Somewhat perversely we thought not to look at The Leaning Tower of Pisa. But that would have been to deny ourselves sight of the Piazza del Duomo, the artistic cradle of Pisa, with its glorious Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, its extraordinary Baptistery, its elegant Monumental Cemetery and, of course, its renowned and over visited Bell Tower. Instead we abstained from adding to the exposure of this over photographed structure whose lean, recently corrected by half of a degree, continues to act as a magnet for the thousands of tourists and trippers who descend annually on this most lovely of marbled cities.
|corner of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and Baptistery roof, Pisa|
Naturally we saw all. And much, much more for, guided by our darling Italian friends, Andrea and Carlo, we had the perfect introduction not only to Pisa itself, with its incredible and amazing artistic treasures, its palaces and bridges, its narrow streets and sunny squares, but also to the delights of the surrounding countryside where olive groves and cypress trees punctuate a landscape of rolling hills, towered hamlets, Renaissance villas and medieval churches. Perfetto Tuscany!
|the Boys in Blue [Carlo Caverni, Lance Hattatt and Andrea Franchi] in Pisa|
As any visitor to Italy will know, it is impossible not to eat well. So it was with us. Whether a simple lunch of traditional pizza, eaten in a student café, or the very best of fish dishes, Andrea and Carlo provided the entrée [to revert to French and with no pun intended] to a world of culinary delights.
|a very splendid Pizzeria set in a country village and much patronised locally|
|a delicious lunch taken outside of a student café in the very heart of Pisa|
One evening found us at the somewhat unlikely sounding 'Station Gallery' within a stone's throw of the sea in the little picturesque town of Castiglioncello where, among an eclectic array of collectibles, we enjoyed plates of mouth watering canapés before the most delicious pasta dishes imaginable. On another night, with the Arno gently flowing beside our table at 'Ristorante 7 Nani', we tasted the freshest of seafood and fish cooked to order by the Master Chef, known to Andrea and Carlo, and who especially for us sported her medal and who cooked wearing a string of pearls. Now how stylish is that?
|Carlo Caverni and Andrea Franchi at the start of dinner at Ristorante 7 Nani|
|the delightful Master Chef and owner of Ristorante 7 Nani posing with medal and pearls|
|the electric neon sign of 7 Nani lights the entrance to this superb restaurant|
Style and Italy are, surely, synonymous. Take for instance the Concerti in Villa Roncioni where, after a private tour of house and grounds, we joined others to listen to Pierre-Laurent Boucharlat play three Beethoven sonatas in a candlelit salon whose trompe l'oeil wall paintings added yet a touch more magic to an enchanting occasion. Afterwards, approaching midnight, we sped into Lucca to buy icecreams!
|ceiling and wall painting in the salon of the Villa Roncioni lit by candles|
San Gimignano takes its name from the canonised Bishop of Modena and is a jewel among jewels. Following a hilarious lunch at the 'Ristorante La Mandragola', where we rather naughtily made up stories of the other guests, we climbed the steep streets to the Cathedral with its interior walls entirely covered with frescoes of the Sienese School of the XIV Century. Breathtakingly beautiful, they depict scenes from both the Old and New Testaments. As we had left the Cathedral in Pisa with prayers to St. Ranieri, so here we prayed to St. Fina for the patience she portrayed in her life of suffering.
|on the staircase of the Palazzo Pretorio in the hilltop town of Certaldo [AF, CC and LH]|
|pigeon perched on a palace window sill in the walled town of Certaldo|
In more earthly ways we played statues in The Botanical Gardens, reputed to be the oldest in Italy, we took coffee wherever, posted picture postcards in the 1930s splendour of the Central Post Office, walked and walked and walked, and enjoyed life to the very full.
|playing statues in The Botanical Gardens, Pisa much to our own amusement|
|a bar sign seen in a Pisa thoroughfare and rather redolent of the 1950s|
|a simple little street café in Pisa serving the most delicious of lunches|
|shadows of the weary travellers caught in the afternoon sunlight|
|seen through the entrance doors of the Central Post Office in Pisa|
|a reflection of the photographer, Jane Hattatt, caught in the window of a wine shop in Pisa|
And now the memories remain. Until the next time.
|evening: Carlo Caverni, Jane Hattatt and Andrea Franchi [June 2014]|