Exploring Pisa Family Style

A description and images from a Family Trip to Italy.

by and - last updated on 5/8/2024

This was a day trip we took while we were visiting Florence, where our condo rental was located. Our goal for this day trip was to visit the Leaning Tower area and then to move on to the Livorno area where we wanted to spend some quality time at Calambrone Beach.

Travel Tile

Driving to Pisa was straightforward, however the final miles were on city streets and conditions were very crowded. Parking was a major challenge, as the tourists had already taken up every available parking place for blocks surrounding the Piazza del Duomo. You will need a good source of information about where to go and you should have your mobile mapping device set - or you might wind up driving aimlessly around Pisa!

WARNING: Do yourself a favor and do some research about driving & parking in the vicinity of the Leaning Tower, that area is now auto restricted and parking is available but most are not located nearby. Your research will also reveal that cars are sometimes broken into, so you need to be careful where you park and what you leave in your car.
Click here to read information about parking in Pisa.

Pisa Coat of Arms
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Pisa, Italy       Map
A description and images from a Family Trip to Italy.
A description and images from a Family Trip to Italy.
A description and images from a Family Trip to Italy.
Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa or simply the Tower of Pisa (Torre di Pisa [ˈtorre di ˈpiːza]) is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its unintended tilt. The tower is situated behind the Pisa Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in the city's Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo), after the cathedral and the Pisa Baptistry.

The construction of the tower began in 1173 and lasted for almost 200 years due to various interruptions and corrections. The tower was designed to be a freestanding bell tower for the adjacent cathedral, but its tilt began during its construction, leading to numerous attempts to correct it.

The tower is 183.27 feet on the "low side" and 185.93 feet on the "high side". There are 294 steps from the base to the top, where there is a fantastic panoramic of Pisa and its surroundings.

Prior to restoration work performed between 1990 and 2001, the tower leaned at an angle of 5.5 degrees, but the tower now leans at about 3.99 degrees. This means the top of the tower is displaced horizontally 3.9 metres (12 ft 10 in) from the centre.

There is a limit of 45 people on the tower at any point in time, due obviously to their desire not to stress the "leaning" anymore than they need to. So the tickets (which are expensive) are issued for a specific date and time. You have to amuse yourself until your time comes up.
You can purchase your tickets in advance from this site.

A description and images from a Family Trip to Italy.
A description and images from a Family Trip to Italy.
A description and images from a Family Trip to Italy.
Pisa Cathedral

Pisa Cathedral is a medieval Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, in the Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa, Italy, the oldest of the three structures in the plaza followed by the Pisa Baptistry and the Campanile known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The cathedral is a notable example of Romanesque architecture, in particular the style known as Pisan Romanesque.[1] Consecrated in 1118, it is the seat of the Archbishop of Pisa. Construction began in 1063 and was completed in 1092. Additional enlargements and a new facade were built in the 12th century and the roof was replaced after damage from a fire in 1595.

The above information is from Wikipedia, click here to view the full Pisa article.
A description and images from a Family Trip to Italy. A description and images from a Family Trip to Italy.
Piazza del Duomo Grounds

The views of the area surrounding the Pisa Cathedral and the Leaning Tower as you ascend the Tower are excellent. However, if you stand on the "down-hill side" of the Tower the feeling is a little worrisome, because you are leaning at an angle that is very noticeable!

The view of the horizon is 16.6 miles from this height of 183.3 feet, and the views of the city of Pisa are also very good.

A description and images from a Family Trip to Italy. A description and images from a Family Trip to Italy.
Pisa Baptistery of St. John

A Roman Catholic ecclesiastical building in Pisa, Italy. Construction started in 1152 to replace an older baptistery, and when it was completed in 1363, it became the second building, in chronological order, in the Piazza dei Miracoli, near the Duomo di Pisa and the cathedral's free-standing campanile, the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. The baptistery was designed by Diotisalvi, whose signature can be read on two pillars inside the building, with the date 1153.

The largest baptistery in Italy, it is 54.86 meters high, with a diameter of 34.13 meters. The Pisa Baptistery is an example of the transition from the Romanesque style to the Gothic style: the lower section is in the Romanesque style, with rounded arches, while the upper sections are in the Gothic style, with pointed arches. The Baptistery is constructed of marble, as is common in Italian architecture.

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Image # 2 property of Lin Gaozhi via Wikimedia Commons using the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

A description and images from a Family Trip to Italy. A description and images from a Family Trip to Italy.
Top of the Tower

The tower is 183.3 feet in height, which as a concept does not seem that tall does it? But looking down from the top of the tower gives you a completely different perspective! However, looking outwards over the city of Pisa is a view that cannot be duplicated anywhere else.

 Quick Interesting Pisa facts 
  • The Leaning Tower of Pisa (Torre pendente di Pisa) is a bell tower in Pisa, Italy.
  • The Tower of Pisa is world famous for its prominent tilt to one side.
  • The tower's foundations were built on soft subsoil which had difficulty supporting the tower's weight (14,500 tons). When the second level was started the lean became noticeable and only worsened as construction continued.
  • Originally the tower leaned at an angle of 5.5 degrees. After restoration work between 1990 and 2001 this angle was reduced to 3.97 degrees.
  • The tower is 8 stories high, 55.86 meters (183.27 ft) on the low side and 56.67 meters (185.93 ft) on the high side.
  • Construction of the Tower of Pisa started in the year 1173 and was completed in 1372. Construction stopped and restarted twice over those 199 years due to wars.
  • War stopped construction the first time for almost a century which gave the underlying soil time to settle and compact. If construction had not halted, the tower would most likely have toppled.
  • As well as the tower, Pisa's Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo or Piazza dei Miracoli) also has a cathedral, a baptistery and a cemetery.
  • The entire Cathedral Square was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
  • There are 294 steps on the north side of the tower and 296 steps on the south side.
  • Seven bells sit in the bell-chamber at the top of the tower, one bell for each note of the musical major scale.
  • The tower's design has widely been attributed to Guglielmo and Bonanno Pisano however recent studies suggest the architect Diotisalvi may have been involved in the design.
  • While the original architect of the tower has never been verified many are known to have worked on it including: Bonanno Pisano and Gerardo di Gerardo in phase 1, Giovanni Pisano and Giovanni di Simone during phase 2 before Tommaso di Andrea Pisano oversaw its completion.
  • Because of the marshy underlying subsoil there are several other towers in Pisa with less prominent tilting issues.
  • Germans used the tower as a lookout during World War II. The Allies knew this but decided against bombing the area due to the impressive beauty of the tower and cathedral.
  • To demonstrate that speed of descent is independent of an object's mass Galileo Galilei is said to have dropped two cannonballs of differing mass from the tower. However, this is believed to be an old wives' tale.
  • The WW2 Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, decided that the tower was a blemish on his countries reputation. So in 1934 he set out to officially “fix” the tower. His men drilled hundreds of holes into the foundations and pumped in cement, in an effort to rectify the lean. Unfortunately, the heaviness of the cement simply sank the tower further into the ground. This resulted in a more severe lean than they started with in the first place.
A description and images from a Family Trip to Italy. A description and images from a Family Trip to Italy.
An Aqueduct Recreation

On the drive back to Florence from Pisa (Italian E80/A11/E76), we were surprised to see an aqueduct crossing the Autostrada! This is not a "Roman Artifact", it is the Medici Aqueduct of Asciano and construction started in 1592. This aqueduct contains 900 arches and is over six kilometes long. It was constructed to provide the city of Pisa with water from the Pisan Mountains near Lucca.

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Italy Itinerary Trip Flow

This trip was accomplished half by train and half by auto, as we did not need a car in Rome and so we waited until we arrived in Florence before we obtained a rental vehicle. This allowed us to perform all of our day trips with a car, as several locations were remote. Prior to traveling to Venice, we turned the rental car in and took the train, as no vehicles are allowed in Venice and all of our transportation needs were met through use of water taxis and walking.

  1. Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport.
  2. Rome, Italy.
  3. Florence, Italy.
  4. Siena, Italy.
  5. San Gimignano, Italy.
  6. Livorno, Italy.
  7. Pisa, Italy.
  8. Ferrari Factory Maranello, Italy
  9. Venice, Italy.

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