We only stopped in Pisa, then, for a few hours. A quick trip on the way to Florence. I remember going up the tower, but only partway before freaking out at the incline and giggling my way back down with my girlfriends. I didn't really remember PISA at all. Even the tower and the cathedral and the baptistry: they were all fogged and remote by years and the selective sequence of what was importance to a teenager at the time.
This time I was struck by how very WHITE the buildings were, how surprisingly majestic and impressive the Tower was, despite its almost comic tilt and the fact that its image is so well-known as to be almost transparent. You think you know what the Leaning Tower of Pisa looks like; after all, you've seen it a million times, but standing in front of the real thing in the sunshine and above all, walking up the stone staircase, feeling your body sway and slide to the side, is another experience altogether.
We had a stunningly beautiful day for our visit and the buildings of the Cathedral Square literally glowed in the sunshine. Unfortunately, there was netting and scaffolding around the top of the tower; later Anders found out they were washing it, but it didn't detract from the overall wonder of the place. After our tour up the tower, (I stopped at the bell level, Anders and the kids went all the way up to the open circle at the top), we laid on the grass near the Baptistry and soaked up the sunshine, the Cathedral looming over us. We went inside the Cathedral as well, exclaiming over the artwork and the mosaics, but didn't pay a second fee to tour the Baptistry as the Tower had been plenty expensive for the climb.
We took obligatory shots of the kids pushing the Tower over (neither of them wanted to bother propping it back up) and several other shots of other people posing for their obligatory shots: they looked so funny out of context!
Later, we found a restaurant in the old part of town and the kids, having tasted my risotto the night before, were determined to order it for lunch. It was listed as "fish risotto" and we tried to clarify that with the waitress: "Just fish? Nothing else?". Si si, she assured us, just fish. Satisfied, the kids ordered it and when it came, dug in with all gusto...until Martin discovered a tiny tentacle on his fork and they both realized that fish meant, after all, not just fish, and they both refused to eat another bite.
Look closely at the top!