Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 13, 2019

Pisa, the tower and more

The Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) in Pisa is surely one of the most beautiful piazzas in Italy. It is outside the centre of Pisa and the stunning buildings are surrounded by lush green grass rather than buildings.

Until recently there were market stalls beside the piazza, but they have now been moved outside the wall nearby…what a brilliant idea. The piazza is looking better than it ever has.

The leaning tower, which is actually the campanile (bell tower) of the cathedral, is not the only building in Piazza dei Miracoli.

The Baptistery is magnificent. It is the largest in Italy, begun in mid 12th century and finished in 14th century.

Construction of the Pisa Cathedral began in 1064.

The Camposanto Monumentale (walled cemetery) was bombed by Allied aircraft in July 1944 and almost destroyed. Restoration work continues.

The Campanile began in 1173 and was built in 3 stages over 177 years. It began to lean 5 years after construction and it was left to settle for a century. In 1272 building resumed. The upper floors were built with one side taller than the other. The 7th floor was added in 1319 and the bell chamber in 1372.

By the time the building was complete the lean was 1 degree. At its greatest, prior to 1990,  it was 5.5 degrees. It is now 4 degrees after much work.

It is now open for climbing and I suggest you do. You can feel the lean as you walk up the narrow stairs and the view from the top is excellent.

The site is well managed and easy to navigate. Go to the ticket office and choose what you want to see. You can just climb the tower or buy tickets for the other buildings. Only 45 can climb at a time. Book a time, arrive at the tower 10 minutes before and off you go.

After leaving Piazza dei Miracoli we headed for the next most impressive square in Pisa, Piazza dei Cavalieri, the Knight’s Square, the political centre in Medieval Pisa.

The main building on the square is Palazzo della Caravana . It was modernised in Renaissance style by Giorgio Vasari. The facade is decorated with sgraffiti by Vasari and contains 6 niches with busts of the grand dukes of Tuscany.

In front of the palace stands a statue of Cosimo I de Medici by Pietro Francavilla.

Beside the palace is the Church of the Holy and Military Order of St Stephen, built over the foundation of St Sebastian’s church.

The buildings in the Piazza dei Cavalieri are now a centre of education – part of the university of Pisa.

Moving on, we came to Borgo Stretto, the main street of the older part of Pisa’s centre.

There are some stunning buildings here, and the street is well named. Stretto means narrow.

At the river end of the street is an old wooden tabernacle.

Even though the wood looks really old, this is a copy. The original is from the 16th century and is now in the National Museum of St Matthew.

Garibaldi keeps watch over the square in front of the River Arno.

The river is lined with intetesting old buildings.

On the other side of the river there is a narrow street which opens to a wide pedestrian only shopping street.

There is a wonderful mix of old and new buildings.

Vittorio Emanuele I looks over the piazza at the end of the street, looking towards the railway station.

Keep an eye out behind Vittorio for the Keith Haring giant mural, Tuttomondo, painted on a wall of the church of St Anthony. Haring painted it with local help in 1989 just months before he died. It is his last public work. There is a cafe in front of it where you can stop for a coffee, snack or aperitivo and pick up a souvenir or 2.


Pisa is more than just the leaning tower. Take some time to wander the well cared for streets. The shopping offer is varied and there are some great cafes, markets and restaurants.

We enjoyed lunch at Osteria La Mescita at 2, Via Cavalca.

Our shared first course was particularly good. Mille folglie with beetroot pate and ricotta.

Jim had tagliatelle with leeks, sausage and pecorino cheese. It was just right.

I ordered tagliata di maiale, sliced pork with rocket.

Dessert was ricotta cream with chocolate and almonds…delicious.

We are definitely going back. The restaurant was full of local businessmen, a sure sign that the food is good.


  1. Great images – takes me right back there!

    • Piazza dei Miracoli is beautiful.

  2. I love the back streets of Pisa and the Piazza dei Cavalieri is wonderful. The Cathedral is a marvel and very few people visit it. Glad to hear that they have removed the stalls on the Piazza. If anyone wants to buy souvenirs, the Barsanti shop, also on the Piazza, has an excellent array of good artisan articles at prices similar to the stalls.

    • I think Pisa is a lovely town. We have had some great meals there and the shopping is good.

  3. We loved this town. It was great to climb the tower all on our own rather than a guided tour that we once did many moons back. I don’t think we could enter at the time. Great photos Deb.

    • The tower was closed for years while they stabilised it. The climb is fun.

  4. Great post Debra – Pisa is a lovely town, parking is easy and I love visiting

    • Thank you! We parked right beside the tower in the car park opposite.

  5. We definitely enjoyed our visit to Pisa. And you are so right, there is so much more than the tower.

  6. Such extraordinary architecture and skill – it never ceases to make me feel awed. All that, and Italian good food! It’s a wonderful combination.

  7. Thank you for bringing back memories of Pisa for me! 😀 The detailing is incredible.

  8. Too many people rush to Pisa to see the leaning tower and see nothing else of the city…you have shown how nice it is to walk around the town. Oh and a very good meal awaits you at the restaurant you visited.

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