Pisa, it’s more than just a tower (Travel log of Italy)
Port of Livorno
As a native Oregonian, I should be able to ignore the rain showers as our Princess Cruise ship approached the largest sea port in Italy, the port of Livorno. Since ancient times, the city has always been an important port, holding as many as 300 ships in its harbor. The port was so important that for a time, Napoleon took over the city in 1808.
Built in a natural cove, Livorno was ruled by the Republic of Pisa throughout the Middle Ages. It was sold to Milan in 1399 (ruled by the Visconti family) and then in 1407, it was sold to Genoa. Finally, in 1421 Livorno was sold to Florence and for the next 300 years, it was under the rule of the Medici family.
Unfortunately, the city was damaged during the World War II bombings that destroyed many landmarks and historical buildings including the Cathedral and the Synagogue. We didn’t have much time at this port as we headed to the town of Pisa.
The town of Pisa
The distance from the port of Livorno to the town of Pisa is approximately 3 hours of motor-coaching through the winding, Tuscany country side and spotting their legendary wineries, and the occasional sheep. Our guide for the day, Martina, was very informative and once we arrived into the town of Pisa, our motor coach had to park only in areas reserved just for motor coaches. Definitely wear good walking shoes. Martina was instrumental in guiding us through the many cobblestone streets, back alleys and even a street named ‘Leonardo da Vinci’, to reach our destination – the leaning tower of Pisa.
Though the walk was about 35 minutes, our guide never stopped talking about the rich history of this town. The fascinating stone wall, seen on our walk around the city, is a prime example of a medieval wall that is mostly still intact. A major trade center, Pisa was under constant attack and is understandably why they built such a great wall. Our walk ended with a glimpse first of the beautiful and imposing Cathedral and Baptistery that are right next to the tower, which doesn’t get as much attention as the tower.
The Leaning Tower
Originally built as a freestanding bell tower for the city’s cathedral, it is a marvel of architectural wonder from the middle ages. The cathedral complex (or Piazza dei Miracoli, which means Field of Miracles), includes the cathedral, Baptistery and the bell tower. The first building constructed was the cathedral, or Duomo di Pisa, which rests on a white marble pavement and is an impressive example of Romanesque architecture. The next building added was the baptistery just west of the dome.
The tower was built on top of subsoil and due to the watery ground, the foundation was initially built only 10 feet deep.
Fun Fact: As the first story of the tower was completed, the south side began to sink. The builders tried to make it look better by building the columns and arches on the south side about an inch taller than those on the north side. However, by the time they got to the fourth story, they had to make the southern columns 2 inches taller than the northern ones. The tower just continued to lean, and because of the difficulties the construction was stopped. It would take 172 years to complete the tower, even as it leaned more and more.
This town is worth a second visit not only for the incredible history but to sample the many wineries and restaurants waiting to be discovered!
By Joyce Bates: Sun Connections Travel & Cruises is located in Beaverton and has become the ‘go to’ travel agency for all occasions. www.sunconnections.com. For more information or to book your next trip, call 503-655-4850 or email Joyce@sunconnections.com. **Travel Layaway plans available!