Take the energy of a university town, the passion for Tuscan traditions, and subtle Renaissance beauty and you find that Pisa is much more than the leaning tower. Yes - you need to visit the Piazza del Duomo and see the beautiful cathedral, the baptistery, and of course the "campanile" in all its leaning glory. (Yes - we successfully resisted the temptation to taking the silly tourist photo pretending to hold it up.)
But don't skip the "Campo Santo". This huge rectangular burial ground with it's frescoed walls was severely damaged in WW II. Through the efforts of Deane Keller, one of the American "Monuments Men", the painstaking restoration of the frescoes was begun and continues today. (Keller is buried there with a plaque honoring his efforts. Just prior to visiting Pisa we watched the documentary "The Rape of Europa" that catalogues the Nazi attempts to loot Europe's greatest art treasurers and the valiant Allied efforts to protect and restore them.)
If you make it to Pisa you have to visit the tiny restaurant "Allabona". They serve 100% Truly Tuscan food and pride themselves on their "Green Mood" - a commitment to using only biodegradable and compostable dishes and flatware, and using filtered tap water instead of bottled water to reduce waste. The meal was excellent.
Something we learned while in Pisa - Italy's university graduation is a personal event. The "laurea" is earned whenever a student is ready to defend his/her dissertation to a faculty committee in front of family and friends. Only after the committee deliberates is it clear that the degree has been earned and the student gets to wear the laurel wreath for the rest of the day's of celebration.
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Nancy McCabe &