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Sara Baldwin Designs Blog


Or, How to get your mom to take you to Italy.

First off, my handsome boyfriend Dave took this shot of my daughter Grace, who as you can see is a world class ham. My shots tend to look more like this:

You be the judge about who is more interesting at a cocktail party.

Grace just turned 11. In the months leading up to her birthday, September 25th, we asked the usual question: “What would you like for your birthday, Grace?” Being a girl who is (like her mother) sometimes annoyingly oblivious to the seeming impossibility of things, she blithely listed for us–over, and over, and over, mind you–“A cell phone, a German Shepherd puppy, and a trip to Italy”.
Speaking as someone who did not receive gifts of this magnitude when I was a child, I was sort of impressed with her ambition. Why not ask for the sun, I thought? On the other hand, I kind of felt like Bob Barker and that we were on the Price is Right.

But wouldn’t you know, she was conveniently born very close to the time each year that Cersaie and Marmomacc are held….in Italy…making it far easier to justify a trip since I’d already be there. Kill two pigeons, and all that. So with a little logistical maneuvering and the shepherding of my partner/boyfriend Dave, we were able to arrange for them to join me. When asked about what she especially wanted to see when she got to Italy, the only thing we could get out of her was “the leaning tower of Pisa”. The Pisan tourism commission would be proud.

Which leads me to the subject of today’s blog post–the leaning tower of Pisa is much more incredible than I remembered, especially the columns.

I had no idea that all 207 gorgeous Romanesque columns are, in the words of Wikipedia, “mis-matched”. I couldn’t find two capitals that were exactly alike. As you will see, this discovery thrilled me to no end. I day-dreamed about how the stone carvers were able to express themselves individually. I got a vicarious thrill every time I gazed out one of the windows piercing the stairwell that Gracie insisted we climb to the top of (297 stairs, far easier than the 498 that we climbed in the tower of Bologna earlier in the week). And I took a lot of photos.

Tiny worn stairs to the top floor

When you walk into the tower and start up the stairs, it feels like you’re on a sailboat, or in a fun-house. The lean is that pronounced.

If you are as ignorant as I, who knew only that the leaning tower leans, you might appreciate knowing that the tower was started in the year 1173. Sorry, I should bold that…1173. Holy cow. Five years after construction began and they had progressed to the third floor, the tower began to tilt because of the marshy Pisan sub-soil. Construction was then halted for a hundred years because of wars.

At that point, undeterred, they continued building, adjusting by making the columns on the shorter side taller to try to make up for some of the lean. Thus the leaning tower is also curved slightly. The tower was finally finished approximately 100 years later, capped by seven enormous bronze bells–one for each note of the musical scale. You see, the tower is actually a bell tower for the gorgeous cathedral next door.

more Dave photos

The tower continued leaning for hundreds of years. It was finally halted in 1998 after they removed tons of dirt from underneath the high side while stabilizing it with lead weights. It worked, un-tilting the tower by a meter. It is generally believed that they could have righted the tower even more, but…what would Pisa be without a leaning tower?

more column capitals

not sure what this little gremlin signifies, but I want one

Gracie requested that I take her photo at the top of the tower with the soccer stadium below.

And no, we are not the proud new owners of a German Shepherd puppy or a cell phone. Go Pisa!

7 Responses to “Pisa”

  1. Michael says:

    How bout you get ME the German Shepherd – just to teach her a lesson, hmmm? Haha, looks like you had a great time though!

  2. Sara Baldwin says:

    Shouldn't you be studying, offspring number 1? :)

  3. I looooooooved this post! And Pisa, of course, precisely because of its beauty and the fact that it did lean SO precariously. I did not know all that you wrote about so it was a thrill to not only read the story, see the pics but also learn of its history. Thank you, Sara!

  4. Dorie says:

    Am I too old to be adopted? Very cool experiance for Gracie!

  5. Fun! I remember thinking how slippery the floors were and how much more canted everything is above – doesn't seem that bad when you're on the ground looking up, does it?

    (And wow, Italy at 11. Lucky.)

    I missed the gargoyle though – now I want one too.

  6. Sara Baldwin says:

    Regina, Thank you!
    Kelly, "canted"… i can't believe i didn't use cant…in any sentence in this post! yes, grace is a lucky duck.

  7. Lisa League says:

    Great photos of both you and Grace! Perhaps we'll see "leaning" Italian influence in one of your future collections. With a gargoyle, gremlin or two.

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About Me

Sara BaldwinSara Baldwin

Exmore, Virginia, United States

New Ravenna Mosaics founder and Creative Director, Owner, Sara Baldwin Design, Bass guitar player, Envisioner, Appreciator of the Sublime and Ridiculous.


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