Today we started out fairly early. Had breakfast on the rooftop terrace of the Marriott. I didn’t take any pictures of breakfast, but I did capture this cutie who was in a great mood this morning after some much needed sleep.
We hit the road, heading north out of Rome with our first stop being Cerveteri to see some ancient Etruscian ruins.
If you’ve never heard of the Etruscans, they were the people before the people. We were influenced by Romans, and Romans were greatly influenced by them. They invented city grid layouts, dug water reservoirs to increase their water supply and therefore their crop yields, invented the arch as a sturdy architectural building form, they dry farmed and they invented tile roofs.
They were also sort of strange. Their men and women dressed alike. They were fat. The Romans called them “pinguis”, the Greeks called them “Tyrrhenioi” both of which mean pudgy. Ha
They also believed that groups of people only had a finite amount of time on the planet given by the gods. So when the Romans showed up in 1BC, they basically just gave up and became Romans, believing that it was the Roman’s time.
They were also big believers in afterlife and seemed to put a big emphasis on death. We toured an excavated necropolis or “city of the dead” discovered somewhat recently. Hundreds of tombs, some with wall paintings…and very old, most over 2000 years old.
History says that Emporer Claudius was the last person alive that still spoke Etruscan, even researching for years and writing a 20 volume text about their history, culture and language. Like a true scholar he interviewed elders over the years- even married an Etruscan woman because he believed in the importance of preserving their culture.
Ironically, there is no evidence of this 20 volume history today. We misplaced it somewhere amongst the conquering. Barbarians…what do you do?
After that we drove past some thermal baths I had read had been used by the Medici…but it was a full parking lot and a bunch of old Italian men in speedos so we decided we were all set and headed for Siena.
The old city is surrounded by medieval city walls built in the 10-11th centuries mostly to defend itself against Florence- it’s traditional sworn enemy. Driving is extremely limited in all of the old city centers so we probably walked 3-4 miles and just crossed our fingers our luggage would still be in our car when we got back. And it was! Even though when we got back there was a guy leaning on our car which freaked me out a little. Ha
Had our first proper gelato
When we got up to leave, we tucked Norah in with my scarf because it was getting chilly. She kept pretending to sleep every time I took her picture and then begging to see it. Already with the theatrics….
Next we drove another couple hours up to Pisa for the night and decided to check out the Piazza di Mircoli and its famous bell tower.
The engineers knew they screwed up quickly- the tower was leaning by the time the third floor was built. Trying to correct it, they put the project on hold. Budgets came and went, wars happened…delaying the completion hundreds of years. Future engineers tried to compensate for the lean and actually tried to cut the stones shorter on one side but the weight of the additional stories just caused it to lean more. Poor tower.
The irony is that if the tower had been completed without the hundred years gap, it most certainly would have fallen over…so we can be thankful for no one knowing how to fix it long enough for the ground to compact and support the future additions.
The tower gets all of the attention, but the cathedral and baptistery on the grounds are also stunning- both with very ornate and amazing marble work.
After that we walked a few blocks off the square to find a little restaurant for some authentic Italian food. We succeeded after basically interviewing the managers and and inspecting the menus of a few places, decided on an empty restaurant where the owner was super friendly, spoke a little English and recommended the veal ribs. 🙂