It was hard for us to find motivation to get in the car and explore further afar when we were staying on the waterfront at Castiglioncello. On day five we decided it was time to explore more of what Tuscany had to offer. We headed off along the scenic coastal road which hugs the ocean with its beautiful views. The forest that lines these mountains paths is truly stunning just like the ocean below it. This natural beauty that surrounds this landscape is an artist’s dream. I am by no means creative but cannot stop myself from staring in awe at the back drop and ever changing colour palette as it whizzed by.
We soon found out that this scenic hair pin bend, twisty, turny, single thin road was also a favourite triathlon bike rides and trucks. I know riding down mountains with scenic views is considered a great adrenaline sport but really when car, truck and bike rider all meet on a hair pin bend or those in Lycra ride side by side taking over the road (especially a dangerous road) well it is a recipe for disaster.
Before arriving in Pisa we pass a military base where army tanks are lined up in rows.
After parking we found the easiest way to find the Leaning Tower of Pisa was to follow all the Japanese tourists who are bused in from Florence to see this amazing architecture. Rob and I were happy to mingled in with the Japanese tourists as we thought this was a great way to avoid pick pockets. We entered the Piazza de Duomo which is the ancient walls that surrounds what is said to be the finest architectural buildings in the world.
Which we noted by the military presence but I am sure some of the Japanese tourists thought the soldiers were there for them as selfie back drops. Mmmm we were not that relaxed about taking photos of a military person holding a machine gun but each to their own. We went in to the tourist office and purchased our tickets to visit all the sites.
The four architectural gems are;
The Pisa Baptistry
This beautiful dome building is striking. On the outside it is a symmetric haven of ornamental carvings surrounding its bell shape building. Once inside it’s facade surrounds you with carved columns, arches, stained glass windows and awe inspiring height. But as we mounted the curving stairwell we were forced to run back down as we heard someone singing. We stood there and listened to the most heavenly voice that surrounded every space of the Baptistery. The Baptistery is known not only for its perfect symmetry, architectural features but most importantly its pitch perfect acoustics. Two guards sang softly and their tunes echoed as if they were a choir. I wondered …… would I sound just like an angel if I started singing?? Maybe Rob and I should have strummed out a few harmonies from the Backstreet Boys and just maybe… everyone may have come running. Maybe we should just keep our singing behind closed doors!
Feeling chuffed that just heard the best singing voice EVER ….and I recorded it, we headed up the tiny stairwell which lead us to the top of the Baptistery. Here we believe is where you can take the BEST photo of the Pisa Cathedral out a tiny whole that has been cut in the wire window.
The Monumental Cemetery – Camposanto Monumentale
Next we visited the Monumental Cemetery which again was breathtaking. This attraction seemed to be avoided by the crowds who all seemed obsessed with the Leaning Tower. It screamed a place of importance, a place of respect, a place of great historical value, a place of rest, a place to admire human life and a place to ponder and think carefully the road that we are all taking!!!
It is a huge oblong walled cemetery which is made up of 43 arches with a center piece of lush green manicured lawn running down the central interior. The gothic architecture is beautiful. It contains three Chapels, historical relics, tombs beneath your every step, statues and historical painted stories cover the walls telling every visitor religious stories of hardship, terror and joy.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa juts out of the ground as we all know like a sinking ship. It is the draw card that brings millions of overseas tourists here to Pisa. The bell towers medieval features are again stunning. Rob and I stand and watch this majestic bell tower as tourists happily approach their stunt like holiday photos trying to hold up this graceful sinking lady. We much preferred to admire from a distance and give this beautiful bell tower the respect she deserves. A thousand years of history stands before us. This bell tower is one to admire and ponder or is that again just showing our age??? We didn’t feel the need to climb to the top of the bell tower even though you can! Let this tower just Rest In Peace.
As the saying goes …. Leave the best till last and that is what we did. The Pisa Cathedral is the prettiest Cathedral we have ever stepped foot into. We can see why the Leaning Tower of Pisa stands in its shadows. The Cathedral stands proud like a romantic jewelled castle characterised by semicircles and arches. The internal ceiling is lined with gold roof carved tiles.
The walls support religious historical artwork and archways made from black and white marble . The dimly lit medieval lantern hang majestic from heights above. The central dome is a mural made from gold and many Chapels are full of statues and ornamental rich features. The Cathedral lulls you into a sense of calm, peace and tranquility with its mauve colour palette. Very impressive! The pulpit was handcarved from stone and is the most complete bible story ever carved. The whole Cathedral celebrates its 950th Birthday later this year.
We thought we were just coming to see The Leaning Tower of Pisa but we discovered so much more. There were so many more outstanding historical gems here to see and our visit only cost us 8 euro each. Travel is all about exploring the history, culture and culinary delights so we had to end our day in a cute Pizzeria where we enjoyed Pizza in Pisa with the Leaning Town of Pisa shadowing us in the background. (and of course a decadent dessert). In Italy you can never get enough Pisa.