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Italy - France Journal
June 18 to July 4, 1998

Day Eight: Thursday, June 25, 1998
Florence, Pisa

My eyes love things that are fair,
And my soul for salvation cries.
But neither will to Heaven rise
Unless the sight of Beauty lifts them there.
- Michelangelo

After our breakfast of cafe latte, tea and croissants, we hopped a train to Pisa. The Leaning Tower of Pisa, the most famous bell tower in the world, looks like it is in bad shape. There are cement blocks stacked two or three stories high on the non-leaning side trying to anchor it to the ground. We took many pictures hoping to get just the right shot of us "holding up the tower". We then toured the Cathedral and the Baptistery, known for its carrousel pulpit sculpted by Pisano's father. There was a small climb of less than 100 steps to the dome of the Baptistery which afforded us a nice view of the area from a small window. We then toured the cemetery said to contain earth from the Holy Land brought during the Crusades. Pisa is very touristy, as one would expect, but we would not have visited Italy without going there. In Pisa, we had our first granita, a slushy drink that comes in many flavors. Buon appetito!

Upon arriving back in Florence, we made tracks (after a short rest) to the Gallerie dell'Accademia. Finding out that it stayed open until 10 p.m., we left to do some shopping first. We happened upon a leather shop near the museum and walked out 20 minutes later with gloves, a wallet, a purse and a "to die for" leather jacket for Barry. Why we bought the purse and wallet remains a mystery, because we then had no lire left to put in them!

We returned to the Accademia and purchased our most expensive museum ticket yet only to find that, except for Michelangelo's unfinished "Slaves," the museum contains virtually nothing except "David." Nevertheless, "David" is what we came to see, and it alone was worth the price of admission. The work is magnificent and stands in a special room under a dome with just the right lighting. We stopped at a sandwich shop, Focaccine, on the way home for focaccia bread stuffed with aubergine, cheese and tomato.

Impressions of Florence:

1. Florence is the most livable European city we visited.
2. Even if you are not an art history expert, the city can captivate you for at least a week or two. If you are an art history expert, it can captivate you for a lifetime.
3. The people are the friendliest we encountered.
4. In addition to the art - the food, the shopping and the scenery were all magnificent.
5. Our unexpected favorite in Florence, and maybe in all of Italy, was Michelangelo's "David", indescribable in its beauty.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Michelangelo's Statue of David, Florence