Today was the day that we got our bums out of bed before 6 AM and caught the train to take a look at another iconic site – The Leaning Tower of Pisa. We were absolutely amazed to see how much the tower is actually leaning. We bought tickets to go inside and of course the floor is slanted which is a pretty weird feeling when you first walk in. We took the spiral stairs to the top and you can see where people have leaned against the wall to support themselves from the lean. The stone steps are worn from the number of feet that have taken them. This tilted, free standing bell tower overlooks the Cathedral and Plaza below and the view is amazing. We spent several minutes at the top taking pictures, exploring the bells themselves and just drinking in the beauty of the town and countryside surrounding it. And let’s face it – we needed some time to catch our breath from the long climb up!
Satisfied that we had taken enough pictures, we made the long climb down and headed to the Camposanto on the southside of the Cathedral Square. We didn’t really know what it was but it was included in our ticket so off we went. As it turns out, it is a mausoleum of sorts and “Campo Santo” can be literally translated as “holy field”. It is said to have been built around a shipload of sacred soil from Golgotha, brought back to Pisa from the Third Crusade by the archbishop of Pisa in the 12th century. The rectangular building surrounds an open courtyard. The floors contain many buried tombs (you are literally walking on the gravestones) and there are many statues and sarcophagi along the walls. From what we could tell, it is mostly holy men that are buried here – from the 12th century through to the 21st. However, the most striking feature of this building was the frescoes. The walls are covered in artworks from the 12th to the 16th centuries displaying Old Testament stories as well as the Crucifixion and the Last Judgement. These frescoes are being slowly restored to their former glory after being damaged during World War II.
From the Camposanto we headed to the Baptistry. Named after Saint John the Baptist, construction began on this building in 1152, was completed in 1363 and is the largest Baptistry in Italy. The centrepiece is of course the Baptismal font with a beautiful pulpit off to the side. We took the worn stone steps to the upper mezzanine floor for a unique view of the font below. We also had a great view of the cathedral which we visited next.
The main portal of the Baptistry leads directly to the doors of the Cathedral. This is symbolic in that once being baptised one is now set upon the path of following Christ. We followed this path into the stunning interior of the Cathedral. It is the first building erected on this site with construction beginning in 1063. After seeing so many churches, cathedrals and basilicas, you would think that we had seen it all and would not be impressed. Such is not the case. Again, the artwork on the walls, the architecture, the chapels, the pulpit, the altar is absolutely amazing. You have to see it to believe it!
As we exited the church, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. The plaza was now full of people and we wondered how this place actually looks in summer. The crowds must be huge!! We left the plaza and noticed that our stomachs were rumbling a little. We stopped for a bite to eat at an outdoor cafe with a perfect view of the tower. It doesn’t get much better that that.
The day was still early so we decided that rather than head straight back to Florence we would take a detour over to Lucca. We had read that this old city was surrounded by a wall that you could walk or bike on. It sounded enchanting so off we went. We did indeed walk along the wall, looking over the quiet old city within the walls and over the hustle and bustle outside the walls. Two separate worlds, removed from one another by a giant wall. We also walked through the old city looking at the shops, plazas and churches that make up this unique town.
Our train arrived back in Florence at 6 PM. Though tired from a day of walking (10 miles) and train travel, it had been another wonderful day in the land of Tuscany.
Crossing a bridge on our way to the leaning tower on a beautiful Tuscan morning.
The Leaning tower……
Doing my best to set it straight.
Looking up into the center of the tower upon entry.
On our way up.
As you can see the steps are quite worn out. Some of the very worn out sections have been replaced.
From the top.
The Camposanto Frescoes.
As Col mentioned we found a great location for lunch. I would venture to say that this was probably the best ambiance or environment we have been in to share a meal. Just look at the view we had.
I took this last picture as we were walking the wall. I noticed a couple of old timers leaning on their balcony railing chewing the fat. They gave us a nice big wave after they noticed me taking their picture.