While Florence is undoubtedly the star city in Tuscany, and also the region’s capital, Pisa also draws in its fair share of visitors. I don’t need to mention why most people visit Pisa—it’s pretty obvious—but I can’t really avoid it either, can I?
Pisa has the dubious honor to be world-famous for a flagrantly failed architectural project. The Leaning Tower is famous around the world and is the main reason that Pisa is a stop on the itinerary of so many tourists.
It is exactly why we visited, too. When we were spending a few days in Tuscany last summer, we first paid a visit to Pisa before heading to Florence. To be honest, as beautiful as the city was, we simply wanted to check it off our list.
A Day Trip to Pisa
Although Pisa is most famous—I’d almost say, only famous—for the Leaning Tower, there are in fact a couple of other sights that are worth seeing. They are all conveniently centered around the Piazza dei Miracoli in the heart of the city.
This is occasionally considered to be among the most beautiful squares in the world, and I could see why. It’s dotted with some spectacular buildings, including—that’s right—the unavoidable Leaning Tower.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is, in fact, an inseparable part of the Duomo, the magnificent white cathedral that stands in the middle of the piazza. I say inseparable because it’s the cathedral’s bell tower, or campanile in Italian. However, it does stand literally separate from the cathedral, as is common in this part of Italy. It was built next to the cathedral instead of attached to it.
Designed by Bonanno Pisano, the bell tower’s construction was initiated in 1173. The architect must soon have realized his mistakes, for the tower started already started leaning after only three of the seven stories were finished. It was finished nonetheless. It wasn’t until 1998 that the survival of what had come to be known as the “leaning tower” was secured with a stabilization project.
Nowadays, the Leaning Tower is a massive tourist attraction, which is reflected in the ticket prices. To climb the tower, you need to cough up 18 euros. I have to add to that that, however spectacular the tower may look from below, the views from the top are only average. I expected more and I have climbed other towers that offered much more memorable views—examples are the campanile of Florence Cathedral, the bell tower in Rovinj, Croatia, and a mosque’s minaret in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I liked visiting Pisa’s Duomo better than climbing the Leaning Tower. And it was free. This huge marvelous structure dates from the 11th century and has an amazing interior.
Additionally, the baptistery, Battistero in Italian, is worth visiting as well. You can climb the stairs on the inside for excellent views of both the Duomo and the Leaning Tower.
Piazza dei Miracoli is the main attraction in Pisa, a university city that is made up of ochre-colored buildings and bisected by the Arno River. If I mention that it is a university city, I also have to add that this was where the genius that was Galilei Galileo studied and taught in the late 16th century.
Because Pisa’s three attractions—the Leaning Tower, Duomo and Battistero—are concentrated on one central square, it is possible to see them all in a matter of a few hours.
This makes Pisa a fantastic option for a day trip if, like us, you are spending some time in Tuscany.