Today I have chosen a small city that is easy to get around on foot: Pisa, with its famous leaning tower. Thanks to that apparently precarious angle (but don’t worry, it is stable), it is one of the most iconic images of Italy; is there anyone who doesn’t know it?
Everyone is familiar with this Tower, but few people know that it is actually the bell tower for the Duomo and was built behind the church, where it stands in isolation.
But why does this famous Tower of Pisa lean so much? It’s simple, the ground began to give way even while it was being built, in the 12th century. To offset this problem, during construction, they used supporting blocks; which is why construction went on for almost 2 centuries. However, the leaning was never resolved. In fact, quite the opposite.
When you look at it, it seems miraculous that it has stayed up for so long. Furthermore, the square on which it stands is actually called “Piazza dei Miracoli” [Square of Miracles]! Another original feature of this place is the use of grass instead of paving: I mean really, a cathedral square with....a lawn?! So this is also known as the "Campo dei Miracoli" [Field of Miracles]." Nice name, don't you think?
If you want to get in your daily steps, you can try clambering the 300 steps to the top of the Tower. From there you’ll be able to admire the other monuments in the square (as well as the Duomo –the Cathedral –, there are the Battistero –the Baptistry –and the old cemetery or Camposanto). You can gaze at the beautiful view across the entire city, with the hills and the sea on the horizon. Here we are outside the old city walls, not actually in the old town itself.
Now we can amble slowly into the center. First we’ll walk through Borgo Stretto: it’s unbelievable! There are two more leaning towers here, close to the churches of San Nicola and San Michele degli Scalzi* –the ground in these parts really is quite unforgiving .... Then we’ll stopto admire the Lungarno (yes, the same river that runs through Florence –the Arno -also runs through Pisa), with its aristocratic buildings, not least the Palazzo de’ Medici and Palazzo Toscanelli.
But that’s enough chat for now, the time has come for the customary break to satisfy our refined palates. Today there's no question, no one is going to keep me away from a slice of Cecìna. This is a type of focaccia but it’s made with farina di ceci or chickpea flour (from which it takes its name), water and olive oil. The best kind is crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and has a wonderful smell of the ever-versatile olive. Absolutely delicious!
Revived by our snack, we are ready for the next leg of our journey: we're heading back to Liguria, I’ll write you from Portofino!
*Did you know? This word in Italian means "barefoot": but fear not, when it comes to shoes, we’re the experts! ;)