Today we headed out to see the world-famous leaning tower of Pisa. The city of Pisa is a one hour train ride from Firenze though picturesque Tuscany. Getting to Pisa just before lunch time we walked directly to the Campo dei Miracoli which is a short walk from the train station. Heading to the ticket office we purchased tickets to see the three main buildings (Duomo, Baptistry and the Bell Tower) and the cemetery. To go up into the tower you are given a specific time at which to line up and then you are let in as a group. I guess too many people in the tower may make the tower lean more (not really). The tower has been stabilized and is no longer in jeopardy of falling, at least for another 300 years.
There are 294 steps to the top of the tower, 147 steps less than the campanile in Firenze. Walking up the steps of the tower is a little disorienting due to the lean of the building. There were times when it didn’t feel like I was going up the stairs at all. The bell tower leans at a slant of 13 degrees which although doesn’t seem like much feels a lot more as you make your way up to the top. The staircase is quite narrow so stopping at each balcony level is “forced” so that those from the top can head down safely.
After checking out the view on the lower balcony we were finally allowed to head up to the next level. This balcony had nice level views of the church and the baptistry. Going up another level to a more open narrowed ledge gave us magnificent views of the piazza and the town. What a view from the top.
A guard came over and asked us if we wanted to go up to the top. My friend and I looked at each other and said “There’s more?” Going up a very tight circular staircase brought us to the very top of the tower. Emerging on the higher end of the tower and looking down across the top gave a sensation of vertigo and the feeling that you might slide off. Taking our fill of the view from the top of the tower we finally headed back down to ground level to check out the other buildings. First up was the cemetery. This spectacular piece of architecture didn’t feel like a cemetery at all. It is a beautiful rectangular open air building with a central colonnade running the length. Graves are found in the marble floors as you walk along the corridors. Some being loving restored by the workers here. Remnants of frescoes are found on the interior walls and a room dedicated to saving two very large ones is found on the north side of the building.
After exploring the cemetery we headed across the field to the duomo. The cathedral is made of the same grey marble and white stone as the Bell Tower and the Baptistry. The interior of the duomo is as amazing as the other duomos we’ve seen so far on our trip. The large bronze doors allow you entrance into the gilded ceiling duomo. The black and white marble create a horizontal pattern on the church walls and are also used on the floor to create patterns.
The Baptistry is the largest in Italy and is also slightly taller than the Bell Tower across the square with a slight lean of 0.6 due to being built on the same unstable surface. It is hardly noticeable but that’s what makes the buildings on the Campo dei Miracoli so special each have their own uniqueness. A wonderful side trip to our journey around Italy.