Welcome! This blog celebrates both the local and the catholic -- that is, universal -- aspects of the Roman Catholic Church by sharing reflections on experiences of the Church in a variety of settings and cultures. Postings will come from around the world and around the corner. You don't have to be a Catholic to come along.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Avoiding Disneyland in Pisa

Recently I happened to mention to someone that we flew into the Italian city of Pisa twice because that was the most available airport with our Frequent Flier miles. The person with whom I was talking and another person who joined the conversation agreed sagely that there is nothing in Pisa worth seeing except the famous leaning tower.


It seems to me these folks were victims of what a friend calls the Disneyland approach: You have a checklist of tourist attractions and you go through them without opening yourself to other possibilities. Leaning Tower? Check. What's next on the list?

Any city, town or village is much more than its most famous attraction. The leaning tower, for example, was built as the bell tower for a fantastic Duomo (above), considered one of the finest buildings in Tuscany. The tower, the Duomo and a mammoth Baptistry stand in a place known as the Campo dei Miracoli -- the Field of Miracles.

We visited the Campo two years in a row and found much new to appreciate the second time around.

On our first visit to Pisa, we went to the vigil Mass at a parish called San Antonio. A priest was hearing confessions during Mass. When he stuck his head out of the curtain, he looked like a puppet!

Here are some other things I remember about Pisa, the kind of pleasures you miss if all you expect is Disneyland:

● Pizza with arugula, which Ann ate on our first night in the town a few years ago. She still talks about it.

● The best gelato we've ever tasted. It's sold at the simply but descriptively named La Bottega del Gelato. This is a small shop -- so small there's no place to sit down -- in Piazza Garibaldi.

● Pici with wild boar sauce happily consumed in a stone restaurant called il Campano. I asked a waiter how old the building was. He told me it was built in 1200.

Nothing else to see in Pisa? Only if you don't know how to look.

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