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                               LUCCA, FLORENCE & PISA, ITALY

We had still been unable to get the watermaker fixed. Customer service has been appalling and our lack of ability to communicate via email and phone and language makes it even more difficult. "Grace" has left us, having to move on because of the time restraints. We were waiting for the chance that parts could be sent here to La Spazia in Italy from the US. However, we just had word it will take 2 weeks so we are having the parts shipped to the UK for now with the chance that we can forward them on later.

So we decided to do the all time major whirlwind tour. At 7 am from La Grazie, we took a bus to La Spazia, then a train to coastal port of RioVeggio, another train to Lucca, where we spent 4 hours walking around the medieval town.

Lucca

Lucca has been in existence since 56 BC but not until 1600 had Lucca gained its third and final set of city walls.

The wall  is impressive, the best preserved Renaissance defence rampart anywhere in Europe, measuring 115 feet at the base and 40 feet high. It encloses the entire town which is about 4 km in circumference.

Within the walls, are narrow streets of
renaissance mansions with their green shutters,
     the architecture a medley of Roman
and Art Nouveau style with
         some fabulous and decorative
            churches and monuments.

          

The churches in Lucca were striking, many with the striped marble facades, carved rosettes and decorative archways. There were many shops specializing in just olive oil, some unbelievably expensive, as olive oil is a specialty in the region. But we had fun sampling!
From Lucca we bussed to Florence passing through the cypress trees, olive groves,  and vineyards of Tuscany.

Florence

Florence is the fountainhead of the Renaissance impacted by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Capped by Brunelleschi's Dome- an amazing architectural feat- the Duomo dominates the skyline. We passed the downtown hub with speeding vespas and commercial activity to focus our attentions on
the historic centre of the city enclosed by medieval walls.

 
 
The Plaza was thriving, full of the typical Italian inhabitants ... notoriously noisy, argumentative and sometimes arrogant. Amidst themselves, it seems that they are always yelling at each other when carrying on a normal conversation.  

In the Plazza del Duomo we stopped for a snack. We knew the meal would be expensive but our jaw just about dropped through the cobblestone when we got our bill. Expensive scenery!!!! albeit overlooking world famous Cathedral and bell tower by Giotto.

We wandered around old town past russ colored roofs, towers and gracious cathedrals. The streets were narrow and lined with churches, many with blank unfinished facades.

We came to the dramatic Piazza della Signoria, an open air gallery of Renaissance and Antique sculptures. Florence boasts more world class art and Gothic architecture than many countries and the area was laden with exquisite sculptures.

A replica of Michelangelo's Statue of David stands tall in the Gallery of Sculptures depicting fierce, violent scenes including the Perseus, severed head of Medusa.

In the centre of the Square is the Fountain of Neptune, the sea god, surrounded by sea creatures.

We continued to walk around, heading toward the river, where artists had their work on display.

We crossed the oldest of the Florence bridges over the Arno River to Ponte Vecchi, lined with jewellery and gold shops. There were interesting ramshackle houses clinging to the edge of the arched stoneway. We spent 3 hours walking, walking, walking....until we had blisters on our blisters.  Finally we had to stop and buy new shoes for Gord as his old shoes just fell apart and his feet were so sore. We left his runners in the trash bin at the store!.

Pisa

Finding a bit more energy for a bit more touring, we took a train to Pisa. It was a quick  2 km jog past the characteristic striped marble churches. We only had time for a quick photo of  the Leaning Tower (Campanile) tilting about 17 feet, before our sprint back to catch the last train back to La Spazia.

Our bus from La Zpazie backto La Grazie was held up due to a parade celebrating the victory of a local sport's team but we eventually returned to the anchorage, very tired and worn from the day's trip. But we felt that we had a wonderful successful adventure and really got a feel for Italy's grandure.

Duomo and Santa Maria Cathedral is one of the world's largest cathedrals with startling colors of the tiered pink, green and white tiled Tuscan marble. Although dirty it is a reminder of the fine Renaissance architecture that has endured the test of time.

Piazza del Duomo Square, constructed in 1296,  is the crowning glory of Florence and almost entirely taken up by the cathedral and adjacent Baptistry San Giovanni. 

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