When our cruise ship docked at Livorno, Italy, we chose to visit Pisa and Florence for the day, paying for an “on your own tour”. That is, you pay for transport only and are escorted to a meeting place to return to at an appointed time so you can go off and do your own thing – as opposed to being herded around on a guided tour suffering information overload.
Arriving in Pisa (about an hour and a half from the port) we were sad to see it was raining. So before making the 10 or 15 minute walk from the coach parking area around the huge 12th century walls…
and through the city gate…
into the commonly called “Piazza dei Miracoli” or “Square of Miracles” (often mistakenly referred to as the Field of Miracles – but that’s something out of the Pinocchio story), I was happy to purchase an umbrella from one of the many illegal but eager merchants hovering about, having no qualms in haggling them down to just 3 euros.
We got our first glimpse of the famous tower (which is the bell tower for the cathedral) and, despite having been straightened slightly and reinforced in recent times (to prevent it from toppling over), it was definitely still leaning – now standing at about 4 degrees off centre.
As if to tease us, we were led away to a café – our designated meeting point. At least it was somewhere to escape from the steadily increasing rain. Then, armed with our newly acquired umbrellas, and trying to keep the raindrops off our camera lenses, we headed off for a closer look.
The medieval Torre Pendente di Pisa (Leaning Tower of Pisa) stands in Piazza del Duomo (or “Cathedral Square” – which is the official name of the square) in an open expanse of roped-off lawns with the large cathedral..
and circular baptistery…
all making a grand spectacle against the backdrop of the more humble town buildings.
If we’d had more time we would have explored the museums and the cemetery (which sits on the far side), or wandered around Pisa, which I am told has a lot more to offer than just this famous square.
It certainly would have been a good day to climb the tower’s 297 steps (health issues aside), but to pre-order tickets for a specific day and time wasn’t practical on our limited timeframe. (Go to the official website: http://boxoffice.opapisa.it/Turisti/ to book between 20 and 12 days prior. There are ticket offices on-site, but good luck with that – even on this wet, off-season day the were hoards of visitors.)
Of course there were people in all sorts of peculiar poses for those funny photos with the Leaning Tower of Pisa, as if holding it up, pushing it over, or pinching it between their fingers.
We just had to join in the fun!
From some angles though, the tower doesn’t look like it’s leaning at all, so you have to choose the right viewpoint.
As always, I just love seeing first-hand those places we have all heard of so often, and marvelled at the detail in the architecture.
The company of new-found friends from our cruise made our morning spent in Pisa all the more memorable.
And what of Florence? Well that’s a whole other story!