Pisa is best known for the Campi dei Miracoli or field of miracles. This is absolutely one of the prettiest squares in Italy featuring the Duomo, Bapistry, (leaning)Tower and Cemetary, all of them namesake examples of Pisan Romanesque architecture.
The ticket scheme for Pisa's attractions is a little bit confusing. Ultimately you buy a ticket that lets you see a certain number of attractions which are for the most part evenly priced. Going up in the tower requires a reservation time and a bit of extra cash. This is the main entrance of Pisa's duomo.
Inside is not terribly different from other Italian cathedrals. The mosaic visible in the apse here was completed by Cimabue in the early 14th century.
The back of the duomo is also impressive and what really makes the Campi dei Miracoli even more picturesque is the greenspace around it.
Pisa's bapistry is perhaps the most impressive bapistry we've seen in Italy. Due to a construction lag, the upper sections were completed in a Gothic style despite the Pisan Romanesque beginnings.
Inside there are three levels that can be visited. The light here comes from windows in the middle level which is a circular balcony overlooking the center of the bapistry.
The font is of course the focal point of any bapistry but one of the great attractions here are the acoustics. Periodically the security guard would close the doors and come stand on the altar where he would intone a few chords which would reverberate throughout the building. Very impressive.
The top level of the bapistry is actually around the outside of the dome with no real view into the building. There are a few exterior windows though, including this difficult-to-reach, not particularly clean view out at the duomo and tower.
A fourth component of the Campi dei Miracoli is the old cemetery of Pisa which has the look of a cloister. Much of it is restored after bombing during World War II.
There's plenty of information available on the tower. It started to lean during the construction phase and the lean became worse over the years until the tower was finally closed in the 1990s. During our visit it had been stabilized and was open again to visitors. It isn't cheap, but it's definitely a unique experience.
We met at the tourist office at our assigned time and were led into the tower. The first five or six levels are covered by a winding staircase just inside the tower. It's not particularly wide but since they clean everyone out between groups it's basically all one-way traffic.
It's obvious that the tower leans when you're ascending or descending the staircase. It's much more dramatic on the top levels though where the stairs are outside and every revolution past the south side involves leaning alarmingly out towards the edge. Here Melanie emerges onto the top.
The top of the tower offers a fine view of Pisa and the mountains to the east.
Pisa is also home to one of Italy's most respected universities. The university has a big impact on the center of Pisa from all the students hanging out on the lawn to the abundance of relatively cheap restaurants in the area. Away from the Campi dei Miracoli is just as lively (at least towards the river and the center of town) although much less frequented by tourists.
It was also here along the river where we came across La Bottega del Gelato in the Piazza Garibaldi. This is the gelateria we have unanimously chosen as the best in Italy despite the obvious fact that we didn't try nearly all of them (although if someone wants to fund this as a mission please let us know). Here David had limoncello
and red grapefruit
, while Melanie had nocciola
. But Wait! There's More! Melanie felt this was so good she had to go back for more ( chocolate
and panna cotta