Tour of Italy: Pisa (Day 5)

As I walked with my tour group along the city wall, we approached the open gates slowly, unsure if we were to go straight in or wait for our guide. Peering through the gate we saw in the distance one of the most iconic buildings of Italy: the Leaning Tower. We were finally in Pisa.

We walked through the gates and everyone immediately began taking photos. Our bus tour guide hurried us along because we had an appointment with a local tour guide who would tell us about the three major buildings in the city: the Leaning Tower, the Cathedral and the Baptistry.

The first interesting piece of information our new tour guide told us was that the Leaning Tower was simply a bell tower. For such a famous and architecturally splendid building to have such a common function was quite surprising. Yet the building does have one remarkable claim-to-fame: it is the location where Galileo performed his experiments regarding falling bodies.

She also informed us that because Pisa was once located on a river delta (the river has since moved over time) and was a city on islands much like Venice, the swampiness of the subsoil has caused all of the buildings in Pisa to lean. Both the cathedral and baptistry were also leaning.

Our next stop was the Cathedral. Inside it was unlike any other cathedral I’d ever seen. It looked almost Middle Eastern in its appearance. After walking around and exploring every corner of the structure, our guide pointed out one of the most impressive parts of the building– the ceiling. A series of carved wooded squares overlain with gold made the ceiling a spectacular accent to an already gorgeous structure.

Finally we headed to the baptistry. Pisa’s baptistry is the largest in Europe and such a large structure made of stone creates an amazing acoustic space. The choir students whom I was traveling with noticed this as well and gave an impromptou performance to test out these acoustics first-hand.

After a quick bite to eat in a local cafe, we headed back towards the busses and returned to Florence where the students had an evening performance in a local church. The church was filled and the performance went off without a hitch, making for a nice end to an overall pleasant day in Italy.

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