The leaning tower of Pisa has become an icon of Italy, and a holiday in Pisa takes tourists to a fascinating architectural wonderland. Here, visitors will discover that the peculiar composition of the soil has resulted in more than one leaning tower. The university town is filled with numerous churches and museums, where precious metal meets marble, all to a bewildering, yet enchanting effect.
Begin with a trip to Piazza dei Miracoli, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where four structures make “Square of Miracles” a fitting name. Along with the Leaning Tower, the Duomo (Cathedral), Battistero (Baptistery), and Camposanto (Monumental Churchyard) sit on a wide green lawn.
The Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral is a marble building done in the Pisan Romanesque style. Bronze doors lead to frescoed walls and gilded ceilings. It also contains the remains of Pisa’s patron Saint Ranieri, and the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII.
The Baptistery, a round, massive edifice dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, features scenes from his life, as well as a bronze sculpture of him. The Churchyard, on the other hand, is a rectangular complex, home to tombs and pieces of art, such as The Triumph of Death.
More churches can be found in the piazza, such as Santa Maria della Spina, which has a shrine to a thorn believed to be from Christ’s crown of thorns. Santa Caterina and Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri are regarded as two of the most beautiful structures in the country.
Museo Nazionale di San Matteo used to be a convent for nuns of the same order, but now houses paintings and sculptures from the 12th century onward. Maritime ruins, on the other hand, can be found in Le Navi Antiche di Pisa.
Witness a battle of the brawn on the last Sunday of June, during Il Gioco del Ponte or the Battle of the Bridge. Held at Ponte di Mezzo, which spans the River Arno, it is a competition between Mezzogiorno (the districts south of the river) and Tramontana (the districts north of the river). An event dating back to the 16th century, it used to be an extremely violent game akin to gladiator matches, even involving cudgels and shields. Today, the teams have to push a heavy cart in between them, and ram the opposing team along with it. A parade of people dressed in mediaeval garb heralds the proceedings.