From Jesses' Journeys in Italy
Writing about Pisa is a tough job.
Millions of travelers have been
there, and millions more are on
their way. The reason: the "Leaning
Tower of Pisa". Also, there's
an increasingly busy airport at
Pisa, served by various low cost
airlines, disgorging hundreds and
hundreds of passengers every day.
Let's put it this way, if you go to
Pisa from June to September, you
will be rubbing shoulders with a lot
of people. Still...
Believe it or not, Pisa began life
in about 1000 BC as a seaport. In
the 2nd Centure BC, the Romans
used it as a naval station and
trading port. By the 11th
Century the city had evolved into a
major maritime power, rivalling
Genoa, Venice and Amalfi. The
Pisans raided and overwhelmed Amalfi
in 1135, putting an end to Amalfi's
The Pisans were themselves defeated
- by Genoa - in 1284, a defeat which
started the City's steady
decline. That decline was
hastened when the River Arno, on
whose banks the city stood, began to
silt up. The Florentines took
control in 1406 and retained it
until the unification of Italy in
During its long period of
prosperity, much of its wealth went
into building some of Italy's most
important and monumental buildings.
The famously leaning tower is the
bell tower of the Duomo whose
construction took over 200 years,
starting in 1173 AD. The soil
under the Tower started to subside
on one side even during
construction, and remedial efforts
were ongoing up until 1999, when a
solution was found. (Don't ask
us what it was.)
The tower, the baptistry and the
huge Duomo (100 yards long, with a
massive nave, flanked by two aisles
and 68 monolithic columns, are in
the Romanesque style. The
pulpit, considered by many as the
most beautiful in Italy, was carved
by Giovanni Pisano, who also did
much of the carving in the
They sit together around the
Campo dei Miracoli - or "field
of dreams", an expansive grassy
area. Most tourists venture no
further. They should.
The city boasts one of the oldest
universities in the world, and was
the birth place of Galileo Galilei.
There are many cafes, trattorie,
boutiques and flea markets.
Quality - well, tourist grade.
(If you want a great dinner, save
your appetite and travel 15 km north
miles) S of Lucca; 81km (50 miles) W of
Florence; 334km (208 miles) NW of Rome.
The Pisa airport attracts
many flights from other parts of Europe,
including Gatwick and Stanstead in the
Tower of Pisa:
The leaning tower of
Tell us about your trip to Pisa.
What were your favorite places to visit,
stay, and dine?