Florence is better than Pisa. This is a fact really, although disputed by a series of unkind jokes and historical tradition. Florence has the Duomo, the Uffizi, Palazzo della Signoria, the Academia, Santa Croce, the Medici and the Pitti. It has the Ponte Vecchio and Piazzale Michelangelo. It has uncountable masterpieces that are hard to list without going mad for fear of missing some incredible and relevant piece of art.
What about Pisa? Well, a good old Florentine would say, there isn’t much, except for a Tower that’s been badly built. It leans. It’s going to go down sooner or later.
Well to be honest that’s quite unfair really towards the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which is actually a very remarkable and unique piece of art, popular in the entire world, maybe even the most popular tower in the world. Yet, it does lean. Would it be so popular if it didn’t lean? Well…
Problem is that Italians although not always showing it (although showing off by it) are very keen to perfection. Something which is not perfect or remarkable that nevertheless becomes famous seems a bit cheeky. Florentines, who are surrounded by beauty and perfection, and quite repulsive to sneakiness, are very aware of this. If they can say something bad about a tower that is not perfect, they will. But let’s get to history, why so much grief in the first place?
Pisa was in the renaissance one of the maritime Republics, together with Naples and Venice. They were the strongest cities of Italy facing the Mediterranean sea. The 100 km distant Florence was quite a pain though, as while Pisa had its mighty naval power, Florence had the banks, so the Medici family, so the art and so the global respect and recognition. Pisa and Florence were two mighty opponents who craved for supremacy over the beautiful Tuscany, and therefore enemies. Now, the US and Japan have been enemies for a while and now they get on pretty well. Same with the Irish and the Brits. Why not Pisa and Florence?
The problem is that back in the days there wasn’t much effort in diplomatic approaches, and if there was something that could piss the other off, it was done. No matter what. One great example is the Tuscan bread. As you might have noticed, or will notice, it is not salty. This is for the simple reason that in the continuous picking on each other, Pisa decided not to sell salt to Florence anymore, and Florence lifting its shoulders decided it can do fine without it. They began to bake bread without putting salt in the flour, and so remained in their tradition till nowadays. You might notice, while grabbing a ‘panino’ under the leaning tower (which I advice with all my heart to visit!) that the bread in Pisa will taste different. No wonder, their bread is salty.
You mightn’t have heard of it, but right next to Pisa there is another city, much more young but as well with its issue with Pisa: Livorno. Livorno is the fisherman’s city of Tuscany, famous in all Italy for it’s sharp and ironic dialect. It is from Livorno that the saying ‘better a death in the family than someone from Pisa at your door’. So, it really isn’t a fair battle, a triangle of two against one. But again, do they have a point?

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Janos Mark Szakolczai

Irrequieto pellegrino facilmente preda della malinconia, Janos vive in un romanzo di fantascienza ambientato tra Londra, Firenze, Budapest e Cork, che in momenti di lucidità proietta sulla carta confermandogli l’appellativo fuorviante di scrittore. Laureato in filosofia, studia criminologia a Cork, Irlanda e sogna di rinascere tigre. Ha pubblicato romanzi e racconti sia in Italia che all’estero.