Pisa was an important port on the Mediterranean in the 12th century. Construction on a bell tower began in 1173.
Unfortunately, the land was marshy and the tower started leaning after the third floor was added. We were told the architect ran away.
The bell tower sat abandoned for almost 200 years until it was completed in 1372.
As it was constructed the builders tried to modify dimensions to keep the tilt from getting worse.
In1990 people around the world gathered and performed surgical fixes on the tower, improving its tilt from 5.5 degrees to less than 4.
In the year 2000, engineers tried to reinforce the Leaning Tower of Pisa with ground support.
On the grounds are a church, the bell tower and a baptistry.
After exploring Pisa, we were given the opportunity to have lunch on our own. By this time I was getting tired of pizza – no matter how good it was. (Randy never did get tired of pizza.)
On our own, we couldn’t be shamed for trying the Italian version of McDonalds. We saw them everywhere – all over Italy! We thought it would be interesting to compare what they have versus what we know. Randy had a regular Big Mac and fries. I had an Italian burger and fries. Both were fine but we regretted our decision even while we were eating. When in Italy, don’t eat at McDonalds!
With our visit to Pisa complete, we continued our travel through the Tuscany region of Italy. Tuscany is named for the Etruscans, the people group who inhabited this area before the Romans. The Etruscans were contemporaries of the ancient Greeks. Many Etruscan tombs remain in the region. Some are decorated with frescoes allowing people to learn about their civilization.
We traveled to Villa Machiavelli for a tour, wine tasting and dinner. Our experience began with a glass of their very own Bluemond Blue Bubbly!
The Villa was the home of Italian political philosopher and writer Niccolo Machiavelli. He served as a diplomat for the principality of Florence in the early 1500s.
He fell out of favor with the powerful Medeici family, was abused, and eventually exiled to his Villa.
In an attempt to regain political favor, Machiavelli wrote his most famous work, The Prince, at this desk. The effort failed to win over the Medici family but the writing has historic longevity.
Wine has been grown on these lands for over 500 years. One of the primary grape varieties grown in Tuscany is sangiovese. I hadn’t been fond of red wine prior to this trip but wine from sangiovese grapes is my new favorite.
These are a few of the winery’s barrels. Wine is typically aged two to four years.
Chianti is one example of wine made in this area from sangiovese grapes.
We were able to try a variety of Villa Machiavelli wines under the Saraceni label.
Following our villa tour we had one of the most delicious dinners we had in Italy – while in one of the most scenic locations!
The truffle ravioli was among the best things I ate on our whole tour of Italy! For those that might not know, truffles are mushrooms that grow underground. Maybe the rich soil makes truffles better than mushrooms, about which I am generally ambivalent.
Although it may sound silly to those of you not on the bus with us, we had a joyous return back to our hotel and I want it written down for our memories. Our tour guide Fabrizio started playing American songs over the bus speaker and we were all singing along – even doing arm motions with YMCA – a song I usually dislike!
Our bus driver Tonino (on the left pictured with Fabrizio) was getting into the groove turning the interior lights on and off with the music and even driving around a remote traffic circle twice for fun. (His family owns the bus so he wasn’t putting his job at risk.) It is a fun memory of a special night as we approached the end of our Tour of Italy.
Next up: Florence!