Monday, January 16, 2012

Silly Pisa

The white marble tower of Pisa turns grown adults into childish adolescents who do silly things, the four of us included, and all because it’s pitched at a bit of an angle. It elicits a particularly giddy joy, as people marvel that it is has remained upright and that they are actually there to witness it still standing. The leaning tower really is a wonder -- a sight you’ve heard about and seen in pictures and cartoons since you were a child, and you have to pinch yourself when you’re actually standing in front of it and seeing it in person.
We headed into Pisa on a beautifully sunny December day with bright blue skies and cool, almost warm, temperatures. On a previous backpacking trip, 33 years ago and obviously, without the children, we had made the required trip-to-Italy pilgrimage to Pisa to see the famous leaning tower. I can remember being astonished then, just as the kids were on this visit, at how beautiful its setting, lovingly called Il Campo dei Miracoli (The Field of Miracles), actually is. The most famous bell tower in the world, i.e., the Leaning Tower, along with the Cathedral of Pisa it stands behind and the Baptistery further on, form a harmonious ensemble of brilliant white marble structures set against the deep, contrasting green of the surrounding lawn. The grassy square sits below the well-preserved medieval walls on the edge of the feudal city and is set apart from all around it, in no way suffocated by the buildings along the perimeter. The Leaning Tower itself is actually rather delicate at about 185 feet tall (much smaller than many imagine), and its massive cathedral neighbor provides perspective, reinforcing the differences between them.

Once we’d taken the serious pictures of the lovely, lush square and its world-famous structure, we moved on to the silly stuff. Could a trip to Pisa be satisfying or complete without a bunch of funny, forced perspective photos with the Leaning Tower? Of course not. We needed to stage a picture of Caroline pushing with her hands upright, bracing with her back, and aligning the appropriate body parts so that the camera shot is just right, creating the illusion that she is preventing the tower from falling. We then positioned Chris hugging the famous pillar, his arms wrapped around it perfectly and then appearing as if he’s lifting it out of the ground. And since our visit was a family affair, Joe and I also posed in silly fashion. Of course, in some photos all goes wrong, with nothing aligning as intended and those might be the funniest of all. The merriment did not end with our own “phunny photo session.” Almost as amusing as making funny pictures ourselves, we then watched other tourists being silly, twisting and adjusting themselves into perfect positions to hold the Leaning Tower between their hands or catch it in their arms. Families struggled to position each other perfectly, couples bickered about how best to pose and multiple strangers asked us to take pictures of them in wacky, twisted stances. Even the most solemn visitors put aside their poise as they jockeyed for that ideal shot of themselves pretending to support the tower to keep it upright. So there we were, along with all the other tourists, in one of the most famous and recognizable places in the world, acting like high schoolers trying to capture the perfect zany photo. It did us all good as laughter and childish silliness always does.
We’ve added picture taking in Pisa to our list of why Italy can be so very funny.

Pictures of our adventures:

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