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Tower of love; 60 SECOND GUIDE TO PISA, ITALY.

Byline: BRIDGET MCGROUTHER

Pisa takes some topping

Pisa in the heart of Tuscany is famous for its leaning tower but this beautiful city has so much more to offer. The Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) is one of the world's most impressive squares with its trio of Romanesque beauties. Small enough to walk around the main sights, Pisa is also close to Lucca, Florence, Siena and Livorno.

Sail of the century

Once right on the sea, Pisa grew as an important naval base and port. The city's golden era stretched from the ninth to the 13th centuries. Many of the city's finest buildings date from then.

Hip to be square

The Campo dei Miracoli takes your breath away. The Duomo, the Battistero (Baptistry) and Torre Pendente (Leaning Tower) all stand within the square, drawing flocks of culture vultures.

Slope off

Tourists pose for photos at the foot of the Leaning Tower, most pretending to push it back up. This architectural disaster began to lean even before it was complete due to its unstable base. Now re–opened after being shored up, it doesn't take long to scale the sloping 294 steps, although those with vertigo may think better of it.

Monumental cost

As visitor numbers are limited, you need to book your time slot at a ticket office where you also leave any bags in a security locker. You can buy tickets for all the monuments – or just single entry, though at 15 euro for the Leaning Tower alone, it isn't cheap. However, it's worth it for the experience.

Say a little prayer

Pisa's majestic Duomo was the inspiration for Romanesque churches throughout Tuscany and even on Sardinia. Striking dark green and cream Carrara marble was used extensively in the decoration. The main facade is adorned with four tiers of columns, while the 16th century bronze doors replaced the originals destroyed by fire.

Baptism of fire

The cupcake–shaped Battistero was started in 1153 but wasn't completed until the 14th century. It is Pisan–Romanesque on the lower level but the upper dome and pinnacles are Gothic. Its unusual circular shape gives remarkable acoustics, so listen to a choir singing if you can.

Scoop the best seat

The restaurants clustered around the foot of the monuments are of varying quality but if you're on a budget, you can always have a picnic on the lawns or steps. Treat yourself to a delicious Italian gelato for dessert.

Feeling old?

It's an easy stroll from the Campo dei Miracoli south along the banks of the River Arno into the Borgo Stretto, the old town. As well as hitting the bars and restaurants, don't miss the impressive Piazza del Cavalieri and Palazzo del Cavalieri.

Shop till you drop

Browse the elegant, colonnaded designer stores, such as Gucci and Armani in the Borgo Stretto. There are also more affordable shops for bargain buys.

Picture this…

Along the waterfront boulevard, you'll find the Museo Nazionale di San Matteo, a fine gallery featuring works by Giovanni, Donatello and Nicola Pisano. Other museums include the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo with its artefacts from the cathedral, tower and baptistery, as well as the Museo delle Sinopie, famed for frescoes.

Pisa pie

Fly to Pisa with Ryanair from Edinburgh, Prestwick, Leeds Bradford or Liverpool or with Jet 2 from Belfast, Leeds Bradford, Manchester or Newcastle. You can catch a bus or train to the city centre, from where you can get connections to Florence and other parts of Italy.

CAPTION(S):

Impressive... Town buildings

Water view... River homes

Lean city... Famous tower
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 23, 2012
Words:599
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