Things to see
Leaning tower of Pisa
The Leaning tower of Pisa, located in the Piazza dei Miracoli, is the city’s most famous attraction that is recognized the world over. In actuality, it is the bell tower of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, also known as the Duomo di Pisa. Its crookedness is due to the instability of the ground, the slow decline noticeable even before the tower’s completion.
Construction began in 1174, although it is unclear as to who designed the final plans. Unfortunately, the process had to be halted shortly after the completion of the second floor due to the fact that the Republic of Pisa was at war with Genoa, Lucca and Florence, some of the biggest powers of pre-unified Italy. Construction resumed in 1272 under the direction of Giovanni di Simone, the architect of the Piazza dei Miracoli. The seventh and final floor was not completed until 1320, with the bell chamber finally added in 1372. Each floor has a bell corresponding to one of the notes in the major scale.
The tower underwent several renovations, particularly to its structure to make sure that its continuous decline did not lead it to topple altogether. It was completely closed to the public in 1990, where the biggest renovation efforts were taken to even it out, reopening again in 2001. Today, visitors are able to visit the tower and climb to its top to enjoy a beautiful panorama of the area –assuming a private tour was booked well in advance.
Cathedral of Pisa
Found in the middle of the Piazza dei Miracoli is the Duomo di Pisa, a stunning masterpiece of Pisan Romanesque architecture. Indeed, this is the structure which launched the style throughout Pisa, later spreading through Tuscany. Like the leaning tower of Pisa, which is actually the bell tower of the cathedral, the building has visibly sunk into the ground, resulting in a slight incline.
Construction began in 1064 under the direction of the architect Buscheto; it was meant as a display of Pisa’s power and wealth, and possibly a challenge to other great cities, such as Venice. The cathedral was consecrated in 1118 however by the mid 12th century it was already being expanded by the architect Rainaldo, to whom we owe the façade we see today. Over the years, the cathedral underwent several renovations and interventions, namely following the fire in 1595 that destroyed much of the roof and front.
The interior was also subject to a number of changes over time, most notably the addition of “quadroni” (large paintings) that decorate the walls. The inside of the Cathedral is also embellished by detailed mosaics and exquisite ceiling frescoes. Furthermore, there is an impressive collection of sculptures and artworks such as marble pulpit by Giovanni Pisano and bronze crucifixes by Pietro Tacca.