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Pisa – more than the Leaning Tower

  • Pisa – more than the Leaning Tower

    Pisa, 23 km south of Viareggio, makes for a perfect day trip. No city is as closely associated with one single monument as Pisa is with her Leaning Tower. It is a wondrous site but so are the Cathedral and Baptistery. Beyond this tourist-studded area, you will have much of Pisa to yourself. Unlike most Tuscan cities, Pisa's religious centre is not sealed inside the walls nor plonked in the old town but marooned on the northern edge of town. The star sights are clustered around the Campo dei Miracoli, a veritable Square of Miracles. Take in these celebrations of Pisan Romanesque and then explore the city itself. Or be radical: to avoid the photo-posing pandemonium, visit the town first and the Tower afterwards. Don’t restrict your visit to a selfie in front of the Leaning Tower. Spare a thought for the rest of Pisa, which is full of intriguing corners. 

    Begin with the Leaning Tower to salute one of Italy’s most famous monuments. Catch your first sight of the 12th-century Tower through the archway of the Porta Santa Maria, also known as the Porta Nuova. When the sun is shining, the whiteness daz¬zles; when raining, it glistens. The entire square, the Campo dei Miracoli, is studded with architectural treasures. Come to Pisa to take your fill of Pisan Romanesque, which was invented here. Pisa Cathedral, the Duomo, represents the glorious hybrid that is Pisan Romanesque. In form, it is austere Norman Romanesque but inspired by a Moorish Sicilian aesthetic and a Tuscan taste for marble. Yet the colourful geometry of the multi-coloured marble is essentially Tuscan. Also on the Campo dei Miracoli, a veritable Square of Miracles, stands Pisa Baptistry, the Battistero, the largest baptistery in Italy.

    Clear your head with a walk along the riverbanks, known as the Lungarni. Also make time to stroll through the Borgo Stretto district for a sense of Pisan life. Pisa is not picturesque, and, beyond the `Field of miracles’, rarely tugs the heartstrings. But there is a warmer side to the city in the backstreets. The Borgo Stretto is a lively warren of alleyways and shopping streets between Piazza dei Cavallieri and the Arno riverbanks. Lined with cafes and shops, the arcaded Borgo Stretto opens out at Piazza Garibaldi and the Ponte di Mezzo bridge. It’s a perfect place for a wander in search of an ice cream, an afternoon coffee and cake, or a reasonably-priced meal. Call into the Pasticceria Federico Salza, an old-fashioned bar and pastry shop, set under the porticoes. It makes a tempting place for an afternoon coffee and cake or evening cocktails. For a full tour of Pisa, including a description of the Leaning Tower, plus restaurant and shopping tips, see our Pisa guide. 

    Torre Pendente (Leaning Tower), Piazza dei Miracoli, 56126 Pisa
    T: 050 835011 & (online booking) www.opapisa.it
    Pasticceria Federico Salza, Borgo Stretto 46, 56126 Pisa

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