Pisa Afternoon

One doesn’t normally go to a hospital to view its architectural features. I went to the Santa Chiara hospital in Pisa to call on a friend who’d literally been run over by a bus (and dragged some distance by it too!) Apart from suffering various bone breakages (including the pelvis) she has had to go in for some considerable skin grafting too. I visited her in the hospital’s plastic surgery department and found a smiling and strong will to get through the very considerable injuries sustained at the beginning of last November in front of Mologno station (the one that serves Barga).

It’s a great pity that, with the fashion to go in for new all-inclusive super-hospitals, they are eventually going to close the whole of Santa Chiara as it moves to Cisanello. (The same is happening to Lucca’s loved hospital at Campo di Marte – see my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/hungry-hornets/).

Santa Chiara is indeed a beautiful hospital and a very ancient one too. Founded in 1257 on one side of the Piazza dei Miracoli (better known for a tower which leans) and dedicated to St. Clare it is a lovely example of a centuries-old Pisan tradition history in providing to the sick both in body and mind. Indeed, the guest-house part of the hospital is now used to house the sinopie (or original fresco background drawings) taken from that saddest of Italian artistic war-time disasters – the incendiary bomb-burning of the Camposanto.

Now that Pisa now has its new hospital I sincerely hope that the old site will be intelligently developed as it contains a unique architectural heritage dating back to mediaeval times. Of particular interest is the old entrance courtyard and the attractive church dedicated to Saint Clare (and her bosom friend Saint Francis). I love the palm trees too and there’s even a section of the city wall within the Ospedale.

I had a friend who spent her last days in the excellent care of this hospital and she was particularly elated to see that leaning tower from her ward window.

Later in the afternoon I’d been invited to give a poetry reading and so, to fill in time, I wandered around “Miracle square”. It’s great to be here in a (touristically) quieter part of the year.

It’s also great the way the white marble of this totally sublime world heritage complex, which always inspires me, no matter how many times I visit it, becomes sensuously roseate in the setting sun. The sculpture of ships on the tower remind one that Pisa was once the greatest maritime republic in the Mediterranean.

The poetry reading at the picturesque location of the very enterprising Pisan publishing house, ETS (see their web site at http://www.edizioniets.com/) went very well indeed. The poems I read included items from Shakespeare, through Herbert to Ms Rossetti, Hardy, Kipling, Frost and Pettitt. All of them were excellently and very sensitively repeated in Italian translations by Renzo Bartalena and Silvia Pasqualetti.

Although the audience was not particularly large it was very responsive and clearly glad to be present at the occasion organised by that magister of literary and artistic events, my friend prof. Aldo Baiocchi (of Pisa, of course).

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