Tuesday, June 30th:
After arriving in Pisa at the little train station, I headed straight for the Piazza dei Miracoli (also known as the Campo dei Miracoli) where the tower as well as the beautiful cathedral and baptistery are located. Even though there are tons of tourist shops set up and many visitors in this piazza, it is still incredibly beautiful. I walked around and took a few photos. I then walked over to the ticket office, well marked and is located at the end of this long beautiful orangeish yellow building, to see if I could pick up my reserved tower ticket early.
There was no line when I arrived at the ticket office. I showed the man my reservation paper and he gave me my ticket. It felt like holding gold in my hands! I could already feel the excitement building.
Since my reservation was not until 5:40 in the afternoon, my plan was to visit the city of Pisa and then return later in the day to visit the other sites near the tower. I decided I might as well purchase a cumulative ticket while I was there. Of the many options, I decided on visiting the Baptistery, the Cathedral, and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (all sites I have visited back in 2000). The man told me I made a good choice visiting the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo .
I noticed when I was leaving the ticket office that the sun was located perfectly for some nice photos of the Baptistery. I also saw that it was close to 11:30. I timed it perfectly. Every 30 minutes, the doors of the Baptistery are closed and a man sings or chants a few vowel sounds and the entire place echos. I timed it perfectly. This is the second time I have seen this. I took a little video and will post it later on when I return home.
After leaving the Baptistery, I headed towards some of the streets Gloria from Slow Travel indicated in her article, Pisa – The Town Today. Pisa is a wonderful town. Piazza dei Cavalieri is a beautiful square and should not be missed. There are many interesting streets and buildings in Pisa. I took tons of photos during my 90 minute walk through this city before meeting Gloria for lunch. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Osteria i Santi. I ordered a delicious spaghetti with seafood dish.
After lunch, we walked around a bit and she showed me some of her beautiful city. I was so fortunate and am very grateful to Gloria for the time we spent together. It is wonderful getting to see a town from a local’s perspective. I walked with her across the river to meet her husband. I said goodbye to Gloria and thanked her and then headed back over the the river.
It started to sprinkle off and on. I began to worry that the weather would turn nasty and my view from the top would not be very good. I wandered down some more streets to check out more of the buildings Gloria pointed out, got lost at one point, and took lots of photos along the way.
As I arrived back at the Piazza dei Miracoli, the weather started to clear up. The sun was behind the tower in the morning so I did not take many photos of the tower yet. I went to a few spots where there are great views of the tower as it leans. I took some photos (I think I took 4 GB total of my day in Pisa) and then went inside the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. This is a beautiful little museum, which houses quite a few treasures. There are also very unique views of the tower from the courtyard of this museum.
It was now getting close to my reservation time. I went back over to the ticket area where there is a set of guarded lockers to leave all of your bags, purses, etc. during your tower climb. After putting all of my belongings except for my ticket and my camera inside the locker, I sat on the bench and waited. I was early but was surprised no one else was showing up to wait. Good thing I asked at one point where I was supposed to be waiting. I was told that I needed to wait at the entrance of the tower for the tour. I thought that the meeting point was at the locker site. When I got to the tower entrance, there was a small group of people waiting to the left of the tower. Time moved very slowly for the next 10 minutes.
Finally, it was our turn to go into the tower. It was sort of a mad rush at first as people started down the few steps to the entrance. I waited patiently until someone let me into the line. I was surprised that a guide was not joining us. I savored every step as I walked up the first set of steps of the tower. The steps are circular and I believe are made of the same stone that the tower is built out of. Many of the steps have indentations on one side where I guess everyone tends to step due to the lean. I really could not feel that much of a lean. There were a few little openings along the way with great views. You can see how the tower is tilting more from the windows. When you hold your camera straight, the horizon is not straight.
About half way or maybe three quarters of the way up, there is a doorway that leads out the the outside of the tower (of course there is a barrier so that you won’t fall off the tower). A woman with a badge, who was not very friendly, was standing at the opening. Everyone was told to walk around the tower. There is a walkway at this opening that circles the tower from the outside with a netting on the outside. When you get to the end, there is a gate and you have to return back to the doorway. I figured out later on that this is the point where the people from the previous tour are descending while all of us on the present tour are climbing up to the top. The woman could have just explained this to us (that this is the waiting point) instead of confusing everyone.
Finally, we were allowed to climb the rest of the way to the top. This was the best part of the climb. The lean of the tower was a little more evident but not again as much as I imagined. The next doorway leads back out to the edge. There are a few steps at this point that are a little spooky to step out onto and this was the only spot that was a “whoa!” moment. This is the level with all of the bells and was my favorite spot to stand and admire the view and the structure of the tower.
As I started to take a few photos, this guy in a blue uniform told me that I should go to the top (one short flight up) because I only had limited time. I walked up the narrow set of stairs and stood at the very top of the tower. There is a flag at the top of the tower and you can really see how one side is lower than the other, although I don’t think it really shows in the photos. There is a guard rail around the tower so no one can fall off. I took a few photos and then went back down to the bell level while everyone else stayed at the top. I think there were about 12 people in my group.
I spent the rest of the time taking photos of the bells and the view from this level. I asked the guy in the blue uniform to take a photo of me by one of the bells and then I snuck a photo of him. He was very nice. We ended up chatting for a short while before our time was up. I lingered a little bit longer at each window on the way down, taking a few more photos. I would have stayed up there for hours if I could have. The climb definitely ranks up there as one of my to 10 experiences in Italy. I will definitely post photos when I return home.
Before heading back to the train station, I still had the Cathedral to visit. The inside of this church is definitely worth a visit. I took a few photos but am not sure how well they came out as it was pretty dark inside.
As I walked towards the porta (door) that is one of the the entrances to the Piazza dei Miracoli, I took a little video of the area and a few more photos. I could have stayed there for a few more hours but wanted to get back to Lucca before dinner time. If you read my train post, you know but my fall…
After returning to my B&B, cleaning up my cut on my knee, and icing my knee and my foot, I went back to Trattoria da “Leo” for dinner. I was surprised that the owners remembered my name. I was greeted with a friendly Ciao! I ordered fettuccine alle melenzane (spaghetti with eggplant and a tomato based sauce). It was sooooo good!
Perfect way to end a wonderful day in Pisa.
*updated 5/17/16 to add a photo of the tower… will do a new blog post one day with more photos!