June is the best month to be in Pisa, say all of the guidebooks and travel experts, and I must agree. June is the month when the city is full of excitement, there is a festivity every weekend, and the weather is perfect for moving about, in the 70s by day and cooler by night. On Sunday, I slept until almost noon and then went with my family to the Piazza dei Cavalieri, a beautiful and often overlooked square close to the University of Pisa. We rode our bicycles, ringing our bells to get through throngs of locals and tourists on the busy streets. In the Piazza, there was an old car show; a part of the weekend long celebration for the Regatta della Repubblica… Essentially, a rowing race 2 kilometers long between the ancient sea powers: Genoa, Pisa, Amalfi, and Venezia. The car show exhibited Italian classics from as early as 1930, it was fun to check out all of the old Fiats.
After the car show, Giancarlo and Marina showed me a little bit of the University of Pisa buildings, which are right in the city center, then we headed home for lunch. After lunch, we lounged and relaxed until 4:30. At 4:30, we walked to the Arno River, just 4 blocks from the apartment, and headed towards the city center. Before the regatta, there was an impressive parade. Each city had a band, some horses, beautiful maidens, sword holders, and the leader of their city marching along the Arno. The Doge of Venice was there! The parade was very long with all of those people, dressed in Medieval Splendor. Something like Mardi Gras, but not as crazy. We watched first from the residential area, kind of like Uptown New Orleans, but then Lucca wanted to see the parade again – so Marina, Lucca, and I fought through the crowds to get towards the end of the parade line. It was a lot of fun! But it was warm outside, so after the parade we got some gelato and found a spot to sit amongst the river. Closer to the finish line, it was packed – people were squeezed in to get a glimpse of the boats on the river, but we went towards the middle of the race and it was much calmer.
We sat and waited for the boat race to start. When the boats came by, Pisa was in the lead, but just barely. In the end, Venice won the race and Pisa came in second. This was announced over loudspeakers all along the Arno. The race was quick, over in less than 10 minutes, but an entire weekend was centered around it. It was very special that I was able to see it, because the location changes to each different city each year. So only once in every four years does it come to Pisa, and this year I was there to experience the event – how unique!
After the race, I went to see the temporary exhibits at Palazzo Blu – Pisa’s main cultural center. On display were elegant theater and opera costumes by Italian designer Anna Ani. There was also a display of art by famous Italian artist Artemesia, on display from some of the most prestigious art galleries in Italy, which was quite interesting. I went back to the house for dinner, then set out for another stroll through the city. I discovered American artist Keith Haring’s mural painting entitled “Tuttomondo”, close to the city center. I also got to see the Arno under the light of the super full moon – bellisima! My first weekend as a Pisano was definitely a success!