So there we were, driving back to Torino after our winter holiday in Tuscany. While driving, Paolo reads a passing road sign out loud, “Pisa. Oh yeah, we’re in Pisa now.”
“Pisa. As in Pisa, Pisa. Like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pisa.” I asked. Paolo, ever so casual about the charms of his country “Do you want to stop and see Pisa before lunch?” Me, “Uhm, YES!”
Leaning Tower of Pisa
Coming from America, I know how ridiculous this sounds.
To be “just passing by” and casually deciding to make a last minute stop to see, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. You know, on the way to lunch.
That is however, exactly what happened.
Pisa in One Day
As we drove into town, Paolo warned “In Italy, Pisa is not known as a beautiful city. It’s really just the tower.” I didn’t care. There was no way I was passing up a chance to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
After passing the train station and local Pam grocery store on Viale delle Cascine, I turned my head and exclaimed, “There it is! Look Bello, I can see it!” Sure enough, a gleaming tower leaned in the distance, against a bright blue sky.
Paolo had not seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa since his boyhood days in Italy. A lot had changed.
Restorations completed in 2014 had brought the original luster back to Pisa. Just in time for the 450th Birthday of it’s native Pisan, Galileo.
Parking Near the Leaning Tower of Pisa
It’s not only entirely possible to stop last minute to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, it’s easy to park nearby. We found an open spot quickly at Parcheggio di Piazza dei Miracoli, just a seven minute walk away.
Before exiting the parking lot, we stopped at a ticket machine. A plastic green coin rolled out, the likes of which we’d never seen in Italy. Clunk.
We began to wonder if this last minute stop was a mistake. We had no way of knowing what the parking would cost. If there were long lines, pricey admission or swarms of tourists ahead.
Would this stop mean missing the romantic lakeside lunch reservation Paolo had made just that morning?
After a brief pause looking down at that green coin, Paolo said “screw it, we’re here, let’s go!”
Getting to the Leaning Tower of Pisa
You can take a train to the Pisa S. Rossore stop, or hop a tour bus to get to The Leaning Tower of Pisa but we were on foot and moving fast.
Hand and hand we dashed out of the parking lot onto the sidewalk, laughing like high schoolers playing hooky. This wasn’t on the agenda. We didn’t have much time before our lunch reservation, run!
Rounding the corner onto bus lined Giovanni Battista Niccolini, Paolo expertly weaved us through the souvenir market at Porta Nuova. As we breached the medieval gateway, the expansive green lawn of Piazza del Duomo opened up in front of us.
Peaking out from behind the Romanesque grand Cattedrale di Pisa, the Leaning Tower of Pisa reclined in her classic pose as tourists pretended to hold her up for a picture.
Our burst of spontaneity had spurred us into tourist mode. We both took a pose of our own.
Mine an attempt to lean in for a kiss.
Paolo’s keeping Pisa up with his head.
The beauty of Piazza Dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) is undeniable. As we took a moment to soak up the magic of our impromptu stop, Paolo filled me in on why the Leaning Tower of Pisa, leans.
History of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Built in 1173, the Tower of Pisa stood upright for five years before it started to lean. Imagine being a Pisan back then.
“Is, is that tower leaning?”
“No, certainly not? How much wine did you have?”
“Yep. That’s definitely leaning.”
It was a mistake, the leaning. Built on clay not fit to support the weight, Italians had hoped it would settle safely. Between waiting to see and wars, construction stopped for nearly 100 years.
In 1964 complex counterweights were put in place to prevent collapse but keep the lean. Then in 1987 the Leaning Tower of Pisa became a UNESCO world heritage site.
Pisa Italy Points of Interest
We didn’t have the time to stop and see all the sights that day. The clock was ticking on our nearby lunch reservation.
As we walked back across Piazza Dei Miracoli, Paolo pointed out the the Fontana dei Putti, the Palazzo dell’Opera and the Battistero di San Giovanni. All gleaming white after their renovations.
At the end of the day, we were only twenty minutes late for our lunch reservation. There had been tourists, but no lines or tickets needed just to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and take a few pictures. The parking, was only 4€.
After our lunch by lake Massaciuccoli, we got back on the road to get home before nightfall. The drive gave me time to express my gratitude towards Paolo.
He humors my travel whims with laughter and tries his best to show me, as much of Italy as he can. Paolo is a scholar with a mind for history, a passion for art and the heart of a wonderful husband.