Pisa, Italy

If you missed last week’s Travel Chronicles we started a series called: the buildings, monuments & museums of European cities.  The first city we explored was the Imperial City of Innsbruck, Austria.  We will move south bound this week to Pisa, Italy. 

 When you think of Pisa, Italy, some might think the Leaning Tower of Pisa is a one-hit wonder. In fact, the tower makes up just one of the remarkable group of buildings you should spend time exploring!

 The Piazza del Duomo, or Square of Miracles, contains the cathedral, or Duomo; the baptistery; the campanile, or Leaning Tower of Pisa; and the camposanto, or cemetery.  The Square of Miracles is a walled 8.87-hectare area recognized as one of the finest architectural complexes in the world.

 The Pisa Cathedral (Duomo di Pisa) began construction in 1093, 80 years before the tower, and is considered a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture. Despite its proximity to the eye-catching and tourist-attracting Leaning Tower of Pisa, the cathedral dominates the Square of Miracles.

Here’s a little fun fact to stump your friends on trivia night. Legend has it, scientist Galileo Galilei, sat in the Pisa Cathedral and watched the swaying chandelier which inspired him to design the clock pendulum.  

 20 years before the tower the baptistery began construction in 1153.  The vault of the baptistery consists of a double dome – the inner one a truncated cone and the outer one a hemispherical dome. This singular architectural solution gives the Baptistery in Pisa the most exceptional acoustics, making it a monumental musical instrument.  The acoustics are so spectacular the attendant on duty gives visitors a brief singing demonstration every thirty minutes.  The reverberation is said to be majestic.

 The foundation for today’s main attraction, the Leaning Tower of Pisa began in 1173, and took 226 years to complete. Even though it was evident to builders at the time the tower had begun to lean after reaching the third story, they continued on.  The 55-metre tower continued to lean at a rate of one to two millimeters per year. In 1990 the tower was no longer safe for tourist and a major restoration began. The tower reopened in 2001.

The Camposanto or Monumental Cemetery was constructed in 1278 around sacred dirt brought back from Mount Calvary (where Christ was crucified) during the Crusades. Later decorated with extensive frescoes, it was the burial place of the Pisan upper class for centuries. 

So, after taking a photograph of yourself holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, take time to explore the other wonders that are just a few steps away!

 Pisa is a destination on the Heart of Europe® Grand, Paris, Tuscany & Rome and the Treasures of Italy Tours by Image Tours Inc.