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Italy Travelogue

Florence, Pisa Italy Travelogue Part III -Piazza Della Signora, Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio Vecchio bridge

It was lunch time now and we struggled to find a good restaurant serving vegetarian – finally found a restaurant which served vegetarian pizza, struggled to explain to the waitress what we wanted and then again struggled to cut it using a knife. Off to a place called Piazza Novona.

This is built over the ruins of a stadium which was used for festivals and sporting events until the 15th century after which it was paved and transformed into a marketplace cum public square. This is a popular gathering place for tourists and Romans alike. Street artists perform here all day.

We saw one particularly good show where fingers were used as puppets. There were a few others too which we witnessed. These artists make a living out of such street shows. In the square, there are three fountains, the central one being called Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the four rivers) depicting the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio Plata.

It is said that the fountain took 4 years to build and funds were raised by raising the tax on bread which proved to be very unpopular.

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After spending a relaxing time at the Piazza Navona and a few rounds of Gelati (ice cream – one more of the oft-heard words in Italy), we proceeded to see one of the most famous fountains in Rome – the Fontana De Trevi or the Trevi fountain.

This fountain is truly spectacular; it is surprising to see such a huge fountain in such a small square. The fountain has water gushing out of sculptured figurines in white. It is a beautiful sight. Steps are built in an elliptical shape surrounding the fountain where one can sit and enjoy the sound of water.

The fountain is, in fact, the opening of an aqueduct which runs underground and brings water to Rome from the Salone springs situated 19 km. away. This is the spring which supplies water to the other fountains in Rome. Legend tells you that if one dreams of returning to Rome, then, in order for that dream to come true, one has to throw a coin into the Trevi fountain over your shoulder with your back to the fountain !! After a relaxing time at the fountain, we decided to return to the hotel.

Day 3 – 20th April 2003

Our train to Florence was in the morning at around 9:00 am. It took us approx. 2 hours to reach Florence. We reached there are 11:00 and went straight to the hotel called Bed and Bed Peterson. The hotel was wonderful – a nice cozy room and a homely atmosphere.

It was a small family-run hotel with just 4-5 rooms. After getting fresh and having a light lunch that we had carried along we went to the railway station to go to Pisa. The train to Pisa took about an hour and then we had to take another bus to the tower.

Pisa is a very small town – the only major attraction being the leaning tower. We got off from the bus and headed straight for the tower. It was an amazing sight. One cannot believe one’s eyes – it seems that the structure will fall at any moment. There were hoards of people clicking merrily at their cameras and we joined the crowd too.

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We wanted to climb the tower but unfortunately, all time slots were booked till 7:30 in the evening (only 30 people are allowed at a time inside the tower) !!! We bought a souvenir from the tourist shop (tip: if you visit Pisa buy a model of the tower from the tourist shop at Pisa – it’s cheaper here).

A brief history of the tower – the tower is nothing but a bell tower. It was built by the people of Pisa to show off their wealth to the rest of the world. The laying of the tower started on August 9, 1173. Interestingly Pisa was always at war with, guess who, Florence. The first war disrupted the construction of the tower soon after the foundation was completed. It was restarted in 1180 and 3 floors completed by 1185.

Then there was war again with Florence and the construction was stopped, as Pisa had no money to finance the work. It was at this time that the tower had already started to lean !!! In 1198 they put bells on top of the tower. Another war then. Finally, the tower was completed in 1350 and then sold to arch enemies Florence in 1392 – a big humiliation. Pisa never regained its wealth and it is now a small city in Italy showing off with the tower of Pisa.

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