Tuesday, April 9, 2019
We are hereby confirming that the tower of Pisa is indeed leaning!
What an awesome and beautiful day! We took the train (always so comfortable in Europe) and arrived in the famous city of Pisa. The walk from the station is very pleasant, with long pedestrian stretches.
Reaching the “Field of Miracles” takes about a 30-minute walk if you go straight there, and about one hour if you follow Rick Steves’ guided walk, OR you can do it the Fragapane’s way: a 2-hour stretch that includes a church and market visit, and a lunch stop with seafood gnocchi, followed by coffee. I personally think this third option gives you time to smell Pisa’s air!
Piazza dei Cavaglieri is particularly interesting, with the beautiful façade of Scuola Normale Superiore, a school offering both undergraduate and postgraduate programs.
Fun fact: Florence has a population of about 100,000 people, with 45,000 students also taking residency there. Let’s hope they don’t decide to party all at once…
Arriving at the “Field of Miracles” causes you to pause because it is such a massive architectural breathtaking sight!!! We decided to concentrate on the following:
The Leaning Tower — It is magnificent and very clean! We declined climbing it but spent quite some time circling it, admiring its splendour. There is a 15-foot lean which, according to experts, increases slightly every year. To give you a little “timeline” perspective, construction of the tower started around 1173, when Pisa was at its peak.
We had fun watching tourists “holding up” the leaning tower with silly poses making no sense from afar. They were having lots of fun striking the right angle for an iconic photo moment.
The Cathedral — This huge Romanesque church is very impressive, with a 320-foot nave, an incredible apse mosaic and a 15-foot octagonal pulpit by Giovanni Pisano.
The Baptistery — The building, which began in 1153, is modeled after the circular-domed Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The interior is very sober and you can access the upper level through a stone staircase. Acoustics are exceptional, which explains the large “Silenzio” sign next to the entrance!
Camposanto Cemetery — With partially recovered frescos, amazing coats of arms paving the marble floor, and dozens of Roman sarcophagi, the Campo is also famous for its “holy Land dirt” brought from the Middle East in the 12the century. We did spend quite some time in this covered cemetery, with only a handful of tourists.
City walls — An extra fee of 3 euros gives you access to the city walls, where you can have a totally different perspective on the Field of Miracles, and get great angles on these fabulous buildings.
Notes to travelers:
1. Taking the train from Lucca to Pisa is a breeze and the distance is covered in less than 30 minutes. Return tickets cost 7.20 euros/person.
2. Entrance to the cathedral is free BUT you will need to get a ticket giving you a timeframe for your visit. HOWEVER, if you buy a ticket for the other venues on the Fields of Miracles, you can visit the cathedral anytime you want. You can choose a “Combo ticket” for 2, 3 or all 4 buildings. Price will vary accordingly. We chose two paid venues (amounting to 7 euros/person). Tickets are validated at each venue entrance.
3. At this time of the year, crowds of tourists are very manageable and by 3:00 pm, organized groups are all gone. Taking pictures is a pleasure, with barely no obstructions and plenty of room to meander peacefully (sometimes even alone!).
Our final take? An awesome day! We walked until we could walk no more, we used all of our 5 camera batteries, and we took zillions of pictures. In North America, we would call it “being productive”. Here, well… they call it being a tourist…