My family and I enjoyed a day trip to Pisa to see it’s world renowned “Leaning Tower”, located only 50 minutes away from Florence by train. At first sight, the Tuscan town is like any other in the region, set against a backdrop of vivid greenery, low lying buildings and a long medieval history. Upon arrival to the train station, we found a little bit of difficulty locating the tower, as there is not much marketing or promotion of this world wonder, so we decided to take a taxi ride. 10 minutes later, we caught sight of an ancient wall which signified that we have arrived to our destination.
To enter the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles as it was nicknamed), is free and on that particular Sunday afternoon, it was absolutely filled with visitors from around the world, testing their creativity with photography of the Leaning Tower. The beautiful setting of the complex is situated over a perfectly landscaped green field and is home to four masterpieces including: The Leaning Tower, Camposanto (graveyard), St. John’s Baptistery and the monumental Cathedral, illuminating in sparkling white marble.
Tickets to visit all landmarks are available through a tourist office within the complex and there are options to see single or multiple sites, with free entrance to the Cathedral, which is definitely worth a visit. While my mother visited the Baptistery, my father and I took on the challenge of climbing the tower, and discovered that it indeed is a world wonder.
THE LEANING TOWER OF PISA
Rising 60 metres high above the ground, and leaning 5 degrees south, the UNESCO protected bell tower attracts millions of visitors per year. No amount of picture taking could give justice to seeing the building in real life. So what is the real story behind this world wonder? Construction began in 1173 and took almost 200 years to complete, over a course of 3 stages due to land sinkage and wars. While constructing the 3rd floor, the subsoil weakened and poor foundation caused the tower to sink and incline south. The tower was untouched for almost 100 years, until the subsoil stabilised in order to prevent the building from falling over. The ascend by foot comprises of 294 spiral steps and is not too difficult, however as you do go around in circles and can definitely feel the incline, I advise caution – the steps are also slightly slippery and not all the same height. At the top, you got a 360 degree birds eye view of the city, and it is definitely worth the climb! Surrounded by 4 large bronze bells, we caught our breaths as we admired the sight of the Baptistery and Il Duomo, seen from above with all its intricate detailing. On the other side of the tower, we admired the view of the mountains and city centre of Pisa, with it’s tiled rooftops and low lying buildings.
THE BAPTISTERY OF ST. JOHN
The Baptistery dedicated to St. John the Baptist is the largest in Italy with a circumference of 107.25 metres. It is an architectural wonder especially for the medieval period, built in 1152, and completed in the 14th century. The octagonal font is designed in white marble, boasts incredible acoustics, and has a bronze sculpture of St. John the Baptist. Typical for that time period, the baptismal font was central as multiple baptisms took place at the same time, unlike today. The exterior is simply magnificent as it captures Byzantine and medieval artwork.
IL DUOMO – PISA’S CATHEDRAL
The Cathedral was built in 1064 to celebrate the magnificence of Pisa’s Maritime Republic. The shiny white marble frame features impressive and intricate designs influenced by the Byzantine period as Pisa’s sailors marveled in the Eastern art during their travels – this gave birth to a new style called Pisan Romanesque. The Cathedral has beautiful bronze doors which depict Biblical stories, as well as a beautiful gold leaf covered ceiling. Frescoes, sculptures and tombs encapsulate the Cathedral all of which illuminate the ambiance for worshipers and visitors.
The Camposanto is a large cemetery, originally built in 1277 using dirt brought back from the Holy Land, as medieval tradition dictated. The complex houses many sarcophagus’s and works of art, and it’s walls were covered with frescoes. The graves were used to bury prestigious men, while the floor beneath were reserved for nobles of Pisa. Unfortunately a fire during WWII completely destroyed this landmark, however it has been rebuilt to match the original design. The preservation of the frescoes can be admired in the Siniopie Museum, located above the ticketing office.
The city of Pisa is filled with little churches and charming piazzas reminiscent of the medieval era. It’s colourful history and brilliant masterminds have contributed to the world wonders which today form an integral part of Pisan culture, and the views from above are simply magnificent!
- Return train ticket Florence – Pisa: 26 euro (approximately)
- Price for Leaning Tower: 18 euro (more options for multiple sites)
- Information about Piazza dei Miracoli: click here
Disclaimer: All views are my own and all photographs are © My Pink Diary, unless otherwise stated.