Pisa – a leaning tower… so what?
My preconception of Pisa was of a city that has built up a tourist trade around an ornate tower with dodgy foundations. Not great, I know, but having previously loved my short visits to Florence, Siena and Rome on my week’s tour of the country I was anxious to get to Pisa and see why you would bother choosing to go visit it when there are so many other amazing sights to see in Italy?*
Well you should bother!
Pisa is so much more than a leaning tower and its home – the world heritage site of Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square) – is an unbelievable and immaculate collection of white stone and marble buildings that make up the walled area at the heart of the city. Also known as Campo dei Miracoli (aptly translated as “Field of Miracles”), the tower sits proudly (if a little lob-sided) in this square together with the spectacular Duomo, Baptistery and Camposanto.
Rather embarrassingly, I was unaware of these other buildings before my visit, but religious or not, you cannot fail to be impressed by their stature and influence on the city and the excess of one million visitors each year. I certainly enjoyed my short time there and was in awe of seeing one of the most famous buildings in the world and learning more about the city that houses it.
Pisa, like Florence lies on the famous Arno River and is the closest city to the river’s mouth into the Mediterranean. Also, like Florence there is a treasure trove of architecture, piazzas, museums and several historical quarters that paint a grandiose history of art and culture that has to be seen. Pisa also has an excellent array of restaurants, theatres, cinemas, shops and much more that can keep the tourist (or Italian language student!) entertained for much longer than I had the privilege to spend time there.
Transport to and around Pisa could not be simpler. The trains in Italy are amongst the most efficient I have been on and the Galileo Galilei Airport is literally within walking distance (albeit better to travel by bus or taxi!) from the city centre.
So, if like me, your preconceptions of Pisa were limited then go for yourself, see the unique leaning tower in all its glory, climb to the top – up the leaning steps (approximately 15 Euros for a ticket), enjoy the view, the field of miracles and the tourist route but also spend time getting to know this charming Tuscan city and you will not be disappointed.
* In fact Italy as a country leads the world in number of world heritage sites – around 40, with another 40 on the tentative list!