The enduring appeal of Italy attracts millions of tourists and pilgrims from all over the world anytime of the year. From the capital city of Rome you can travel by bus, train, rent-a-car, or join a local guided tour to see the beautiful and interesting places of the country. Our Italian trip had taken us to Portofino, Pisa, Rome, Florence, and Venice.
Portofino used to be a small Itallian fishing village in the province of Genoa on the Italian Riviera. Today, Portofino with its waterfront ringed with restaurants and cafes as well as lovely ochre and yellow houses is an exclusive seaside resort for the rich and the famous and other celebrities. One of the main sights out to the sea of Portofino is the bronze statue of “Christ of the Abyss” looking up towards the sky with open arms as a sign of peace to protect sailors, fishermen and scuba divers of the harbour.
After spending the night at Hotel Zoagli high up in the hills we drove south through the winding narrow but scenic highway overlooking the calm blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea until we were greeted by the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa at the Square of Miracles with its monumental cathedral. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Started in 1174, the bell tower, standing at 185 feet, is constructed of white marbles. In 1990 the Tower was closed to visitors due to the undergoing works of strengthening the building’s foundations (sinking into the weak subsoil) by the injection of cement grout and various types of reinforcements to stop the leaning. This work was finished in May, 2001, and the structure was reopened to tourists with an entrance fee.
The top of the Romanesque styled Leaning Tower can be reached by climbing its eight floors and 294 steps which rise in the form of spiral on the inner side of the tower walls. There are 7 bells tuned on to seven musical scale. From the summit of the tower Galileo performed his famous trial about gravitation.
The next city we visited is Florence (Firenze), the capital city of the Italian region of sunny Tuscany. Also known as the “Cradle of Renaissance”, Florence is considered as a cultural, artistic and architectural gem. The city is quite famous throughout the world for its monuments, museums (over 80 museums – the most famous of which is the UFFIZI), churches, and fabulous buildings. We visited the best-known site and crowning architectural jewel of Florence, the Santa Maria del Fiore, known as the DUOMO which dominates the city skyline from every direction. Next door is the baptistry, a re-used Roman temple with three sets of ancient bronze doors.
Don’t miss to see the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), the only surviving original bridge across the Arno River lined up with high-end stores and most famous shops in the world. Be careful when buying a knock-off version of a designer brand from illegal street vendors selling imitation goods like Rolex watches or Gucci sunglasses. If you’re caught by the police while buying imitation brand you can be fined up to 10,000 euros.
From the banks of the Arno River you can see and enjoy Florence’s unspoiled skyline of russet domes and towers. Don’t miss the Accademia Gallery which houses Michelangelo’s monumental statue of DAVID – perhaps the most well-known work of art anywhere. Standing at 15.7 meters (17 ft.) the statue, a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture, portrays the Biblical King David in the nude.
Next issue we continue our sightseeing tour to Venice and Rome.