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Pisa - More Than a Leaning Tower

By Andy Heaps

Pisa attracts bus after bus of tourists every day of the year to see its most famous attraction. The leaning tower of Pisa has become an Italian symbol, much like Pizza and Pavarotti! The city has put a lot of effort into the tower and it is again safe to visit. Many people may be surprised to hear that the tilt is actually intentional, after architects concluded that the stories of the accidental tilt were most probably just that – stories. Accidental or not, the fact remains that it is one of the most beautiful, unique buildings in the world – a view shared by the Italian government who spent $80 million on restoration in the early nineties. Bookings are essential and only 30 people can go up per half hour so make your booking and be on time!

There is so much more to Pisa than the tower and you will need plenty of time to explore what is on offer. The Cathedral houses one of the first and finest examples of Pisan Romanesque. Bonanno, one of the leaning tower of Pisa architects contributed to the cathedral, including the fabulous bronze doors towards the south of the building. A fire in 1595 destroyed much of the original art but one of the most impressive pieces - the great mosaic of Christ Pantocrator luckily survived. The pulpit, a work by Pisano displays an array of Christian and classical elements, unique to its time period. Opening hours vary throughout the year so check times and days of opening before hand.

Close to the cathedral is the Museo delle Sinopie. It houses many sketches of the frescos destroyed in the Campo Santo fire – the sketches are works of art in them selves and give a great impression of what the finished pieces looked like. The Museo Del Duomo, also close by contains pieces of the cathedral façade, along with some unique pieces like the griffin from the cathedral top. Giovanni Pisano’s ugly gargoyle style face sculptures stand out along with more pleasant works by Nino Pisano and Camaino. Both museums are open year round with admission fees payable on arrival.

Pisa has no ‘centre’ as such, so you will find the city’s attractions scattered all over. Other highlights throughout the city include the Palazzo della Carovana and Palazzo dell’Orologio. To the west of here you will find the beautiful botanical gardens, to the south the University of Pisa (established 1330) and east of the university are the lively markets of Piazza Vettovaglie.

The Galileo Galilei airport is only 3km away, with regular cheap buses linking the airport to the city. Once in the city, all buses depart from the Plaza Vittorio Emanuele II, near the stazione centrale. Bus tickets are cheap (less than €1 for 1 hour’s unlimited bus riding) and cover routes for wherever you need to go. There are so many more cultural things to do in Pisa than shop, but it is a great place for souvenir tackiness – every variation of colour of the leaning tower of Pisa you can think of! You can’t fail to find an exquisite place to eat in Pisa, everything from Tuscan and Sardinian specialities at Il Nuraghe, to dishes elsewhere that even the chef is not sure of!

About the author:
With budget airlines flying to Pisa from throughout Europe many people opt for the DIY style break here. Pisa is just one of a wide selection of Tuscany destinations. TipTopVillas has a wide range of Tuscany villas, or, if you are travelling a bit further check out the selection of Italy vacation rentals.

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