Italy Off the Beaten Path: Pisa

Posted by ToursItaly on June 27, 2014

While most people think Italy vacations to the city of Pisa means visiting the famous Leaning Tower, the promise of Pisa is much more than this paradoxically beautiful but flawed example of architecture.

Booking an Italy day trip or cruise excursion to Pisa will introduce you to one of the most historic Italian cities that continues to be vibrant in contemporary times.

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Historically Pisa was one of four Marine Republics - quite a formidable maritime presence as early as the 11th Century with an impressive navy and an expansive merchant fleet. Today it is a cultural gem perched along the stunning Mediterranean.

What North Americans may not realize is that Pisa has been a university city since the 1400s. The best and brightest students from Italy strive for acceptance at Pisa’s well respected university and top ranking research schools.

Just like Ivy League cities in the United States and university cities elsewhere in the world, Pisa benefits from this combination of braintrust and youthful enthusiasm in countless ways. The presence of students in the city centre brings much to the cultural mosaic from bars and cafes to music and visual arts, amidst the well preserved examples of Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance buildings in the city’s centre.

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The present meets the past again in the celebrated Piazza Dei Miracoli (Plaza of Miracles), which is where you find the renowned Leaning Tower. This entire Cathedral Square, located to the northwest of a fortified wall, is designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

This Cathedral Square is where you find the Baptistry, the Duomo Cathedral with its bell tower housed in the Leaning Tower, and a monumental cemetery. Many will point out the poetry of having places where birth is celebrated with baptism, life events are marked in the cathedral, and death observed with dignity all within these separate areas of the Piazza Dei Miracoli.

It isn’t unusual to see locals enjoying the green lawns within the Piazza, especially students.

The Cathedral itself is a tremendous example of grand Romanesque architecture, notably with some elements reminiscent of Islam like the distinctive interior columns. Remember that Pisa at the time the cathedral was built was a maritime port that naturally drew inspiration from the places her inhabitants saw in the Middle Eastern and North African countries.

This multicultural influence is reflected in all of the buildings here, which were constructed in the Pisano style between the 11th and 14th Centuries. This eclectic style combines elements from Byzantine, Arabian, Romanesque, and Gothic art.

Inside the Duomo you will find artistic treasures such as the impressive pulpit by Giovanni Pisano, an incredible mosaic of St. John the Evangelist by Cimabue, and more.

Construction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa was undertaken in 1173 and its peculiar tilt is an accident caused by shifting in the ground beneath the structure. Despite early challenges in constructing the bell tower, three levels were added to it about 1275 and the belfry in 1350.

The Leaning Tower is 55 meters high (approximately 180 feet) and it takes nearly 300 stairs to reach the top. All of the levels except the top, which is where the bells are housed, boast beautiful galleries and arcades. While the Leaning Tower was closed from 1990 to 2001 it is now considered sufficiently stable to again permit visitors.

Avventure Bellissime offers Private Pisa Tours from Florence, which are popular half-day Italy excursions led by one of our always entertaining and informative driver-guides. This Italy tour allows you to really explore and learn about the Piazza and its treasures at a relaxed and enjoyable pace.

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Another popular option for anyone on a cruise that docks in the Port of Livorno Florence is our Private David, Uffizi, and Pisa Cruise Ship Excursion. This wonderful itinerary manages to take you to many of the highlights of Florence without feeling rushed. Our informative, English-speaking guide will regale you with the stories, cultural nuances, and historical details behind Michelangelo’s David, the Uffizi Museum, the city of Florence, and of course the Piazza Dei Miracoli with its incomparable Leaning Tower.

Add some adventure to your holiday with Avventure Bellissime’s Italy vacation packages and Italy excursions in destination cities like Florence and Pisa. Visit Avventure Bellissime online now to build your Italy vacation packages or book a tour that will work with your cruise ship itinerary.


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