No trip to Italy, and especially the Tuscany region, could ever be complete without a day trip, or even a short half-day trip to Pisa. Once a maritime power to rival Genoa and Venice, Pisa now draws its fame from an architectural project gone terribly wrong.
For as long as I can remember, my textbooks have had me marveling about the beautiful and curiously Leaning Tower of Pisa. So, when we planned a two-week long holiday to Italy a few years back, it was but obvious that we would make a short trip to the city. Lonely Planet calls Pisa ‘a harmonious urban composition’ and rightly so. The University here has been famous since the 1400s and counts Galileo among its illustrious list of alumni. With a vibrant cafe and bar scene, well-maintained Romanesque and Gothic architecture pieces and lively Renaissaince piazzas, you are in for a taste of local here, if only you ventured farther from the famed Piazza dei Miracoli.
Situated some 85 km from Florence, where we had a stopover for two days, we chose to visit Pisa on the afternoon of day 1. We had our tickets for ascending the Tower booked online; all we had to do was reach there on time.
We took a train from Florence to Pisa Centrale station that took us about 50 minutes. A 10 min long bus ride from outside the station thereafter brought us right outside the walled Piazza dei Miracoli or Square of Miracles that houses the cathedral complex and is considered one of the most beautiful piazzas in all of Europe.
Now, I am an architect, so en route the husband got a lengthy and detailed lesson on the history and design faults that caused the Campanile, or the free-standing bell tower to the Cathedral of Pisa, to lean unintended. But honestly, none of my lessons had prepared me for the experience of seeing the Cathedral, Baptistry or the Tower.
With such intricate detailing on the exterior walls and on the bronze doors, yet such vacuously plain interiors of the tower and simplicity of the baptistery interiors, they indeed were an admirable sight to behold! The Cathedral, on the other hand,is enriched as it should be, both inside and out, with magnificent mosaics, frescoes and gilding.
Even more amazing were the numerous people trying to take the obvious – leaning on/supporting the tower photographs. 😉 However, the cathedral complex itself affords some magnificent views around and from above the tower.
The walk up the narrow staircase of 300 steps took us around 20 mins and the views of the city on such a clear day were picture postcard worthy. You can also see the beautifully sculpted bronze bells on top of the tower.
We made our descent after the regulatory frolicking that is expected of a young couple, and spent quite sometime relishing our gelato on such a warm, summer day. One can only ever have so many gelatos in a lifetime, right? Sadly, that left us only some time to check out and admire the Baptistery and Cathedral. The Baptistery, an octagonal shaped building, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is in fact the largest in Italy and built in the Romanesque style.
Nevertheless, we had enough time to come out into the open right in time to drink in the magnificent views of the sunset painting the Piazza and the grey marble buildings in various hues of pinks, purples and blues.
We walked out of the complex and into the alleyways and were charmed by how different the scene was from the hustle bustle of the majorly touristy areas. A warm and sumptuous dinner at a ristorante later, we headed back to our hotel in Florence and called it a night.
So, if you are in the vicinity of either Florence or Venice, or plan to make a trip to either of these cities, do find sometime and visit Pisa too – it totally lives up to its fame.
- pre-book tickets to the tower online or you won’t be sure of getting to ascend the tower the same day
- reach the queue at least 15 minutes prior to your slot
- wear good shoes with sturdy soles