Getting from Florence to Pisa is pretty easy and very affordable — catch the Terravision bus from the Santa Maria Novella train station that goes to the Pisa International Airport. I can’t remember how much it costs now; if I’m not mistaken around €4 per person. Not bad, right?
The journey to Pisa Airport takes you on a 70-minute route that’s rather scenic, so instead of napping on the bus you can choose to enjoy the lovely Tuscan countryside.
Once you’re at the airport, take the LAM Rossa bus to the city of Pisa for €1.10. It takes only 10 minutes to get to the famous Leaning Tower. If you’re up for it and the weather is good, the healthier alternative is to walk.
Piazza del Duomo
The entrance to the Piazza del Duomo is a bit underwhelming. As you can see, even in October there were quite a few visitors. To the left of the photo above is a McDonald’s, I kid you not! (At least it’s a plain yellow building, instead of the eyesore to which we’ve grown accustomed.)
Once inside the area, the first building you’ll see to the left is the baptistery of the Dome, a fusion of Islamic, Byzantine, Christian and Roman styles much like the cathedral. However the architecture of the dome also has a Gothic influence.
Next to it is the beautiful cathedral with inscriptions on the white marble façade describing its history. More on this later. Across the road is a long row of stalls peddling goods to the tourists. Sort of ruins the atmosphere.
Just after the cathedral is the star of the show — the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Founded in 1173, the tower started to lean shortly after due to unstable soil. The great height of more than 55m and circular shape of the structure were unusual for the time, and the belfry is different from the rest of the construction. It seems the placement of the tower “diverges from the axial alignment of the cathedral and the baptistery”, possibly due to “astrological factors”.
Opening hours and ticket prices
If you plan on going up the tower — isn’t that why we’re here? — a ticket costs €18. Steep but it gets you entry to the cathedral as well. Tickets can be purchased online, although we just bought them at the ticket office (behind the tower). No long queues, no fuss.
You can also visit the other monuments (the baptistery, the cemetery, the Opera del Duomo Museum, the Sinopie Museum) for a fee:
1 monument – €5
2 monuments – €7
3 monuments – €8
4 monuments – €9
Going up the Tower
The climb up is fairly easy but it gets the tiniest bit tricky nearer the top for several reasons. One: the higher up you go the more you feel the slant of the tower. Two: the steps are very smooth so be careful not to slip. I would not like to be up there on a wet day. Just be smart and wear sensible shoes. Once you get to the top you’ll forget all about the slant and slippery steps, and the climb will have been worth it.
Well, this post is a lot longer than I expected. If you’d like to see what else went on in Pisa, read the second part of this post.