As a tourist we are often in a rush to see as many sightseeing spots as possible in any city. We have less time, more to click, more selfies to take, more to absorb, more to tick off from our list. Though my travels are mostly unstructured and impromptu, I too do some of the touristy trips and one such trip was last year to Italy.
On a sunny afternoon enroute to Montecatini, in a group of 45 odd interesting fellow tourists, we halted at the world famous city of Pisa in Tuscany. Our lovely tour guide announced we have 45 minutes to see around. We were dropped off at the entrance of Piazza del Dumo. Well, yes even I was confused as every ‘Square’ in Italy is ‘Piazza’. My excitement had no bounds as I came to know this Piazza houses the world famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, but only 45 minutes??
I knew it had to be a Marathon now. As I stepped inside the premises of the Piazza del Dumo, I was completely awed to see the Leaning tower from the entrance.
Apparently this is not the only monument in the Piazza. The square formerly called the Pizza del Dumo is known more popularly as Piazza dei Miracoli. There are four monuments in the Piazza, which are an example of brilliance of human engineering and are a part of World Heritage site under UNESCO: The four monuments are The Pisa Cathedral, the Baptistery, the Leaning Tower and the Camposanto Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery).
I started with the much obvious Bell Tower or Leaning Tower,. With the paucity of time, I decided not to climb up the spire but admire it from a shady vantage point. This lopsided tower was built over 199 years. The construction stopped after completion of its Third floor as the tower began to lean; and it resumed only after a century. There have been several attempts to correct the angle of the Tower and they say it leans lesser now, but if you ask me, its beauty and fame is only in its crookedness, so, we love it leaning, don’t we?
Next I turned to the Pisa Cathedral. A rather unusual shaped facade, the doors were open. The entry is free, however a coupon for entry has to be purchased from the Ticket Office. It was the past the entry time and I had to make a compassionate begging to the Italian speaking officials to allow inside, and voila they did.
The interiors of the Cathedral blew me off as i was expecting something a little modest. But baby we are in THE Italy! This country has world’s 60 percent of World Heritage Monuments and yes, they are exuberant and spendid.
The altar spelled grandiose with colors of gold and shimmer everywhere. What stole the limelight was indeed the ceiling which was very typical Italian and of the era where the Cathedrals were elaborately painted.
Awestruck walked out of the Cathedral with another 20 minutes left to return back to the meeting point. There was no time now to purchase tickets or wait in queues for other monuments. So walked around each mammoth structure.
The third monumnet was The Pisa Baptistery depicts the life of St John, the Baptist. I would rate it as one of the most unique building from the Architecture point of view. As the information displayed there said, what started being built as a Romanasque style structure, later got a Gothic dome which is the most notable feature in the Piazza. I couldnt go inside, however as I read on the web that the Baptistery is quite simple and unassuming inside.
The last of the monuments in this miraculous Square is the Monumental Cemtery or Camposanto. This is rather a very important monument historicaly. Legend has it that this was built around the same place where shiploads of sacred soil of Golgotha was brought where Jesus was crucified. This Cemetery later became the burial ground of the upper class and whos who of the region.
I read that the Cemetery has some rare paintings and is adorned by spectacular frescoes inside. This was surely a miss. And i would really want to come back to Pisa in a bit more relaxed time to view these monuments with some more ease and admiration.
However I would say 45 minutes wasnt bad at all. And as they say a high return on investment, isnt it!