During my 70-day solo backpacking trip in Europe, I only allotted three days in Tuscany, a region in Italy best known for its wonderful landscapes and rich heritage in the sciences and the arts.
Tuscany is the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, and people like Dante, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, da Vinci, Galileo, Vespucci, and Puccini called it home.
There are six World Heritage sites in this region alone: its capital Firenze (Florence), Siena, Pisa, San Gimignano, Pienza, and Val d’Orcia, so I had a really difficult time deciding where to go.
Lacking the time to visit all, I ended up going to the small town of Pisa, an hour and 7 euros away by train from Firenze where I was staying with my Couchsurfing host.
I had no map (didn’t buy one since I thought it was too expensive at 5 euros to be used only once) so when I came out of the central station, I just walked straight in front of me, trusting my instinct to take me where I needed to go. I chose the small alleys and side streets, amazed at how peaceful they were compared to the main road.
After around 40 minutes, following several street signs, I finally arrived at the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) where the leaning bell tower is located.
The famous Tower of Pisa is actually just a part of the Duomo (Cathedral), and because of a weak foundation, it started sinking in 1178 while it was still being built. It was a good thing that construction stopped for almost a hundred years, giving the soil a chance to finally settle before the construction on the bell tower was resumed.
Aside from the bell tower, there are a lot to see in the Cathedral Square (or Piazza del Duomo, another name for Piazza dei Miracoli). It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, very understandable when you see all the medieval art there!
The major structures include the tower (entrance fee is 15 euros), the church, the Baptistry of St. John (in front of the Duomo), and the Camposanto (the old cemetery) on one side of the Piazza.
The whole square is a joy to photograph, especially as it was a sunny day in spring. I was content to take pictures of other people posing as if they were holding up the leaning tower of Pisa, but a group of Filipino overseas workers recognized me as a countryman and offered to take my picture. They also invited me to go with them to Genova; too bad I had to get back to Firenze that night.
On my way back to Florence and looking at the beautiful countryside of Tuscany, I deeply regretted that I didn’t have more time to spend there. I vowed to myself then that when I get another chance to go back to Europe, I would certainly stay at least a month in Italy to explore this absolutely wonderful region.
Have you seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa?