A Trip to Pisa (complete with kitchy leaning tower photo)

Ciao Readers!

Today I am taking you on a trip to Pisa.  And, as a very special treat, I am taking you on a sunny day (yay!).  We took this trip the Saturday before last in order to catch the Kandinsky exhibit there before it was over.  Of course we weren’t going there to do the cheesy tourist thing and see the leaning tower – we were going there for intellectual/artistic pursuits.  But ya know what…the leaning tower is cool!  And the Kandinsky exhibit…not so much.

Pisa is about an hour train ride from Florence and also sits on the Arno river (so the photos of the buildings along the Arno may have a familiar look to them).  Since you can read more about it online, and I took a ton of photos since it was finally sunny out, I’ll just point out the highlights of our trip.

As with many of the smaller cities in Italy, Pisa was pedestrian friendly, though it didn’t have quite the charm of Lucca (it has a large University, so more of a college town).  The famous leaning tower sits in a piazza with several other buildings, including the Duomo (cathedral), pictured.  Entry to the church (unlike the other buildings) is free, though you can’t just enter – you have to walk across the piazza to the ticket office to get a free ticket (it wouldn’t be Italy without some unneccessary hoops to jump through).  The inside of the church is amazing, as with most old churches in Europe (I commented to Steve how the first time we saw one it was awe-inspiring, but now that we’ve seen at least 20….).  The tower itself (started in 1173, completed in 1350 though it had already begun to lean) is very cool.  I’m not sure how it looks in the photos, but in person, it doesn’t look a little tilted – it looks like it might fall over at any moment!  (It was actually closed for a time in the 90’s so it could be stabilized).  And, what visit to the leaning tower would be complete without an obligatory photo of me pretending to hold it up?!

We stayed and enjoyed the piazza and took a walk along the Arno as this was the first sunny day we’d had the pleasure of experiencing in…. (so long I forget).  We enjoyed a typical leisurely Italian lunch and when it started getting later/cooler, we decided to head to our original destination – the Kandinsky exhibit at Palazzo Blu (pictured).  Honestly, it was the anti-highlight of our trip.  First off, the museum was hot (while Italians have an aversion to air-conditioning, they have no such aversion to heaters) and packed with tour groups blocking most of the artwork.  Also, while there were a few pieces we found interesting (pictured), the truth is….  Have you ever been to a museum and you know the art is famous and you know you should be impressed and “understand” it, but what you’re actually thinking is “really?!?!?! any 5 year-old could have done this” – it was like that (my apologies to any hardcore Kandinsky fans).  (I would have taken photos of some of those, but as usual, I got yelled at taking pics [though I actually thought it was permitted].)

The more interesting piece of art we got to see was a mural (“Tuttomondo”) by Keith Haring, painted in 1989, just a few months before he died in 1990.  We had no idea before going to Pisa and looking at our tourist map that it was there, so it was a nice surprise ending to our visit!

Since the sun was out I went a little bit photo happy….enjoy!

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  1. ric d

     /  February 4, 2013

    Beautiful pics of a sunny day in Pisa Hope! They are much nicer than most of the postcards I’ve bought there!

    I’m not a huge fan of Kadinsky either…staring at abstract paintings gives me a headache!

  2. ric d

     /  February 4, 2013

    Oops! Make that Kandinsksy instead of Kadinsky. And I guess his works are considered expressionist rather than abstract. I should have paid more attention in the history of art classes I took in college (but that was soooooo long ago!)

  3. I really like Kandinsky, (but actually dislike Keith Haring, lol) but I didn’t go to this exhibit because a student of mine said it was pretty lame. Actually, I wish she knew how to say “pretty lame” in English, haha, but that’s what she meant. She said the space was small and so were the works of his displayed for the most part. She also brought up the crowds. Oh well, better luck next time. At least you had good weather. This spring Palazzo Strozzi is going to have a wonderful exhibit on Renaissance sculpture and art which I’m looking forward to because, IMO, nobody in Firenze does a show like P. Strozzi.

    • So, how do you express “pretty lame” in Italian?

      • I don’t know either exactly, she was speaking in english, but idioms and slang aren’t quite her strong point yet. She said it was “boring, too small, I don’t advise it” etc. However, saying “non e` un granche`” more or less could cover it if you wanted to say something similar. or simply ‘noioso’.

  4. The church is amazing. Beautiful. Isn’t it always the case that we have a tendency to be delighted by the unexpected.

  5. Ako

     /  February 4, 2013

    Beautiful town! Funny seeing a crane in the background. (and so not a fan of Kandinsky, saw some of his works at the Art Institute of Chicago……not impressed, but that just my opinion as I don’t like anything modern)

    • Well, I wouldn’t give up on everything modern until you’ve seen the Dali theatre/mausoleum in Figueres Spain – one of my top 3 of all time (hey, maybe I should do a “Europe’s best museums” blog…..)

  6. Hi
    We will be in Florence on Apr 28 29 leave tues. Can you give us a local place to eat?
    We are staying at Hotel aurora across from the Santa Novella train station. We are two couples.
    Joe Ace

  7. another nonfan of Kandinsky! But I do like Pisa. Saw the photos and thought for a second “this looks familiar, have I read this post before?” Nope, recognized the shot over the river from a similar one in my own photo collection. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  8. Seeing your pics makes me miss Italy even more. Did you go to the Camposanto Monumentale which is right by the cathedral? My wife and I had a nice, quiet break from the crowds just strolling around inside.

  9. Robin

     /  September 20, 2014

    I love Kandinsky’s early impressionistic work…..his more famous abstract stuff: not so much. We recently had an exhibit of Kandinsky here ( Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA) that included about a dozen FROM HIS PERSONAL COLLECTION (!!!!) and nearly all of those were his early landscapes. Also, I followed around a couple where the guy was going on like an expert, and learned that blobs with several sticks out of each side are “boats”. Frankly, by the end of the exhibit, I felt a bit more friendly about his abstracts, and majorly impressed with his use of colors.


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