Italy is arguably one of our favourite go-to countries when we holiday in Europe. With friendly locals, excellent cuisine, stunning coastlines and fantastic weather; what’s not to love about this wonderful country? After leaving Park Albatros Village in San Vincenzo, to begin our journey home via Florence; we took a slight detour to visit Pisa. Would we be able to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa in 2 hours? Known for its iconic Leaning Tower, Pisa is as you’d expect it to be…a thriving tourist hotspot. Tourists jostle to get that #instaworthy photo with The Leaning Tower of Pisa and its peculiar inclination. But did you know…
FACT: the Leaning Tower of Pisa took 221 years to complete. Building commenced in 1173 and by 1178, once the second floor was in place; the tower had already begun to lean. Building work was finally completed in 1399.
A MEDIEVAL MONUMENT
Now, we could give you lots of stats about the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but we won’t! To be honest, Aunt Wikipedia and Uncle Google have that covered! A quick ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’ internet search and the statisticians among you will be in information heaven. The drive to Pisa from Park Albatros Village was relatively straightforward and the route was signed well. It’s not until you get right into the centre of Pisa that you actually see the medieval monument towering skyward (at an angle of 3.99 degrees). Parking was more straightforward than we expected. Thankfully we were able to find a pay and display carpark just a few minutes walk to the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles).
RUNNING THE GAUNTLET
Midday in Pisa, car parked and the short walk to the Leaning Tower of Pisa was unbearable. First of all the temperature was high at 28°C and humidity was over 60%. Secondly there were street sellers everywhere, bags, purses, perfumes, jewellery to name a few. No harassment (as such), but we felt quite uneasy walking by on the quiet narrow side street. The main street was choc-a-bloc with tourists. Before you enter the Square of Miracles you have to run a gauntlet of vendors selling tacky Leaning Tower of Pisa souvenirs. You can buy everything from plastic replica Leaning Tower of Pisa’s, to fridge magnets, pens, hats and a whole lot more. Thankfully the ‘gauntlet of tacky’ didn’t last long and the arched entrance to the Square of Miracles was soon visible.
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE
What we’ve neglected to tell you is that our visit to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa was under pressure! Lily-Belle has been asking to visit the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Florence for quite some time, and, we knew that last entry was 5pm. Our plan; Leaning Tower of Pisa in 2 hours max, then a 90 minute drive to Florence, 30 minutes to get parked, find the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, and Bob’s your uncle. But for now, Pisa, the Square of Miracles and it’s flawed marble structure; holds our attention.
THE SQUARE OF MIRACLES
The Square of Miracles was reasonably busy with tourists. Immediately to our left was the Pisa Baptistry of St. John, the largest Baptistry in Italy at just under 55 metres high and a diameter of 34.13 metres. The Baptistry also leans but at a lesser angle of 0.6 degrees. The lower half of the Baptistry is decorated with detailed ornate and symmetrical arches, very different to the Gothic style of the upper tiers. Lily-Belle and Matilda were happy to pose for photos until Mummy said the Baptistry looked like a giant booby. Matilda point blank refused to cooperate from that moment on! One noticeable detail about the Baptistry is that the exterior of the dome is clad with lead sheets on its east side (facing the cathedral) and red tiles on its west side (facing the sea). Is there a significance to the two-tone roof? Probably!
PISA CATHEDRAL…IF YOUR NAME’S NOT DOWN
Just beyond Pisa Baptistry is the Primatial Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary (now isn’t that a mouthful); also known as Pisa Cathedral. A huge white marble building adorned with multicolored marble, mosaic, and numerous bronze artifacts. The building (aerial view) is shaped just like a cross. The queue to gain entry was long but moving quite quickly. Only as we approached the Guide, who was stood within the entrance; did we realise that a ticket was required to gain entry. Fifteen minutes (or more) standing in the queue under a scorching sun, and we were about to be turned away…or not! I asked politely if I, with white freckled skin, and a shiny burnt-red bald noggin; could remain within the shaded entrance with the girls whilst Mummy went in search of a ticket office. Very kindly, the Guide ushered us all inside…gentleman!
ANYONE FOR WAFFLES?
The bronze facade doors are decorated with sculptured stories from the New Testament. From a design standpoint, the grand entrance sets the tone for the rest of Pisa Cathedral. Inside, the silence is deafening, you could literally hear a pin drop. Large monolithic marble columns guide you toward a bronze crucifix standing proud at the altar. The ceiling, a structure of wooden trusses; is painted with delicate gold leaf. Lily-Belle remarked how it looked like a large gold waffle! Angel candle holders dangle precariously from the trusses. There are paintings on the ceilings and walls depicting the life of our saviour Jesus Christ. Warm light floods in through the intricate stained glass windows. The girls wanted me to shout ‘HELLO’ to check the echo acoustics…erm, no! Pisa Cathedral is beyond beautiful and no matter how many adjectives I write down, they won’t do this impressive Cathedral justice.
LEANING TOWER OF PISA IN 2 HOURS
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is an iconic structure within the Square of Miracles. The first thing that struck me was that the Leaning Tower of Pisa looks a lot smaller in person than it does in pictures, movies etc. It’s quite funny watching people try to be unique by posing in strange positions with the Leaning Tower in the background. And of course, we did the same! Lily-Belle stood with her arms outstretched as if to be preventing the Leaning Tower of Pisa from toppling over. Everyone pushing and shoving to try and get a shot lined up, only to have another tourist jump in and ruin the shot, mayhem! The heat was ridiculously hot and Matilda was withering, so no photo and we decided enough was enough. Rather than climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa…we moved on!
THE FALLEN ANGEL
On one of the well manicured and lush green lawns, lies ‘Angelo Caduto’ (Fallen Angel), a sculpture by Igor Mitoraj. The sculpture depicts a Fallen Angel with damage to the arms and head and the lower limbs are missing entirely. Under the left wing there’s a miniature version of the fallen angel. Embedded in the right wing, a screaming head that seems to be entangled in what appear to be tentacles? Must say, the Fallen Angel’s torso has amazing abs! What happened to this muscle-bound Angel? What caused his demise? A fascinating piece of art, weirdly alluring and mysteriously seductive. Definitely my favourite part of our entire visit to Pisa.
Central, and on the same lawn as the Angelo Caduto; is a large column. On the plinth is a Lupa Capitolina (Capitoline Wolf) suckling the mythical twin founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. Legend has it that twins were cast into the Tiber River by their mother. The twins were rescued by a she-wolf who cared for them until a local herdsman, Faustulus, found and raised them. The bronze sculpture is instantly recognisable but also very controversial. There are many replicas of the Capitoline Wolf all over the world. In a word, a wolf suckling children…disturbing! And on that note, our phone alarm rang. Leaning Tower of Pisa in 2 hours complete. The time to leave Pisa had come, next stop Florence and the Leonardo da Vinci Museum.
WOULD WE GO BACK
Do you know what, I think we probably would. If we do, we will certainly book tickets in advance. Also, I think we’d change the month and not visit in July, the hottest month of the year. And next time, I think we would take a bit more time rather than visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa in 2 hours. To get a great shot of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, maybe arrive first thing in the morning. I’d imagine it would be a little quieter (but maybe not). Be vigilant, there are pick-pockets everywhere!
LILY-BELLE SAYS (9)
Pisa was too hot. I enjoyed visiting the Cathedral most, inside was really quiet but there was so much to see. The candles that lit themselves were cool and the ceiling reminded me of a giant waffle.
MATILDA SAYS (3)
Daddy it was too hot and I didn’t get an ice cream. The big room with all the pictures was boring, and nobody was talking.
The self-lighting candles, basically drop in a coin and the candle lit electronically (led bulb I’d imagine).
M did in fact get an ice cream. And try as I might to explain that everyone was quiet in the Cathedral because that’s the polite thing to do….the phrase ‘talking to a brick wall’ springs to mind!
Square of Miracles: free entry
Pisa Cathedral: free, entry ticket required
Leaning Tower of Pisa: €18 pp
Pisa Baptistry: €5 pp
Date of visit: 23rd July 2018
Car park: €2 per hour
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