice to be able to trust another person with your vulnerabilities.

Incidentally, 1997 was the year we got hitched and went on a 14-day trip to Europe as a sort of 'honeymoon'. The romantic scene where the vast expanse of snow covered landscape rushing past us while we secretly snuggled at the back of the bus to draw warmth from each other is eternally etched in my mind. I don't believe break-ups should be sour because while there are unhappiness, there are also countless moments of sweetness. I prefer to remember the wonderful episodes of longing tenderness.

Anyway, why am I bringing up all these things that happened more than a decade ago? Well, simply because Pisa and Florence were the places I came to associate my ex of 7 years with. Re-visiting the sights and places again brought back so much romantic history of my own, mapped onto age-old buildings and artefacts. If only love is just as everlasting...

Italy - The Cradle of Medieval Art

Italy's Latin name, Italia, is derived from the Greek term, Víteliú, which means "land of young cattle". To me, the country has always been the centre of European art and history where the decorum of Christianity and Catholicism that shaped the Western world radiates from.

It's a beautiful place packed at every corner with ancient architectural marvels. Even though I've been here before, the grandeur and genius of the aged structures never cease to take my breath away.

Arrived at the port of Pisa, Italy, on the third day of the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas cruise at 7:00am.

I was booked on the Exclusive Pisa & Florence tour (item code : LV04) which costs US$345. My shore trip was sponsored but my parents' were not so I booked them for the half-day Pisa excursion (US$66 per person). When we came out of the ship, our respective tour buses were in waiting and we just needed to look for the coach with our assigned tour numbers. It's fuss-free and painless.

About an half hour's drive to the Tower of Pisa from the port.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Known as the Torre pendente di Pisa in Italian, this famous tower keeps the world guessing with abated breath when it might topple over! From decades of relentless rescue efforts to halt further leaning of the tower, it was announced in 2008 that the Tower of Pisa will remaining standing for at least another 200 years.

2 triangles marked the way. All tourist coaches were parked at a designated carpark, a less than 10-minutes walk to the entrance of the tower square. Along the way, we passed by a railway track before being greeted by a row of green cones that opens up to become souvenir stalls!

The Cathedral Square of Pisa that houses the city's cathedral, baptistry and the bell tower, which is the famous Leaning Tower.

Construction of the bell tower started in 1173 and spanned over 177 years. The tower started to sink as soon as the second floor was built in 1178 due to the soft ground it stood on. It was said that the error was such an embarrassment that the original architect fled into exile. Subsequent builders who completed the tower were cited as possibilities probably because no one wanted to be associated with it. 

Hard to get a straight shot. The tower and baptistry all seem to slide to one side even though I've tried to shoot them straight by aligning the surrounding buildings to a straightened horizon. Try it yourself when you are here! If you attempt to get the buildings straight, your horizon will be tilted and vice versa!

My "I've been to the Leaning Tower of Pisa" shot for this trip. I was told that we were lucky to visit at this time because the scaffolding that gripped the tower during restoration works only came off about a week ago! So heng (lucky)!

Our visit to the Cathedral Square lasted only a short 30 minutes and we came really early to beat the crowds that start streaming in at about 9:30 am. The last time I was here, I didn't have time to see the interior of the cathedral and baptistry. Same for this visit. So I wasn't particularly blown away.

My parents who were booked on a half-day tour for the Leaning Tower told me after some shots they got rather bored and just sat at one of the cafes by the side to clock the end of the visitation.

The sun was in a good mood that day and we completed our quick tour without hiccups and proceeded back to our van for the next location. Ours was a van because there were only 12 of us on this tour.

Michelangelo Square

From a tumbling erection, we rode about an hour and came to Florence, arriving first at the Michelangelo Square. The hill-top summit provided an excellent panoramic view of possibly the most awe-inspiring arts capital of the world!

This is the first of 3 statues of David we will encounter in Florence. This replica is made of bronze while the original marble version is housed at the Accademia Gallery.

Magnificent appreciation of the historical landmarks in Florence. The absence of high-rise modern structures allows one to have a first-hand account of a truly medieval nature. It boggles the mind to come face-to-face with timelessness of this grandeur.

After a brief 15-minute stop at Micheangelo Square, we made our way downhill to get up-close with this ancient city that retained its olden day charm.

An unending passage through time where we become a part of the monument's aging process. Our guide provided information and stories to help us appreciate the significance of the sights before us. Qualifying as a legitimate is a serious matter that required them to obtain graduate degrees in art history and culture. Our guide spoke with such pride and passion about his home.

This is the first of 2 parts for my post about the shore tour to Pisa and Florence because there's just so much to capture and talk about! In the next part, I'll share with you the magnificence of the Uffizi Gallery, Piazza della Signoria (Square of the Gods), our carbo-laden lunch, and the grand dame, Florence Cathedral. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Italy is so lovely!
    Would love to go there more often.


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