Pisa - More than just the Leaning Tower

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History and modernity are close together in Pisa and are often only separated by the Arno, which runs the last few kilometers to the Mediterranean.

The university town with 90.000 inhabitants is worth a visit because of its numerous art monuments from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, which gather around the Piazza dei Miracoli. Among them are the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta with the famous crooked campanile, the baptistery and the Camposanto Monumentale. Pisa has a charming, well-preserved old town.

The center of the lively old town is the Piazza dei Cavalieri: Here you will find cozy cafés, pubs and small shops.

Square of Miracles

Pisa - Piazza dei Miracoli [Square of Miracles]
Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) in Pisa

The Leaning Tower makes up only a quarter of the entire ensemble of the famous Piazza dei Miracoli. Because it is actually the campanile of the Pisan Cathedral, the facade of which is also decorated with numerous columns. The baptistery and the Campo Santo, the cemetery building, complete the complex, which is most imposing to the viewer from the aircraft when the pilot turns over the city to approach the airport.

The Piazza dei Miracoli was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987 and fascinates visitors with the imposing cathedral, the baptistery and the historic Camposanto cemetery.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa
Leaning Tower (Campanile) of Pisa

The world famous "Leaning Tower of Pisa“Is one of the most photographed objects in the world. Hardly any other world-famous architectural masterpiece has been saved from decay or from falling over with such extensive measures. The world-famous leaning tower is always associated with Pisa, even without naming the city. It is what gives this perfectly designed square, the “Piazza dei Miracoli” (Square of Miracles) a special charm.

If you visit this world-famous tower, then stroll across the entire piazza with the cathedral, baptistery and the Camposanto cemetery.

Laying of the foundation stone in 1173.

As a free-standing campanile, the tower was intended to set a special architectural accent on the square. The architect and artist, Bonanno Pisano, planned a tower height of 100 m. The foundation stone was laid on August 9, 1173, but from the third floor onwards the building began to sink precariously, so that work had to be suspended for the time being. They were not completed until 200 years later according to Bonanno's plans, but the construction was ended after 54 m due to the inclination.

Over the centuries, the statics had to be checked and corrected again and again, most recently in the years 1990 to 2001. Today, groups with a maximum of 30 people are allowed to climb the 294 steps to the top platform every half hour in order to feel the slightly uncomfortable feeling of leaning.

Camposant monumentals

Composanto Monumental
Monumental Cemetery

Anyone who visits the Leaning Tower of Pisa should explore the entire site of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to the cathedral, the Camposante Monumentale, the monumental cemetery, also attracts visitors. According to tradition, the complex is said to contain earth from the Holy Land, which was brought to Pisa by Crusaders. The cemetery complex, which was built between 1203 and 1358, houses late antique sarcophagi inside that served as burial places for members of the ruling aristocratic families. Visitors to the complex are particularly impressed by the tombs from the 18th century. The view of the inner courtyard of the Camposanto is particularly beautiful, as it almost looks like a peaceful film set.

Baptistery

Baptistery
Baptistery

The Battisterio di Pisa baptismal church is also one of the impressive buildings of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The free-standing baptistery, which was built between 1152 and 1260. The floor plan of the round building was modeled on the Anastasis Rotunda of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Initially the architecture was adapted to the style of the cathedral, but from the second floor onwards it switched to the Gothic style. It is the largest baptismal church in the History with a height of 54 meters and a circumference of 107 meters. Accordingly, the baptistery perfectly completes the entire complex around the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Widthre attractions in Pisa

Even if the leaning tower is the real reason for a city trip to Pisa, there are other sights in addition to the buildings on the Piazza dei Miracoli.

The Piazza dei Cavalieri with the Palazzo of the same name is located in the student district of Pisa and is actually only a stone's throw from the Leaning Tower. From the Ritterplatz you can also quickly reach the shopping mile with its cafés, restaurants and hotels and finally arrive at the Arno, a popular meeting point for the many students who study in Pisa and contribute significantly to the modern cityscape, because Pisa is a young city, as for the average age of the population.

Arno
The Arno separates the city of Pisa

The small, romantic church of Santa Maria della Spina is located directly on the Arno, the left nave forms a line with the sea wall. Hardly imposing from behind, its pretty facade suddenly appears in the rear-view mirror when driving down the Lungarno Gambacorti out of town.

The city on the Arno is also home to the oldest botanical garden in the world, founded in the 16th century.

Marina di Pisa

Marina di Pisa
Marina di Pisa

Marina di Pisa is the name of the small place at the mouth of the Arno where the Pisans bathe in summer. Its small Art Nouveau houses are nice to look at. If you book a city trip to Pisa, the journey begins via a German airport and just one and a half hours later you can start exploring the city from Aeroporto Pisa / Toscana.

The great festival of lights - San Ranieri

And if you're in Pisa in mid-June, don't miss the San Ranieri festival, named after the city's patron saint. Every year on this day, the city is transformed into a brilliant sea of ​​lights, illuminated by tens of thousands of lights that transform the venerable patrician buildings along the banks of the Arno into a fascinating starry arena. Thousands of candles float on the Arno, and the buildings in the Piazza dei Miracoli are also enchantingly illuminated. The illumination can be traced back to the decoration of processions and over time has acquired a permanent place in the Pisan calendar of events. And at night around 23.00 p.m. a perfect fireworks display is set off over the Arno. So June 17th in Pisa is particularly recommended. Plan a little more time than just visiting the Leaning Tower, you won't regret it.

Square of Miracles
Square of Miracles

Ideal travel time for Pisa

In the high season, the Domplatz is besieged by tour groups from all over the world. If you don't have a fixed time, it's better to choose spring or autumn for the visit. And take some time to visit the city of Pisa itself too.

First class hotels in Pisa

One of the top addresses in Pisa's old town is the exclusive Hotel Relais Dell'Orologio. Built in the 14th century, the hotel building is just 200 meters from the Piazza dei Miracoli. Five Roses Bed & Breakfast is 600 meters from Pisa Centrale Train Station. The traditionally furnished hotel exudes a friendly, family atmosphere, and all of Pisa's sights can be easily reached on foot from here.

The 121-room Abitalia Tower Plaza, a design hotel with a roof terrace and pool, which is two kilometers from the Leaning Tower, is modernly equipped. The rooms are very elegantly furnished and the hotel also has a wellness center with a fitness room. The four-star Hotel San Ranieri, located between the city center and the airport, has a fascinating glass facade, too. The decor of the 90 hotel rooms of the San Ranieri Hotel is very stylish and the beautiful terrace deserves a mention.

Mark Twain at Pisa

The famous American writer Mark Twain also stayed in Pisa between 1878 and 1879. In his travel memories he describes his experiences in his typical style. Reading invites you to follow his traces.

Last updated: 06.02.2024

Images courtesy of magan, Makalu / Pixabay, rorue, Rh2010, mari1502 / Pixabay, TommasoDaRos / Pixabay and stasal

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