Making Our Way to The Square of Miracles Pisa
We pre-booked tickets for the 10.30 am slot climb to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It will take us 1 hr by train from Florence to Pisa and another 30 mins if we walk from Pisa Centrale Station to Campo dei Miracoli in Pisa or Square of Miracles. We got on the 8.53 am train and reached Pisa around 1 hr later. With less than 1 hr to spare, we gave up the idea of walking and took the bus to the Leaning Tower of Pisa instead. Tickets for the bus can be bought from a ticketing machine next to the bus stops. There are four bus stops outside Pisa Centrale station, and the bus leaving for the leaning tower (LAM ROSSA) leaves from Stop #1, the one nearest to the train station. The bus ride to Campo dei Miracoli took 15 mins. One will not miss the stop as this is where most of the passengers alight. There is a short 2 min walk from the bus stop to the Campo dei Miracoli grounds. Entrance to Campo dei Miracoli grounds is free, but the entrance to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the museums are chargeable.
Climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa
We arrived at the Leaning Tower of Pisa about 10 mins late than our scheduled time and headed to the tower to check with the staff if we were still allowed to climb the tower. The staff gave us the green light and informed us to immediately head to the cloakroom to deposit our bags and return to the tower. All visitors climbing the tower are to deposit their bags at the cloakroom, about 2 mins walk from the tower. After depositing our bags, we proceeded to climb the tower. We could feel the lean of the tower the moment we entered the ground floor, as though there was a force pulling us to one side. The top of the tower is accessible via a spiral staircase. As we were climbing up the 294 steps made of marble to the 8th floor of the tower, we could feel the gravity pulling us to one side of the tower, at times to the centre, and towards the outer wall of the stairwell. We can see the indentation on the steps caused by centuries of visitors climbing stairs. The main spiral staircase stops at level 7 of the tower, which we thought was the top of the tower. As we walked around this level, we spotted another spiral staircase built around a single pillar. This staircase led us to the tower’s top floor, where the tower’s bells were installed.
We did not feel any lean on the tower’s top floor; perhaps we got used to the lean, or maybe we were occupied marvelling at the views from the top. We could see the whole Square of Miracles and the horizon from the top. On one side of the tower, we could see the entirety of the Cathedral next to the Leaning Tower. The view was amazing, and we felt a sense of zen. I like the feeling of being up here on the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the feeling of the Pisan breeze blowing and gentle rays of sunlight casting on our faces, making sitting around on the steps of the top floor very comfortable. At times we wandered around exploring the seven bells installed at the top of the tower if we were not busy taking pictures. As I walked around the tower’s top floor, I noticed a small spiral staircase, closed off to the general public, that seemingly would lead us to another level of the tower. We got some very good shots of the tower’s surroundings and top from these staircases. We were lazing around, enjoying this comfortable feel the tower brought us, an announcement in Italian suddenly came on, followed by 12 strikes on the bells. Looking at our watches, it is already noon. We realised we were up here for around 1½ hours. Usually, visitors are only allowed 35 mins on the top of the tower. Perhaps due to the low season, the timing was not strictly enforced. As much as we wanted to stay here longer, we were soon hit by hunger. We proceeded down the tower and headed to the McDonald’s just outside the Square of Miracles for lunch.
The Magnificent Pisa Cathedral
After lunch, we headed back into the Square of Miracles, took our bags from the cloakroom and headed into the Pisa Cathedral. Entrance to the Cathedral is free. Those without tickets to the Tower can obtain tickets from the ticketing counter beside the cloakroom. Passing through the huge bronze door, we were awed by the sheer size and the grandeur of the Pisa Cathedral. The centre part of the Cathedral is flanked by two rows of monolithic columns that lead visitors’ attention to the altar installed at the end of the Cathedral. These columns support what seems to be a mezzanine level, connected using arches and reminiscent of an ancient Roman aqueduct. The high ceiling of the Cathedral is beautifully ornated with flower carvings decked out in gold colour, illuminating a sense of elegance. Numerous huge paintings are hanging on both sides of the walls of the Cathedral. In addition, several statues were displayed inside the Cathedral alongside a pavilion with intricate carvings. We left the Cathedral after taking some photos.
The Little Church by Arno River
After exiting the Cathedral, we were pretty done with Square of Miracles as our tickets did not include entry to the Baptistery, the Camposanto or the Opera Museum. We decided to walk back to Pisa Centrale train station to visit Santa Maria della Spina, the smallest church in Pisa. After walking for 15 mins, we reached the bridge across the Arno River and spotted Santa Maria della Spina. This tiny church was initially built for seamen coming here to pray for a safe return. The statues ornated on the facade and the church roof reminded me of those found in Duomo di Milano. We did not enter the church and continued our walk towards the train station after taking some pictures. Another 15 mins later, we arrived at the train station. As we had some time before the next train, we stopped by a cafe opposite the train station for coffee and rested. Perhaps it was the cafe’s ambience, or maybe the warmth accorded to us by the very friendly barista; we stayed there longer than we had planned. By the time we reached the train station (which is just across the road), the 4.01 pm train we wanted to take had already left the station. We took the next express train at 4.32 pm for Florence.
We reached Florence at around 5.30 pm. We went back to the Chinese restaurant for dinner. I planned to visit Piazzale Michelangelo after dinner for sunset. As it was past sunset and we were tired, we forwent visiting the Piazzale. After dinner, a couple of my friends and I took a night stroll in Florence, nearby our hotel. Florence seemed more lively tonight compared to the yesternight. There were more people and more activity on the streets. We did not wander around much and returned to the hotel to rest.