Often clients ask me if they should stop in Pisa for a quick visit so they can see the Leaning Tower and take a few photos. Either they are on the way out of the airport or on a day trip from Florence. I mean, this is quintessential Italy, right? The slanted icon has been planted in our brains as a symbol of Italy for centuries. I remember vividly my first impression of Italy when I was about three was the this exact tower on the cover of our pizza box. The next question is well, is there anything else there to see?
And the answer is a resounding YES! Especially when you have an amazing guide as we did. Dott. Vincenzo Riolo showed us around Pisa from Palaces and bridges to Borgo Stretto, the road where history and current trends continue to co-mingle with much grace and fun. Towards the end of the tour, we visited (you guessed it) the Leaning Tower. Without a doubt, the Piazza dei Miracoli or Field (Square) of Miracles is the proud jewel of this city and UNESCO World Heritage Site. We entered from the back through a quiet piazza away from the crowds and souvenir stands. What he first pointed out to us, was the magnificent feat of keeping the tower from leaning too much while not straightening it either – that would be disastrous for the local tourism revenue! The exact counterweights were determined after many years of trial and error and much deliberation between some of the worlds greatest architects and physicists. Galileo would be proud!
After we marvelled at the massive and ornate bell tower before us, he then took us to his favorite place, the camposanto or the cemetery. A most astonishing and sobering glimpse of burial grounds and sarcophagi lining the portico … and through an amazing and intricate process, the frescoed walls which were so badly burned during WWII are being brought back to glorious life, little by little.
Next, to the Baptistry. Another most amazing structure in which we were treated to a very special experience; a friar showed us the musical marvel of this stunning architecture. As he chanted one note and moved onto to the next – the previous note continued to resonate throughout the chapel. By the time he sang the third note, he had created a lovely chord… and the lovely harmonies rang out through the air. We felt the bumps on our skin come alive as we all listened in awe.
By the time we reached the magnificent Duomo, the sun was setting and mass was already in session, but we were still allowed to go inside to gaze at the architectural masterpiece from the entrance. The memories still come back to treat me every time one of my clients ask me, should we go to Pisa?