Thursday, April 28, 2016

Europe Trip - Exploring Toscano in San G and Pisa

San Gimignano, or San G for short, is a small walled medieval town in the province of Siena. This town is surrounded by three walls and eight gates. The main gates are Porta San Giovanni at the south, Porta San Matteo at the north west, and Porta San Jacopo at the north east. The main street of the town runs from Porta San Giovanni. That's the place where we entered that day.

Porta San Giovanni
The look of the city wall

The history of San G reached as far as the third century BC when two brothers fled from Rome and built two castles here. It continued to grow in the Renaissance era with the neighboring fertile lands and San G became the stopping point for Catholic pilgrim travelling to Rome and Vatican. However, San G was badly affected by the black death in 1348 and finally submitted to the rule of Florence.

The medieval state of San G is still preserved until now. However, the numbers of the towers left are only twelve as of now.

The main street of San G
We turned right at one of the junctions and found this
A musician with his unique instruments

The main piazza of San G is Piazza Della Cisterna. This is a triangular shape piazza surrounded by medieval buildings. In the middle of the piazza, there is a well. The octagonal well was built in 1273 and enlarged in 1346. 

The triangular shape piazza (Source:
One corner of the square
Another corner

There is an award winning gelato here. It's very easy to find: just look at the longest queue. We joined the queue, expecting waiting time. But the queue moved fast. So, in a blink of an eye, we had our gelato on hands!

The queue
Various cones
Various flavors

Mom still prefers the gelato sold at Trevi Fountain. For me, both are nice! Having about 1 hour free time, we did not have much time to walk out of the main street and the piazza. So, after looking around, we walked back to the meeting point down the hill.

We then continued the journey to our next destination, which should be the highlight of that day: The Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Pisa is a city in Tuscany which is divided by River Arno just before it flows to Tyrrhenian Sea. The shore is located about 10km away from the city. The archaeological finding suggests that since 5th century BC there was a city in this location. However, the founding of the city is still a mystery to date.

It is believed that Pisa was a maritime city along the western coast. Pisa served as naval base during the era of Roman Empire. However, due to the alluvial sediment from the rivers, the coast moved west and the city became further from the coast.

Leaning Tower of Pisa is the most well-known attraction in the city. The leaning tower is located in Cathedral's Square of Pisa and is actually the bell tower of the cathedral. At the complex, stand proud a cathedral, a baptistery, and the famous leaning bell tower. The square is known as Piazza del Miracoli or the Field of Miracle.

Leaning Tower of Pisa or the campanile was started to be built in 1173 for more than 200 years. It was designed as 8-storey circular bell tower with 15 marble arches surrounding first storey, 30 arches for each of the other six storeys, and 16 arches for the level of the bell chamber. As the highest bell tower in Italy, the campanile was designed to stand proudly at the height of 56m.

The soil settlement has begun since the construction of the second floor. It was due to inadequate foundation being designed on top of weak sediment soil. Thanks to the stoppage in the construction that allowed the soil to settle further before completion of the tower. Many efforts have been done to correct the differential settlement. Finally, in 1920s, the foundation of the tower was injected with cement grout which finally stabilised the movement for some time. In 1990 to 2001, structural strengthening and restoration project was carried out. As the result, the tilt of the tower is now 3.99 degree to the vertical and the tower has been opened to public.

So, back to our journey. The bus parking area was quite far from the square, but we were given a little surprise by the tour. We were transferred to a train-like vehicle and brought to the gate of Piazza del Miracoli.

First view when we stepped into the square

The sun was almost setting when we reached there. We were only given more or less 40 minutes here to do anything we like. The first thing that we did was to go to the toilet since we could not find one in San G. But yeah, nothing is free in this world, there is an entrance fee to visit the toilet, i.e. EUR 0.8 (~SGD 1.3) per person.

We did not opt to climb the tower, so we just walked around and take pictures, like most people did here. We are tourists, anyway.

Duomo - Baptistery - Pisa
Closer look of the baptistery
The 3.99-degree tilt

And of course, we took the cheesy photos here. It is a must when visiting Pisa, right?

Normal pose
Cheesy pose 1 - Up, up, up!
Cheesy pose 2 - 3.99 degree is not enough, push more!
Cheesy pose 3 - finally managed to push the tower back to vertical
Cheesy pose 4 - Oops, it tilted back again!

We stopped taking photos when the sun set and it was time for us to be back to the train. For those who have more time here, there is a row of cafes facing this square. Drinking coffee while admiring this place will be a good activity.

Back to our cute train

We were not brought back to the parking area straight away. Sandra gave us another surprise by bringing us circling the city. We passed by the River Arno and catch the beautiful skyline right after the sun set, we also passed by the University of Pisa where Galileo Galilei studied. Apparently, University of Pisa is one of the best universities in Italy.

After enjoying the city in the evening from the train, we were brought back to the parking area and the bus headed back to Florence. Since we had our luggage in the trunk of the bus already, we just walked straight to the station when we alighted at Santa Maria Novella Station.

We had dinner and continued our journey to Milan by another Trenitalia train. Again, we managed to get a good price for the ticket, EUR 19 (~SGD 34) due to early booking.

So, bye, Toscano. I'll see you again.

Next - Shopping Spree in Milan

Love is in the air,
Little Feet

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