Places to visit in Pisa

Pisa Airport, also known as Galileo Galilei Airport, is situated only 2 km from the center of Pisa, a city famous for its wonderful monuments and buildings, and of course, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It is also well known for its university, which is one of Italy’s most highly recommended schools, and was established way back in 1343. The area of Campo dei Miracoli, or the Piazza dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) is famous for its circular Battistero, the largest of its kind in Italy, and the Camposanto, or the Holy Field, one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. For social entertainment, the main area in Pisa is the Piazza Garibaldi, while many interesting shops and cafes can be enjoyed at the Borgo Stretto.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is without a doubt the most popular reason why many tourists want to visit Pisa. It is also known as the Torre Pendente, or Pisa Torre. This amazing structure is actually the bell tower of the Pisa cathedral, and has been there for more than 700 years. It is a mystery as to why the tower is at such an angle, and no one can be blamed for this remarkable ‘mistake’. It does seem that the underlying cause of the tremendous leaning is due to a sand formation on the side of the tower’s base, but no engineer has yet been able to come up with a solution to overcome the lean. The tower’s mysterious angle was noticed when it was been built, after it had reached the third level, and some measures where taken to try and correct it, however, this only made the tower lean the other way! No work was continued for almost a century, but eventually another three levels were added, in an uneven fashion, in order to attempt to counterbalance the structure’s tilt. This led to the tower’s slight ‘banana’ shape. After the addition of the lopsided Gothic belfry at the top, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is now 51 meters, or 170 feet tall. During the 19th century many efforts were made to correct the tilt and stabilize the tower, but most activities only made things worse. By 1990 the tower was declared off limits to visitors, as the top leant more than 5 meters / 16 feet from vertical! The only attempt that worked in stabilizing the tower was the 800 tons of lead weights which were added to the northern side. Steel cables were added to this in 1998, stretching from the lead weights in order to hold the tower steady. The tower has since improved on its previous lean and position, and work will continue to steady the tower, however, the tourist board insists that the tower should always remain leaning.

If the Tower of Pisa isn’t remarkable enough, there are actually several other buildings in Pisa which have a distinctive ‘lean’ to them. Due to the unsteady and sandy soil beneath the Field of Miracles, the baptistery leans noticeably to the north, and the Duomo cathedral is also at a rather peculiar angle. Smaller bell towers in Pisa have also developed a tilt, and these are even referred to as ‘The Other Leaning Towers’!

The Battistero, or Baptistery, along with the Camposanto, or Holy Field, are another two of Pisa’s most famous attractions. They are both found in Piazza del Duomo. The Baptistery is circular, with a circumference of 104 meters, or 348 feet, and has been in existence since 1153. The first creator of this incredible building was Deotisalvi, and he gave the building its famous lower Romanesque-style drum, and even left his name on one of the door columns. Further enhancements were made around a hundred years later, with the addition of a large dome, and upper levels in a rather Gothic style. The Baptistery still contains and features one of the first great Pisano pulpits, but many of its other original statues and decorative items are now housed in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. It is worth visiting the Baptistery earlier on in the morning before there are too many visitors to listen to the building’s astounding acoustics, with each sound echoing around the interior. It is truly spectacular to hear a choir sing in the Baptistery.

The Piazza dei Cavalieri, or Knights’ Square, is located unexpectedly at the back of the narrow streets and central square of medieval Pisa, and was created in 1560, by Giorgio Vasari. In this area, tourists will find the church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri, the rather imposing Palazzo dell’Orologio and the Borgo Stretto, where there are many interesting shopping outlets to explore.

Museums of note in Pisa include the Museo Nazionale di San Matteo, or National Museum of St. Matthew. It is located on the banks of the River Arno, and displays some superb collections of between the 12th and 18th century paintings and sculptures. Highlights of this museum include an important picture of Christ, a 14th century statue of the Madonna del Latte, and 14th century altarpiece panels by Simone Marini and Francesco Traini. The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo is the Cathedral Works Museum, and houses the original 13th century statues of the Baptistery. The museum is located in Piazza Arcivescovado 6, and is open daily from April to September between the hours of 08:00 and 19:40, daily from March to October from 09:00 to 17:40, and from November to February daily from 09:00 to 16:00. Its highlights also include an Islamic bronze griffin obtained in the Crusades and a huge 12th century wooden crucifix from Burgundy, with a medieval-style Christ. The museum features many rooms filled with interesting exhibits and displays.

There are also some spectacular religious buildings to be admired in Pisa, including the Cattedrale – Il Duomo di Pisa at the Piazza del Duomo, which is perhaps Pisa’s most famous church building. Other buildings include the Santa Maria Della Spina, the Santo Stefano dei Cavaleiri, featuring a marble façade and beautiful baroque Main Altar, the San Paolo a Ripa d’Arno, also known as the Duomo Vecchio, and the San Francesco, which was built between 1230 and 1270.

These attractions and many others make Pisa a very popular city. Tourists can find out further information from the main tourist information area at the Piazza dei Miracoli, or from other outlets located on the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. There is also tourist information available at the airport.