THE CATHEDRAL BELFRY AND THE LEANING TOWER OF PISA
There is no doubt that you get to see the best views of this city from the Leaning Tower´s top, one of the most visited monuments in the whole of Italy. The tours are organised in groups every 15 minutes. They are timed, and once you enter, you can only stay inside for 30 minutes. The whole process is strictly supervised. In low season you could try to buy the entrance ticket which costs about 18 euros upon arrival. Another alternative is to buy it online where you will pay more, approximately 22 or 23 euros.
If you ever manage to reach everywhere within your time in Pisa, you will certainly be surprised by the number of monuments and sights the city has to offer; you will be fascinated by it even if you don´t climb the tower. But since this chapter is about the best views, we couldn´t help but mention it.
Once you get inside the tower, you will have to climb the 251-step spiral staircase to reach the top of the building. The climb will last an average of 5 to 10 minutes, depending on your fitness level. It will take you to the upper terrace from where you can walk around and enjoy the views of the Campo Dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) and the whole city, the Apennine Mountains and even the Apuan Alps if the weather allows, always from an unbeatable position.For safety reasons, children under the age of 8 are not allowed to go up, and if you are under 18, you must be accompanied by an adult.
The Tower of Pisa is actually the bell tower of the Cathedral of Pisa. It was built separately from the Cathedral itself, as was the custom in those medieval times. One reason for this was to prevent a possible collapse of the bell tower and damaging the Cathedral itself. Its construction began in 1173, and it took about 200 years to complete. It was built in the purest Pisan Romanesque style. However, cylindrical, with Byzantine influence, constructed with blocks of white marble and decorated with galleries with small pillars that seem to roll up to form its six floors because of the inclination.
The slanting began shortly after construction started. The reason is simple: the ground on which the entire city of Pisa is built, and especially the Campo Dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles), is a very soft alluvial soil formed by clays and non-rocky deposits that are not suitable for the construction of tall buildings, as the bedrock is very deep. Moreover, the tower´s foundation is barely 3 metres deep.
Therefore, the tower´s swaying movement was detected as early as 1178 at a rate of 1 or 2 millimetres per year, hardly noticeable. Over the centuries and as work continued, this became a serious problem. Over the centuries, several unsuccessful attempts to straighten it until it was closed in 1990 when it leaned at a 5.5-degree rate, which could have caused it to collapse. That year, some of the world´s best engineers were called in and, using the most innovative methods, they managed to straighten the tower by one degree and, above all, to stabilise it so that it would no longer tilt.
AN UNSALTED BREAD FOR A HUMBLE BUT HEARTY AND DELICIOUS MEAL
Be it a simple aperitif or a more filling meal, Pisan food is a must-try.
In general, Tuscan gastronomy consists of dishes made from essential and straightforward ingredients from both the land and the sea but with solid flavour and zest. Its wines are also excellent, whether they come from the coastal region of Maremma or the inland. Something that will surprise you in Pisan cuisine, and probably in the whole of Tuscany, is something that accompanies every meal in the region: its ever-present unsalted bread.
The ´sciapo´, ´silly´ or ´earth´ bread, which has a denomination of origin, is an unsalted bread with a distinctive neutral flavour that requires lengthy fermentation, which helps keep it well preserved for a long time. Locals say that this bread helps not lose the intense flavours of the products cooked in the region.
Legends have it that this bread originated from the rivalry between Pisa and Florence. Apparently, around the 11th century, Pisa began to tax salt arriving at its port, so Florence decided not to use it in its bread as an economic blockade. But other versions claim that Florence, once Pisa came under its rule, was the one that imposed the salt tax on the people of Pisa and that it was the inhabitants of Pisa who rebelled by producing this bland bread.
Nowadays, it is a well-known product that will catch your attention when you travel throughout Tuscany and even the neighbouring region of Umbria. This bread somehow enhances the powerful flavour of the robust Tuscan cuisine based on seafood and country dishes where salamis and pork sausages are mixed with cod. And the bland bread will not only be found as an accompaniment but will be the base of very humble but consistent and tasty dishes such as ribollitaor Tuscan tomato soup.
Directions: Once in the Campo Dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles), leaving the monuments on the left, past the tower, there are a couple of restaurants on the street leading up to the Archbishops´ Palace also on the left. The restaurant "Il Turista" is also worth mentioning. Also, in the streets to the right of Piazza del Duomo, such as via Roma or Santa Maria, you will find small restaurants where you can try some typical dishes. At the Café Duomo, on the corner of Via Santa Maria and Piazza del Duomo, you will find pastries and sweets of your choice, as well as the typical unsalted bread.
Also, if you exit the Piazza Dei Miracoli through Porta Santa Maria and turn right towards the bus station, you will find small places where you can have a drink.
THE STREET STALL PARADISE AND A LONG-NOSED CHARACTER
You can find street stalls everywhere in Pisa´s historic centre. Suppose you walked from the bus station, you will almost certainly go through Largo Cocco Griffi, where you will see the medieval walls on to your left. An endless row of street stalls will accompany you to Porta Santa Maria, through which you will reach the Campo Dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles). The stalls then continue to the road that leads from the Campo Dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) to the palace of the Archbishops, which will be located on your right-hand side.
Countless souvenirs such as magnets, aprons, tower replicas (in all possible formats), miniature Pinocchio figures, small tower-shaped bottles, or Italian boot-shaped bottles filled with liqueur, handkerchiefs, bags, pasta in all shapes and colours; you name it, they have it!It´s an excellent place to buy last-minute Italian souvenirs, especially if you´re continuing by bus to France and will soon be leaving Italy behind.
Why are there so many Pinocchio souvenirs in the streets of Pisa?
Pinocchio is a fictional character created in the 19th century by the Florentine writer Carlo Collodi, under the pen name Carlo Lorenzini. The main character of his famous book "The Adventures of Pinocchio". This book, which was probably originally intended for children and adults, has been adapted into comics and films, making this funny character, whose nose grows when he lies, one of the most famous characters in children´s literature.
Carlo Collodi took his pen name from the neighbouring village where his mother was born. The name of the place where the story of this wooden puppet, who becomes a human being after many accidents and adventures, is set. The village of Collodi is between the Tuscan towns of Lucca and Pistoia, and Pinocchio is so important that they have built and dedicated a park for him. The fact that it is only 35 km from Pisa means that the city of the Leaning Tower is full of wooden dolls of all sizes representing this character and which will be a nice souvenir to buy and take home or an ideal gift for a child, relative or friend.
SUPER SNAPS FOR SUPERHEROS
On to the left of the street that runs through the Campo Dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles), also known as Piazza Duomo (Cathedral Square), there are guard poles connected with chains, barricading the green grass surrounding the monuments. They are there for a good reason; to prevent tourists from camping there, obstructing others´ views, or leaving our picnics behind.
Well, these poles are great to climb on and pose. You will see many tourists climbing up and experimenting with complex poses to play with the perspective and making it look like holding the tower so that it doesn´t fall, etcetera., while their partners, family, or friends take pictures. This is undoubtedly the most typical pose that you can do in Pisa and where you can use your imagination to experiment with the perspective. The trick behind a good picture like this is a steady hand for taking the photo and good balance for the one getting photographed, as it is not always easy to pose on top of a narrow stone pole.
But if you want a more serious photo, you should choose the edges of the square with a broader perspective. These are good places to capture all the buildings and the monumentality of the square as a whole. It is also essential to look for the position of the sun and the light, which changes depending on the time of day or year. Maybe the best place to be at sunset is near the Puerta de Santa María, as it is located more to the west, so the sun´s rays fall directly on the monuments.
But in the mornings, the other end of the square, located more to the east, and the beginning of the adjacent streets are better talking in terms of lighting. Well, that is if you want to take a classic shot. There are always experts and not-so-experts who play with the counter light to create special effects. But if what you want is a fun, humorous photo that will make your friends and family smile, don´t hesitate to do the one we mentioned earlier, holding the tower as if you were giants or Superheros.
Within the Piazza del Duomo, or Campo Dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles), three monuments stand out: The Leaning Tower, the Cathedral, and the Baptistery. These three are very obvious, but there is a fourth one that does not stand out so much but is worth a visit and will surely surprise you if you go inside to see it. We are talking about the Campo Santo Monumentale of Pisa, which is nothing more than a monumental cemetery, but an exceptional one.
This building is part of the heritage complex of the square, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987.
You will have to pay an entrance fee, but it is well worth it. The first thing you will feel is the excellent tranquillity that can be enjoyed inside. You will undoubtedly notice the difference inside, having left the crowd of tourists that normally swarm around the Campo Dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) to a place that inspires meditation. Perhaps because of its historical function and maybe the least visited monument of the four large ones that make up the Piazza del Duomo.
It is known as Campo Santo (Holy Field) because it is believed to have been built on the holy ground brought from Golgotha in Jerusalem by Ubaldo de Lanfranchi during the Fourth Crusade in the 12th century. This is why we call cemeteries " Holy Fields" in Catholic countries. Legend has it that the bodies buried there decompose in just 24 hours.
Built on the ruins of the ancient baptistery of Santa Reparata church, a long rectangle in the form of a wide cloister surrounds the green space in the centre. Large, sometimes hidden, gothic arches separate the two areas. Although badly damaged by a World War II bombing on 27 July 1944, the walls of the galleries still have colourful 14th and 15th-century frescoes by artists such as Benozzo Gozzoli, Antonio Veneziani, Andrea de Bonaiuti and Taddeo Gaddi.
84 Roman graves are on display, among many others, in the sacristy museum. The sarcophagi, originally placed beside the Cathedral, was moved to the cemetery and other relics recovered around Pisa. Altogether, the Roman and Etruscan sculptures and the urns make you feel like walking through a museum rather than a cemetery.
IN SEARCH OF THE 250 YEARS OLD GIANT TREES IN ONE OF THE WORLD´S OLDEST BOTANICAL GARDENS
Are you ready to immerse yourself inside a botanical world that will surprise you with its quality, variety and history? Do you dare to look for two giant living beings that are almost 250 years old? If you like plants, this challenge is, for you, a place of peace and tranquillity where you will escape from the mass of tourists taking photos to immerse yourself in an oasis of greenery.
Walking along Via Santa Maria from Piazza del Duomo and turning right at the end of Piazza Cavallotti, you will reach the gate of the Orto Botanico (Botanical Garden) of Pisa and its museum. It will only take you 5 or 6 minutes to reach it on foot from the tower.
This garden, managed by the University of Pisa, is the oldest Botanical Garden globally, although it has been moved twice. It was founded in 1544 by the physician Luca Ghini with Cosimo I de Medici´s financial support and has been in its present location since 1591.
In 1723 the garden was laid out in the shape of the four western elements, square for the earth, triangular for fire, circular for sky and basins for water. It was significantly transformed in the 19th century to apply the new standards of scientific classification. The garden covers about three hectares and consists of:
Arboretum that still follows the guidelines of the 19th century. The highlight here is a specimen of Magnolia Grandiflora and the Gingko Biloba from 1787 planted by the prefect Giorgio. Well, actually they are outside this sector, in the so-called "Cedar Garden".Can you find them? Can you see them? A good clue is their age, which means they are very tall and large. And the 25 metres tall Giant Magnolia is not the only one. You can also see several other giant specimens, such as a linden tree and an oak tree, although they are not as old.Can you distinguish them by their leaves and bark?
Systematic Collection: With 550 species from 39 families.
Flora Oficinal: Or Myrtle Garden, named"Jardín del Mirto" after an ancient specimen of this species, it has around 140 species of officinal plants, some used in pharmacopoeias such as castor bean and digitalis.
Aquatic Plants: Generally local, and some of them practically extinct in nature.
Mediterranean Geophytes: Herbaceous plants from the Mediterranean basin.
Succulents: They can be found in a greenhouse, and the Cactaceae and plants of the Aloe and Agave class stand out.
We hope you can enjoy this wonderful natural walk searching for real-life giants from this marvellous city!
GALILEO AND THE PENDULUM THE LANTERN FROM THE PISA CATHEDRAL AND ITS SCIENTIFIC SIGNIFICANCE
Galileo Galilei was born on 15 February 1564 in the beautiful city of Pisa, when the city belonged to the Duchy of Tuscany. His father was a cloth merchant and was fond of music and mathematics, which Galileo learned. His mother loved reading, accompanied by little Galileo and that helped the young man understand more about human relationships made his interest in Aristotelian science grow.
Little Galileo became fond of mechanics and spent his time observing the workers in his neighbourhood. His father took him to study Latin, Greek and mathematics. He started to question Aristotelian theories taught to him by his teacher Borghini at the age of 17. Despite his father´s attempts to steer him towards medicine, and despite studying it for three years, the young man excelled in mechanics and mathematics. The study of Greek helped him better understand Aristotle´s writings.
His first experiment took place in 1581 inside the Cathedral of Pisa, the same Cathedral which you can visit today already existed hundreds of years before Galileo´s lifetime. Legend has it that at the age of 17, he saw how the sacristan of the Cathedral lit the lamp hanging from the cathedral ceiling and pushed it from side to side. Galileo realised that the time the lamp took to move from one side to the other was the same regardless of the length of the distance. As there were no suitable chronometers at the time, he used this in his medical studies to measure the pulsations of his wrist and thus calculate the time of each oscillation. Other claims include the use of heartbeats. He called this isochronism, and this experiment and others that he would carry out at home with a colleague were the basis for studies on time measurement. This isochronism of time determines that the oscillation of a pendulum is independent of its amplitude ( the swaying range).
Galileo is considered the first modern scholar, and that first experiment in his adolescence was the gateway to all the remarkable discoveries he would make throughout his life.
However, the Cathedral´s central lamp, nowadays known as the "Galileo´s Lamp", is more modern than the original, which in turn can be found in the nearby Camposanto ("Cemetery").
Don´t miss a visit to the Cathedral, it is stunning, although the entrance is free you have to go in with a ticket which indicates the time of entry. If you have a scientific spirit, try to feel what the young Galileo felt almost 500 years ago; if you are religious, enjoy the majesty and spirituality of the place.
If you are just admirers of beauty and art, you will not be disappointed.
ROUTE OF THE PALACES
We will discover the square where the city originated and some of the most important and representative palaces on this route. From Piazza del Duomo, at the end of which is the Fontana Dei Putti, with a baroque sculpture representing these little angels called Putti, walk along Via Santa Maria, where you will find restaurants and the small church of San Giorgio dei Tedeschi (of the Germans) on the left. Continue through it until you reach Piazza Cavallotti, which will be on your left and which can be distinguished by its open space and trees. You will also see the language faculty of the University of Pisa and the Botanical Gardens behind it, which we can visit if we follow point number nine. To follow the route of the palaces, just after passing the square, we turn left into Via Dei Mille. In about two blocks, just after passing Piazza Francesco Buonamici and the short street Via Corsica, we reach Piazza Dei Cavalieri.
The Piazza Dei Cavalieri or Knights´ Square is the city´s historical centre as it was the Roman forum site. It takes its name from the Order of the Knights of Santo Stefano (Knights of St. Stephen), created to fight the infidels. It has several palaces surrounding it as well as the church of St. Stephen which was built in 1569, with a facade of white, pink and green marble. To the left of the church, as seen from the entrance to the square, is the Palazzo del Cavalieri or Palazzo della Carovana, built at the end of the 16th century, with an ornate facade, paintings and sculptures, whose facade was designed by Giorgio Vasari, and which is also part of the university today.
The Palazzo del Consiglio Dei Dodici, named after the twelve knights who were members of the main body of the Order of Santo Stefano (St. Stephen), stands to the right of the piazza entrance. It has a pink plaster facade and white marble decorations. It was renovated in the 16th century by Pietro Francavilla.
On the left is the Palazzo Della Gherardesca or Palazzo del Orologio, rebuilt by Vasari in 1607 on the ruins of the Torre Della Fame (Tower of Hunger), where Count Ugolino Della Gherardesca was condemned to starve to death with his sons after the defeat of the Meloria.In the centre of the square, there is a sculpture of Cosimo de Medici.
We can return to the Campo Dei Miracoli along via Dalmazia and continue along via Fraggiola to the Archbishop´s Palace. We turn left ahead via Capponi to the Archbishop´s Square. From there, in about 100 metres, we reach the starting point.
The Archbishop´s Palace, one of the most impressive in Pisa, dates back to 1400, although, after several alterations, its facade dates back to 1700. It has a large courtyard with 15th-century arches and the tombs of several archbishops. In the centre is a sculpture of Moses from the 700s by Andrea Vaccà.
A TERRACE WITH SOMETHING MORE THAN GREAT VIEWS
At the beginning of Saint Mary´s Street, there is a restaurant and pastry shop. You can sit at the restaurant´s terrace and order a drink; a coffee, a glass of beer or wine, accompanied by a sweet or an aperitif. Take a break for a few minutes to rest after all the wandering around and sort out your photo gallery; you can connect to the Wi-Fi if you don´t have internet access on your phone and write those important messages to your dear ones and share your trip experiences and adventures with them, be it, friends or family, accompanied by your best photographs.
This is also a wonderful place to enjoy the breathtaking view of the Tower and the Cathedral, and to observe the colourful passage of tourists of every possible nationality. It is also a wonderful place to be entertained by watching African street vendors trying to display their products with any trick they invent that might attract the attention of these tourists and lure them in. These vendors have exceptional talent, and somehow, they can guess the nationality of the tourists, and even if they don´t get it 100% right, at least they can guess the language they speak. It´s pretty amusing to see how they can talk a bit of any language, even if it´s only enough to start a basic conversation.
But you can also see daily life, like locals reading newspapers or going around with their shopping bags. A potpourri of events that can be much fun if you observe. It is a lovely spot, filled with life and with the best views of the Field of Miracles ("Campo Dei Miracoli ") and its monuments. But if what you want is a bit calmer and private place, it is better to go a little further down the same street and the Piazza del Duomo, where you can always find quieter spots where you can rest in a more relaxed way without so much hustle and bustle. Even then, you are sure to find tables from where you can see the omnipresent tower over the other houses.
It´s located at the intersection of Santa María Street and Field of Miracles
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