Sights in Pisa



Pisa's Field of Miracles

Who hasn't seen a photo of the Leaning Tower of Pisa?  Though the rest of Pisa is not a major draw, the Field of Miracles (where the Leaning Tower stands) is a must-see stop.  Here the Baptistery and Bell Tower are buildings separate from the main church, and the term "Field of Miracles" was given by locals amazed by the huge undertaking of the construction that it took to fill this immense grassy plane.


Top Sights in Pisa's Field of Miracles


The Cathedral -  Construction on the church designed by by Buschetto began in 1063 (over an even older church), and was completed in the mid 12th Century.  The layout of the church takes the shape of a Latin cross.  Of note are the ample mosaics (13th century) attributed to Cimabue as well as the monumental marble pulpit by Giovanni Pisano from the same period.  The dome is oval with small Gothic arches added in the 14th Century.  (6 euros includes entry to the Baptistry)


The Baptistery -  The Baptistery is a circular building designed by the architect Diotisalvi with a truncated cone shaped dome roof crowned by a statue of John the Baptist.  Construction began in 1152 and was not completed until the mid 14th Century.  The highlight, is to try out the sustained echo effect from sounds made on or near the Baptistery walls or from the pulpit (Nicola Pisano).  If you are lucky you may hear an orator (or ticket taker) sing a note or two to demonstrate the effect. (6 euros includes entry to the Baptistry)


The Leaning Tower of Pisa - The 14,500 ton, 8 story Bell Tower was begun in 1173.  Ten years later construction was halted (at 3 stories) because it was already visibly leaning.  From 1275-1284 a second architect slightly altered the angle and added to the building , only to stop after 7 stories because the lean worsened.  Finally in the mid 14th Century the belfry was added making the tower 180 feet high.  Due to its inclination, it was chosen by the well known physicist from Pisa, Galileo Galilei, as the ideal place to test the laws of gravity by dropping cannon balls of various sizes from its top.  (17 euros includes entry and advanced reservation fee)


The tower was closed to the public in January, 1990, and a decade of corrective reconstruction began using below ground weights to correct the lean back to where it was in the late 1800's.  It was reopened to the public on June 16, 2001.  Today the tower has a 5 degree tilt to the south, making the top lean about 15 feet away from the base.  


We recommend that you reserve tickets in advance of your visit.  If not, at least purchase your tickets as soon as you arrive, and tour the church and Baptistery while you wait (sometimes as long as 3 hours).  At your tour time, you will be led to the tower where a security guard will accompany you for the 35 minutes as you climb to the top, go out onto the platform and finally return to the bottom.  Note that this visit involves 296 vertiginous steps (in each direction), and once you get to the top, you crawl through a relatively small opening to get out onto the upper platform.  We don't recommend it for the weak at heart or those prone to dizzy spells.  Cameras are allowed, but no bags, backpacks, or children under 8 may enter the Tower.  


Camposanto Monumentale (Cemetery) - This building was begun in 1278 in order to cover an existing cemetery.  Note how the use of arches makes it fit in so nicely with the other buildings in the field.  Inside are sarcophagi and tombs dating back to Roman times.  The wall frescos were added in the 14th Century and depict the life and events in Pisa from its Etruscan-Roman origins.


Museo dell' Opera del Duomo (Museum of the Cathedral) - This building is actually made up of two buildings sitting at a right angle to one another and connected by a cloister.  It  houses art work and treasures once found in the Cathedral and Baptistery, including works by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano.  From the upper floor balcony there are excellent views of the field.


Museo delle Sinopie (Museum of Sinopites) - This building from 1257 was originally a hospital.  Today, the Sinopites (renderings made before a fresco is painted) of the painter Coluccio are housed here.  These sinopites are for the 14th century frescos mentioned above in the Cemetery.


Mura Medievali (Medieval Wall) - The town's medieval walls (12th Century) help to enclose the Field of Miracles.  There are tours allowing you to walk on top of the wall to get photos of the field and the surrounding city.  The tower rising behind the wall that you can see from the field is called Saint Mary's Tower.


Pisa deserves a full day.  We realize that many people visit Pisa as a day trip from cruise ships, so we offer Private Tours from Livorno to make the best of limited time.


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