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Say Pisa and everyone immediately pictures what is perhaps Italy’s most iconic landmark, the Leaning Tower. This is far from the only Italian tower that leans at an alarming angle, but this one is an exquisite work of art in addition to its famous tilt. The tower is the campanile (bell tower) of the 11th-century Duomo (the cathedral), the epitome of the local Romanesque style of church architecture seen all over Tuscany. Inside, the mosaic in the apse is by Cimabui and the delicate marble pulpit is by Pisano. The third member of the trinity that makes up important Italian cathedral complexes is the Baptistery, and this one is worthy of the ...

Say Pisa and everyone immediately pictures what is perhaps Italy’s most iconic landmark, the Leaning Tower. This is far from the only Italian tower that leans at an alarming angle, but this one is an exquisite work of art in addition to its famous tilt. The tower is the campanile (bell tower) of the 11th-century Duomo (the cathedral), the epitome of the local Romanesque style of church architecture seen all over Tuscany. Inside, the mosaic in the apse is by Cimabui and the delicate marble pulpit is by Pisano. The third member of the trinity that makes up important Italian cathedral complexes is the Baptistery, and this one is worthy of the other two, mostly the work of the Pisano family, with another magnificent pulpit by Nicolo Pisano. But this ecclesiastical complex on a campo outside Pisa’s city center has even more. So that wealthy Pisans could be buried in holy soil, shiploads of dirt were carried here from the Holy Land to fill the Camposanto, an enormous cemetery surrounded by walls. Frescoes decorate these, along with statuary, and the tombs themselves. While nearly every important Duomo has a museum, most are of somewhat limited interest. Not this one, which not only displays priceless works of art – an ivory Madonna by Giovanni Pisano, for example – but it offers the best close-up view of the Leaning Tower from its balcony.

Stillman Rogers
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Stillman Rogers has written more than two dozen guidebooks, including Adventure Guide to Canada's Atlantic Provinces, Guide to Eastern Canada, and Adventure Guide to the Chesapeake.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Tuscany, Central Italy, on the Arno River
  • Language: Italian
  • Currency: Euro
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Rainfall
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