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Pisa

No city is as closely associated with one single monument as Pisa is with her tower. It is a wondrous site but so are the cathedral and baptistery. Both owe much to the influence of Islamic architecture, which Pisan merchants and scholars experienced through trading with Moorish Spain and North Africa. Once a thriving Roman port, Pisa’s harbour silted up in the 15th century, and it is now marooned on the Arno river, six miles (10 km) from the coast. Great medieval sea battles were fought off these shores, with the city-state of Pisa becoming first an ally then a rival of other Tuscan states, including Lucca and Florence, along with the maritime powers of Genoa and Venice. Wonderful though the Leaning Tower is, many visitors fail to notice the treasures outside the Campo dei Miracoli. It’s certainly worth exploring Pisa’s other `miracles,’ from the riverbanks to the lively town.

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