I had hoped that my visit to Pisa would be brief, a quick climb up the leaning (bell) tower, take a picture or two and off to my next destination. I’m glad to report that my visit was not brief and because of this I was able to spend time exploring the city.
But first things first, the Parkings app directed me to a large car park where I was able to stay unrestricted and without cost. It was situated about a mile from the tower and the cycle paths made the cycle journey very pleasant. The downside was the limited number of cycle racks to park the bike near the tower. I was a lovely surprise to discover public fountains to refill my water bottle, this was a theme I was to encounter throughout my ‘Grand Tour’.
To visit the leaning tower, you have to reserve a ticket. I turned up on the day and was able to book a ticket (€18) and only had to wait four hours for my time slot. I only wanted to visit the Tower, so opted out of the Baptistery. I don’t want to say once you have seen one, you have seen them all, but I was feeling a cultural overload and Rome was yet to come.
I turned up 15 minutes before my allotted time and was very pleased with the military like organisation, although the military were also on hand to over see proceedings. The tower at 183 feet is a bit of a climb to the top, but the views of the cathedral and baptistery are magnificent. What did surprise me was the sensation of ascending and descending each time I completed a loop on the ascent. It almost made me want to do the climb again, but not quite. As mentioned previously, it is free to visit cathedrals and again I wasn’t disappointed by its splendor.
A quick hop on the bike and over the Arno river at Ponte Solferino and you will encounter Chiesa di Santa Maria della Spina, which has spectacular carvings, probably by Lupo di Francesco. I found myself wandering along Corso Italia and the plethora of shops, I was enthralled by this lovely part of the city. I could have stayed here a lot longer, but San Gimignano was calling with its 13 towers and undoubtedly steep stairwells.