As I come to write this post I can’t help but think of everyone in Italy affected by Wednesday’s earthquake. We spent a lovely week there last month and my thoughts are with all those affected.
I felt I had to do something and so have contributed to the Italian Red Cross’ efforts to help survivors. If you would like to contribute too you can do so here.
It wasn’t long after arriving in Italy that we decided to get out and about and go exploring as the next day looked to be the only overcast one all week. We fixed on Pisa as the destination and after dinner, spent our first night booking tickets online.
We stayed at the hotel Calamidoro in Calcinaia and Pisa was only a short train ride from the nearest station in Pontedera. We tried to get the bus to the station but it turns out they only ran every other hour so we had to fall back on a taxi the first morning but we managed to catch the bus home without any problems.
Right across from the station in Pisa is a large Piazza; the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II and this is the way we headed.
It was hot and sunny but quite comfortable for walking around and the piazza had some interesting statues and sculptures.
We strolled off though the winding streets to see what else we could find,
but I was easily distracted.
J pulled me away and we headed across the Ponte di Mezzo to the Piazza Garibaldi and a statue of Garibaldi himself, who along with Vittorio Emanuele II is considered one of the ‘fathers of the fatherland’.
From here we wandered, taking in all the beautiful buildings and tiny dark alleys until we found ourselves on the edge of the Piazza dei Cavalieri which once used to be the political centre of the city. In this piazza can be found a statue of the Grand Duke Cosimo I in front of the clock tower, the Palace of the Caravan (built to house the Order of the Knights of St. Stephen) and the Church of St. Stephen of the Knights.
The square is huge and the dark stone floor reflects the heat back up under your feet causing a haze in front of all the buildings. It was time to get out of the concrete/stone maze and go find some greenery so we changed course and headed for the botanical gardens.
The gardens in Pisa are attached to the university and were the very first of their kind in the Europe. They aren’t very big but cost just a couple of euros (they do student discount too!) and are a nice place to while away some time amongst the greenery.
By the time we had finished in the gardens we had worked up quite an appetite, so we found a little pizza place and sat down for a cold drink and a wonderful prosciutto pizza to share.
We had booked to walk up the leaning tower at 16:00 which is why we had left the Piazza dei Miracoli and all its attractions until the afternoon, so freshly fed and watered we decided to head up there and see what all the fuss was about.
The Piazza dei Miracoli has the Pisa Cathedral, the Baptistery, the Campanile (or leaning tower) and the Camposanto Monumentale (monumental cemetery). We booked the ticket that gave us access to all of these, and a tower walk on top of that so we could go up to the top, but as I mentioned that wasn’t until 16:00 so first we walked around the square and visited the other buildings..
The tower really is that wonky! Although it does depend where you stand, I took some pictures from the Cathedral end of the piazza that make it look quite straight. We had our nice photos together and then had to join in with the crazy perspective photos everyone around us was trying to take.
As you can see, there were a lot of people giving it a try. After a bit of practice we started to get the hang of it though.
Our first stop as we worked our way around the square was the Baptistery, the largest in Italy.
The bottom arches are rounded and the top arches are pointy. I learned that this is because the building is a mix of Romanesque and Gothic style architecture respectively.
Inside you can climb to the higher level and look down over the whole baptistery. It doesn’t take long to see as there is just the one room but it’s very quiet and calm and really quite beautiful.
From the Upper level you can see the Cathedral opposite and that’s where we headed next.
There were guards handing out cover-ups to people who were dressed inappropriately, but although I brought trousers with me I didn’t have to put them on. They were only bothered about uncovered shoulders really. So if you’re coming here don’t wear strappy tops but a dress that isn’t ridiculously short should be fine. There were plenty of people in shorts too.
The next stop in our list of sights was the Camposanto Monumentale. This long, rectangular building has open arches on the inside that look onto a central lawn. The inner walls are covered in frescos that can be pretty creepy at times.
I just couldn’t stop photographing that grass and the sky, it was beautiful.
I really liked the Camposanto, I would have liked there to be a bit of information available to read as you were walking around. There wasn’t anything really and I had to do all my research back at home.
The Camposanto Monumental is thought to have been planned as a church originally, but sometime during construction the plan changed. It now houses the 84 remaining Roman sarcophagi against the walls plus many tombs under the arcades. There are also three chapels where mass is sometimes held.
When we eventually made our way back outside, blinking in the bright sunlight we were behind the Cathedral and could see the tower from the other side. Here the concentration of people was less dense and we could get some nice pictures of the lawn with the Capitoline wolf statue and a giant fallen angel.
It was nearly time for the climb so we dropped off our bags in the yellow building above and joined the queue.
The climb itself isn’t too bad, the steps are nice and wide and it doesn’t actually feel like it goes on for too long. It’s funny though, because of the lean of the tower as you work your way up the spiral staircase you find yourself sliding across the steps and leaning against first the inside and then the outside wall. But the views at the top are so worth it!
Once we headed back down we had one last walk of the lawn before heading back into town across the ponte solferino.
From the bridge we could see the little church of Santa Maria della Spina.
So we popped in for a closer look.
At this point we had been walking for hours and we were starving, so we headed into town to have a wander and look for a restaurant for dinner. We found a little place where I had delicious salmon penne and J had the steak then next door was a fabulous bakery where we picked up some sweet treats to take home for pudding.
Pisa was a lovely city, and not too big to do everything in a day so if you’re in the area I would highly recommend stopping off and having a wander. We pre-booked our tickets which made life a bit easier as the queues to buy them were really long.
Next up is Florence in a few days so I hope you come back for that!