Secret Messages in Pisa

Maybe it’s all the cameos in spaghetti sauce commercials and movies  (was it Superman II where he straightens it?) but Pisa’s famous tower struck me as surreal, like we’d stepped into a fantasy world. The white stone buildings of the piazza, which we’re guessing had been cleaned recently, really glowed on the day we visited.

The kids called it the “Bendy Tower,” which is actually pretty accurate, since during its construction, the builders tried to correct for the leaning (already apparent) by centering the higher layers on top of the original foundation. Sounds like something I would do with one of my craft projects. So it really does bend. I kept thinking of Miss Havisham’s wedding cake.

No kids under 8 are allowed to go inside the staircase, which disappointed the kids but was fine by me. I often enjoy the outsides of buildings more than the insides anyway.

It’s a little surprising there’s a rule—-most sights in Europe have no restrictions about children, leaving you to make up your own mind. I understand this and appreciate it, but coming from  the super-litigious culture of the U.S., I’ve gotten used to someone else making those decisions for me. At times we’ve been a little confused as to what was really appropriate for the kids.

While the tower was mesmerizing, my favorite thing in Pisa was the exterior of the cathedral next door. The tower is the bell tower for this cathedral. The stones that make up the cathedral are all different sizes and materials, which I found kind of crazy and awesome. Some of them are recycled from other buildings. You can see writing and designs that are now upside down and cut off:

From my reading, I understand the upside-down stuff to be recycled Roman stonework.

Here’s some other writing that must’ve been added after construction, but its placement seems kind of random:

And then there’s the graffiti (another word in my oh-so-extensive Italian vocabulary) scattered around. I guess in the olden days if you wanted to be a graffiti artist, you had to carry around a knife or a chisel or something. If you really wanted to have a lasting impact:

It seemed like these were little hidden messages waiting to be discovered. For someone interested in recycling, patchwork, writing, and printing, it was really cool.

I haven’t had a chance to do much research on the writing and recycled stone, so if you know of articles about it, let me know.

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to take a look at my posts about Volterra and two about Siena: here and here.