My last visit to Pisa was in the '80s, a quick train journey from Florence so I could see some photos of the famous Leaning Tower or Campanile (bell tower for the cathedral) and then a hurry retreat in the capital of Tuscany. I will admit that my memory may be a bit vague, but at that time the tower was interesting, the spaces were full and the rest of the space was not promoted. Things have changed in Pisa since my last visit. The Tower and the rest of the site were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. The tower remains today in the National Geographic's "7 Wonders of the Middle Ages" catalog.
Visitors' access to the tower had been stopped for years to prevent further erosion. is now open on a limited basis. Today the non-profit Opera Della Primaziale Pisana (OPA) manages the entire site. Visitors are able to walk around the buildings in "Miracle Square", however, you can access these beautiful structures with a ticket. There are two variants of tickets, one that involves visiting the tower and the other not doing so. We chose without, as the wait for the tower to go up was 3 1/2 hours, so you have to go early if you really want to get a view from the top of the tower.
The famous Piazza del Duomo is slightly secluded, northwest of Pisa's city center. Piazza's buildings include the Duomo, the Baptistery, the Tower and the Camposanto (cemetery). It refers to this location as the site for the Pisa church before Constantine's peace treaty in 313. Historical research has concluded that the area actually enjoyed a much more prominent position in the city during Etruscan and Late Roman times. At that time, the Auser River flowed near the square and would provide access to the sea. The Auser River has ceased to flow at some point in the last millennium and the city center of Pisa has sunk on the other side of the Arno River. The nature of this urban development has created a unique historical location in a park like the environment.
Sacred buildings from the Etruscan era were destroyed and replaced by middle-aged structures that stand today. The Duomo Cathedral started in 1063 is an important example of Pisan style of architecture. The exterior and interior of the cathedral are stunning. The circular baptistery is in Romanesque style with a Gothic dome that began in 1152 and the main entrance is in line with that of the cathedral. The bell tower (Campanile) started in 1173, starting to lean when the structure reached about 33 feet. Campanile was finally completed around 1301, but due to poor infrastructure it continued to move in recent years. Camposanto began in 1278 and was completed in the 15th century. The whole area has been challenged over the years by natural and man-made causes, the condition of the ground beneath the tower, a fire in Duomo in 1595, and the Camposanto roof and sculptures were destroyed in 1944 during World War II.
Our visit to Pisa was early in the season, before Easter and the summer crowds. The area was still very crowded, though the combined OPA ticket provides a crowd control inside the structures, doing nothing for the massive crowds crouching in one place to take crazy pictures of their friends holding the tower. I was not interested in these disasters and could only imagine the chaos at the height of the tourist season. But there is some relief at the edges of the square, with two museums the Museo delle Sinopie and the Museo dell & # 39; Opera del Duomo available on the same ticket. These two small buildings host real pieces of space, including conspiracies or artistic sketches of the frescoes found at Camposanto.
In the end you should not miss a visit to Pisa. The small town can easily be reached as a day trip from Florence, but it is definitely worth a slightly longer visit. However, be aware that like all sights, there are controversial traders, marginal tourist menus, and plenty of spy trash sellers.