My eldest son was allowed to pick a destination to celebrate his holy communion a few years ago. He dreamt of New York, so his godmother, her son, himself and I went to the city of lights.
Younger brother had his turn this year. He dreamt of something less extravagant and initially wanted to go to the seaside. As I’m not a big fan of the Belgian coast, I convinced him to have another think about it and he came up with Pisa. He wanted to see that famous leaning tower.
And so we went to Pisa recently.
Discover the Piazza dei Miracoli
The highlight of Pisa is of course the Piazza dei Miracoli (or actual name Piazza del Duomo). This is where you’re find the campanile (the leaning tower of Pisa), the cathedral and the baptistry.
The leaning tower of Pisa
The tower of Pisa is one of the most famous buildings in the world. The build of this 55-meter tall clocktower started in 1173.
Why is the tower leaning?
It all went wrong when they started the build, as even the first three floors are tilting. The build was abandoned for 200 years as Pisa was at war with Genoa and Firenze. If they had kept on building, the tower would have probably collapsed. But now the foundation had “settled” which meant it didn’t. In 1272, when they picked up the building again, they already noticed that the tower was leaning. To sort out the problem, they put more cement between the stones on one side than on the other. After they reached the 7th floor in 1284, the build was again abandoned and picked up again in 1372.
The tower tilts a little more every year. In the 1990s, a restoration project was started to ensure the tower would not fall over. It was straightened a little, but of course it remains tilting as otherwise it would lose its charm and attraction.
According to the restorers, you now have 300 years of time to visit it.
Do you want to climb the 297 steps to enjoy the view from the top? Order your tickets in advance.
Picture below: credits: Checkoutsam
Of course, you can’t leave Pisa without taking one of the cliché photographs.
It's so funny to see how others strike a pose!
Did you know that the tower of Pisa is not the furthest-leaning tower in the world? Suurhusen, Northern Germany, has a tower that tilts even more.
Tegenover de scheve toren staat de imposante Duomo di Santa Maria Assunta. Deze rijkelijk versierde Dom is het mooiste voorbeeld van de Romaanse stijl van Pisa. Hij werd gebouwd tussen 1064 en 1118 met de buit die veroverd werd tijdens de oorlog tegen de Saracenen in Sicilië (1603). Op de gevel staat een tekst die naar deze buit verwijst.
In contrast to the tower, you can enter the cathedral for free. Really worth it, but be careful what you wear. Spaghetti straps are not allowed.
The original bronze doors melted during a fire in 1595, and were replaced by copies by Flemish artists.
The interior of the cathedral dates to the 16th century as the original interior was also destroyed in the fire. The only thing that survived the fire was the pulpit.
Picture below: credits Checkoutsam
The Baptistry or Baptisterium is part of the Cathedral, but is separate. This chapel was built between 1152 and 1363, and is to this day the largest baptistry of Italy, with a circumference of over 107 meters.
The décor is fairly sober but very impressive, and the acoustics are fabulous.
The camposanto is the walled cemetery at the edge of the Piazza dei Miracoli. It was nearly completely destroyed during the Second World War by allied bombs, but was luckily reinstated to its full glory shorty after. It is said to be the most beautiful cemetery in the world (although I think that the Necropolis Colon in Cuba is also a real gem).
Legend says that the cemetery was built with a shipload of holy soil from Golgotha. (the place where Jesus was crusified)
The wall has 43 blind arches and two gates. Inside the cemetery, there are Roman statues and sarcophagi, and a number of well-preserved frescos on the wall.
The whole of it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The buildings are also very impressive. You will have seen it all after walking around for an hour or two. And the crowds will drive you nuts. I think they have invented the word “mass tourism” here. It is easy to visit Pisa as a daytrip from Firenze or Florence.
By the way, if you are in this area, you must visit the town of Lucca (with which I have a very special bond, but you can read all about that in the post on Lucca).