Ian Perry and his diary
Early bird presenter Ian Perry broadcasts 5-6am every weekday, bringing the first news of the day. Find out what's on his mind in his web diary.
Tuesday, 19 May
The Italian Job
Seemed mad to go through my entire life without eating a piece of pizza in a pizzaria on a piazza in Pisa. The whole idea was just too silly to fight so I went and did it. Well, that and I'm a big fan of the Medici clan who ruled Tuscany for a few hundred years.
Nothing beats a piece-a pizza in Pisa
The greater Pisa area was also a hotbed of innovation in science, building and art during the Renaissance. Galileo Galilei was a local lad and potential heretic according to Pope Paul V, who promptly introduced Galileo to his papal mates in the Spanish Inquisition. Leonardo was from nearby Vinci and oh yes, nearly forgot, they have a tower in Pisa which leans.
Admittedly the leaning tower of Pisa is out-leaned by the castle at Bridgnorth but it's still a spectacular thing to see. I gave the tower a good shove before I parted with £15 to climb up it.... just making sure guys.The tower took centuries to build and the strange thing is that they knew that they'd built a rubbish tower quite early on in its construction. It just didn't seem to bother them. At no point did anyone think ' It's leaning a bit this thing, I know, we'll knock it down and start again'. No, they just kept going.
Good job they did as well, if you happen to work for the Tuscany tourist board. I tried to find a book of famous Tuscany quotations to see if ' what the hell is that meant to be?' was attributed to the tower's designer when he finally clapped eyes on his creation.
The best dressed street hawkers in the world swarm the area around the tower selling high-end luxury watches which they swear are genuine. These 'genuine' top-of-the-range watches change hands for just a few euros rather than the thousands that top quality jewellers want for them.
They have giant pigeons in Pisa or very small cars
Interestingly it's actually illegal for you to buy anything from the hawkers but as far as I could work out not illegal for the hawkers to sell you watches which probably start going backwards just as soon as they make any sort of contact with water. If the watches ARE genuine then I would suggest that the managing director of the high-end luxury watch company fires his marketing department, and quickly.
The Italians seem to love wearing uniform. Every job appears to need one. I was quite shocked to be sold a ticket for a museum by someone who looked like a five star general. I saw one woman talking to a man who was wearing a splendid uniform. He had a peaked hat that sloped dangerously down over his cool sun glasses. He had a blue shirt with impressive epaulettes and a fully laden equipment belt. She was explaining, in English, that she'd been mugged. He was explaining, in Italian, that he was a plumber. Okay, that didn't really happen but I bet it has.
It took me a bit to work out that the area in front of the tower wasn't actually a rallying point for fascists. I was horrified to see tourist after tourist apparently raising their arms in a fascist salute. Horrified that is until I worked out that the tourists were doing the 'holding up the leaning tower of Pisa' photo to show the folks back home, it's just I was looking at it from the wrong angle.
Cosimo Medici standing on a dolphin's head
I loved Pisa.I loved the grandeur of the buildings. I loved the beauty of the art. (I saw a Caravaggio painting - the Crowning with Thorns which usually lives in Vienna). I loved the spirit of the renaissance which lingers across the city. I loved the distinctive red roof tops of the Tuscany area. I loved watching Italians promenade up and down past the street cafes until the early hours. And the pizzas weren't bad either.
last updated: 21/05/2009 at 11:52