I’ve decided that #throwbackthursday should not be consigned to Instagram anymore. So, with that said, I’m going to kick off with the time we visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The Island Escape
First, a little background on how came to be in Pisa…
In April 2004 Helen, her Dad Bryan, her niece Lizzy, our 7-month old daughter Lydia and I set out on a 2-week Mediterranean cruise. We were on board the MS Island Escape. This ship was operated by, the now defunct, Island Cruises, a sub-brand of Royal Caribbean. To find out more about the ship click here.
Getting to Pisa
As is the way with cruises, you are offered a variety of day excursions at each port of call. Despite Pisa having the Marina de Pisa on the Mediterranean coast, our cruise docked in Livorna to the south as the Marina de Pisa is not large enough for cruise liners.
We had pre-booked our trip to Pisa and we were all excited about visiting such an iconic landmark that is famous around the world.
To get to Pisa we had to endure a 45-minute journey on a coach that either didn’t have air conditioning or the driver chose not to turn it on. On arrival, we were briefed by our ships tour officer about being safe in Pisa. It’s a hotspot for pickpockets that work in gangs and they are there in their masses. Not the best way to prepare us to enjoy a day in such a beautiful place!
I really had no idea what to expect in Pisa. Aside from seeing pictures of the leaning tower I had zero knowledge of the place. I was therefore surprised to find a market so close to the tower. But, my first observation was it was absolutely rammed with tourists. You couldn’t move for us all. I then was surprised that the tower itself isn’t the only amazingly beautiful building on the site.
Piazza del Duomo
The “leaning” tower of Pisa is in actual fact the bell tower for the cathedral of the city. The Piazza Dei Miracoli (which means ‘field of miracles’ or ‘field of dreams’), aka Piazza del Duomo, is home to not only the Leaning Tower of Pisa but also the Camposanto, the Duomo and the Baptistery. The square and its surrounding areas were the sites of pre-Roman settlements. The square is a walled area that lies in the centre of Pisa. The Piazza Dei Miracoli was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
The Baptistery, designed by architect Diotisalvi, is a Romanesque building that was finished in the 14th century. It is the largest one in Italy and is dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The Duomo is in the Middle of the Piazza del Duomo. This is a medieval cathedral, designed by an architect called Buscheto. Construction started in 1063 and it was finished in the 13th century. The Duomo is slightly tilted, just like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but this is not visible.
Our Visit to the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Once we had got used to the volume of people in the area we enjoyed our time on the Piazza. I had to admit that although impressed with the leaning tower in terms of the fact it’s still standing, it was actually much smaller than I had expected, although it stands at 60 metres tall! When we visited in 2004, tourists weren’t permitted to climb the tower. Nowadays though the tower is once again open and you can climb the stairs to the top. I’m not entirely sure I would want to though!
My favourite place on the site was actually the Baptistery. We were ushered into a circular room below the dome and the doors closed by a female security guard. But, she wasn’t just a security guard. She began to sing in the most beautiful voice, but the acoustics of the room were really the star of the show. It was a magical experience to be there.
We visited the cathedral itself and once again it was as stunning on the inside as the outside is beautiful.
After a few hours wandering about and purchasing souvenirs from the nearby market it was time to head back to the coach.
Almost A Ruined Day
As we were walking back to the coach park, seemingly trapped on a conveyor belt of tourists, there was a commotion just behind me. It seemed one the pickpocket gangs we were warned about had swooped in on my father-in-law. Fortunately for him, other tourists from our group around us caught on to what was happening and managed to disturb the pickpockets and his wallet was still safely in his pocket.
Whilst the day wasn’t ruined by a stolen wallet it did sour my experience of Pisa. This is such a shame as the place is well worth a visit.
Thanks for reading.