Pisa, Beyond The Leaning Tower
In Tuscany, holidays should always be filled with surprises, and Pisa delivers on that. There are many sights beyond the famous leaning tower.
Ask people to name an architectural structure in Italy and chances are the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the first thing they’ll come up with. This bell tower is so familiar, in fact, that even very young children seem to know it - no doubt due to the stories about Galileo and his experiments there. It's little wonder most people planning to visit Italy consider it a must to spend time in this lovely city in Tuscany. Holidays to the region wouldn't be complete without a photo sessions in front of what is arguably Italy’s most famous landmark.
In fact, this architectural marvel has been fascinating holidaymakers, architects and engineers for more than 800 years – and it rarely disappoints. Walking up the 294 steps via the marble tower’s spiral staircase gives visitors a panoramic view of the city from a terrace above the top floor, as well as getting the full effect of its ‘leaning’. Engineers concerned with the massive number of tourists (more than a million annually before it was closed in 1990) have capped numbers, so be sure to book tickets in advance as they are in high demand. However, there is no need for concern as extensive works have ensured the tower should be safely standing for at least another 200 years.
As intriguing as it is, there is so much more than the famous bell tower to the charming town of Pisa. In Tuscany, holidays are all about surprises and new discoveries, and Pisa is certainly full of them.
It would be impossible to deny the role of faith in the history of Tuscany. Holidays to the region unfailingly include visits to various churches, cathedrals, shrines and scenes of miracles and religious events. Pisa has its share of gorgeous and historically significant churches, including the Duomo in Campo dei Miracoli, Pisa’s ‘Field of Miracles’, which also includes Pisa’s famous Baptistry and Campanile, otherwise known as the Leaning Tower. The Camposanto, which runs along the north edge of Campo dei Miracoli, has been described as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. Here, legends claim, souls are laid to rest in ‘holy earth’ brought back from Golgotha during the Crusades. A tour of the Camposanto offers visitors a chance to see various monuments to the dead, some dating back to Greco-Roman times. Equally fascinating are the frescoes that once covered the cloister wall, many of which were destroyed during WWII. One of the most famous frescoes in the collection, called “Triumph of Death”, was said to have so moved the composer Liszt that he was compelled to pen his Totentanz upon seeing it.
Museo dell’Orto Botanico
A visit to the Orto Botanico is another must for any visitor to Tuscany. Holidays to the region can include many opportunities to immerse in Nature’s beauty, and this eight-acre park, which features a museum and is also connected to a university, is the perfect way to get some fresh air and sunshine. (And perhaps be a welcome break from the region’s more sombre attractions, such as the Camposanto.) Founded in 1543, the Pisa Botanical Garden is the oldest of its kind in Europe and is a delight to explore.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carolyn Spinks is COO of ABTOI - The Association of British Travel Organisers to Italy. If you’re looking for the perfect Tuscany holidays the LoveItaly website provides destination information, contact details of tour operator members to help you plan the best Italian holiday, insider tips, year round special offers and information on everything from beach holidays in Sardinia, cycling in Sicily, to a wedding or honeymoon in Tuscany.