Driving from Montecatini, we arrived in Pisa around 8 am, parking near the Piazza dei Miracoli, or Square of Miracles, in a fairly empty paid parking lot. We ordered tickets to all the attractions we wanted to see ahead of time and had an 8:45am time slot to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa. After taking the essential holding up the tower photos, we learned we had to put our bags in a free locker storage before queuing up at the tower.
Climbing the winding staircase up the Leaning Tower of Pisa was definitely an experience! The tower is slanted 5 degrees and the marble staircase is slippery and worn down. My arms got sore bracing myself in case I fell! While my reaction to the tilt may have been a little melodramatic, be sure to wear shoes with some traction to ease your climb. The view from the top was definitely worth the stressful ascent. There are two different levels you can walk around, the top one has bells that chime very loudly in your ear throughout the day!
After our descent, we grabbed our stowed belongings and headed to McDonald’s for a coffee and bathroom break. Keep your receipts to use the restroom for free or else it costs 0.50 € to relieve yourself before the next leg of your day.
Visiting the Baptistery was next on our list. Dedicated to John the Baptist, the Baptistery was enormous with two levels to explore. After a while a worker went to the baptismal font and everyone went quiet. The man sang various notes letting us hear the fantastic acoustics the Baptistery had to offer.
Our next stop on the Piazza dei Miracoli was the Cathedral of Pisa. Construction on the Cathedral began around 1063, originally a simple cathedral, it evolved through time to the enormous masterpiece it is today. While admission to the Cathedral is free, unlike most of the other attractions on the Square of Miracles, you still need a ticket to enter. Also note that your shoulders have to be covered to enter the Cathedral or else you get to wear a very attractive covering similar to the ones we wore in Milan!
The last two places we visited on the square go hand in hand, the Camposanto Monumentale and the Sinopie Museum. The Camposanto is said to have been built on top of a shipload of holy soil brought from Golgotha (where Christ was crucified) during the Crusades. The Camposanto is a cemetary which served as the final resting place of Pisa’s elite beginning in the 12th century. The walls were lined with elaborate frescos that were almost nearly destroyed by a bombing raid in World War II. Today restoration is underway with the underlying prep layers of the frescoes, called sinopia, displayed in the Sinopie Museum.
With our early start and buying all our tickets ahead of time, it took us just over half the day to see all these historical attractions. When we arrived in the morning we had the Square almost to ourselves, however as we were leaving the Square was packed with people and lines out the doors to buy tickets! If you want some time to enjoy the Square of Miracles without the crowd be sure to go early! While there were other things we could do on the Square of Miracles, we headed back to the car to spend the rest of our afternoon in Lucca!