Who said “build it and they will come”? Well, I know it wasn’t a medieval slogan, but it could have been! My guess is that the Pisans would have never guessed that throngs of tourists would one day flock to their astounding “Square of Miracles”, Piazza dei Miracoli.
Who doesn’t recognize its most famous historical landmark, the Leaning Tower of Pisa?
Along with the Colosseum and the statue of David, it is one of the most recognized icons of Italy. The Leaning Tower is what brings us to Pisa, but, trust me, we are not prepared for the size and splendor of, not only the Leaning Tower, but of the entire Piazza dei Miracoli. It is spectacular, and the sheer scale and vastness of the entire Piazza is a fantastic surprise.
The grandeur of the Piazza dei Miracoli is testimony to Pisa’s former greatness. The Tower is accompanied by the Duomo (Il Duomo di Pisa), Baptistry, and lesser known Camposanto (the walled cemetery). The Duomo is truly a medieval masterpiece and the Baptistry, dedicated to St. John the Baptist (Battistero di San Giovanni), is the largest in Italy and took over 200 years to complete. Completely constructed of marble, it, too, is a magnificent sight.
The Tower, a 7-story bell tower or campanile, stands 183 feet high. Started in the late 12th century, various delays kept it from being completed until almost 200 years later in 1370. Why does it lean? A simple miscalculation – it was actually the foundation underneath which could not support the weight of the tower. Over the centuries several efforts have been made to “save” or stabilize the tower, most almost doing the opposite.
In 1990 the tower was closed but re-opened in 2008 and now allows visitors (40 at a time,so there will be lines, get there early) to once again ascend the winding, narrow 294 steps (or 296 but who’s counting?) where Copernicus and Galileo once climbed to perform their experiments.( I read that the efforts have stabilized the tower for 200 years, so you have plenty of time to get there!)
My advice: consider this UNESCO site an absolute “must see”. Will it be crowded? Yes. Touristy? Sure, but we’re tourists, too, aren’t we? Besides, even if the shops along the sidewalk are crowded, the vast grassy area is cordoned off from trespassers allowing us dramatic views and photo ops.
Perhaps my view is a bit slanted (pun intended), but I’ve been here 3 times and I’ve loved it every time. Sure we’ve all seen the silly tourist photos, but who can resist? So, take that silly photo (I did!). Buy a tacky souvenir (I did that, too!). Then, grab a gelato and people watch. Have fun, enjoy the experience…you won’t be sorry!
Have you ever visited Pisa? If not, would you like to now? Please share.