Confession: at times on our independent trip around the world, we are absolutely, unabashedly tourists.
“We’re foodies. We’re fans of great design. I love taking pictures. Ted loves drinking coffee. We play the tourist part, signing up for guided treks, sailing the seas on a cruise ship, and snapping cliched shots at guidebook hotspots…”
–Writing Honestly From the Road
When the opportunity to visit Pisa and see the monumental sights presented itself, we penciled out our itinerary excitedly as adventures began falling into place.
(Falling? Get it?)
(Okay, moving on…)
Our savvy tourist approach to visiting the city of Pisa?
Instead of a) avoiding the area altogether in protest against tourist traps b) visiting with the masses and spending two hours (or more!) waiting in line to climb the leaning tower for views of the Piazza and surrounding countryside, we chose c) the best of all worlds: a make-the-most-of-our-time tour of the famous sights with Walks of Italy, and a trendy-hole-in-the-wall two-night stay with our travel writing friends and Pisa natives, Kinzica and Alessandro.
We hopped a train from Bologna to Pisa via Florence and were grateful to be met by our Walks of Italy guide, Sara, upon arrival at the station. We checked our bags into storage and then followed her along on the local bus system directly to Pisa’s Piazza Dei Miracolli (Square of Miracles).
Sara’s a friendly woman about our age who grew up in the city and now shows visitors the famous remnants of this Middle Age republic.
Fun, that moment we first laid eyes on the icon:
Leaning, yes, with a bit of a banana curve.
Someone recognized after building three floors that all was not well on the construction site, and they halted work on the structure for one hundred years until another few brave architects and engineers took a crack at it.
Oi. I’m glad I wasn’t on that project.
Since our tour included skip-the-line access to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, we didn’t have to while away our time waiting to climb the tower.
Instead, we took in the views at the Piazza dei Miracoli, admired the Baptistery, and spent about an hour exploring the Camposanto (Monumental Cemetery) and the Duomo (the main cathedral) while Sara offered to explain history and answer questions about the buildings and their design and ornamentation.
Afterward, we made our way to the tower entry, waited for the clock to strike the appointed time, and headed straight for the stairs.
Not going to lie: there was a bit of vertigo involved!
Imagine, circular stairs in a state of shifting alignment with gravity. We wound around and around (and around), eventually popping back, a bit disoriented, into daylight.
Ted called it quits at the fourth floor (too much vertigo); I ventured the rest of the way to the top to take in the far-off scenery and send a wave back down to him in the square below.
From the vantage point way up high, it’s impossible not to spot tourists doing crazy poses. The scene can’t help but invite optical illusions shots (flashback: Bolivian salt flats).
The setting also runs the risk of churning out those terribly cheesy just-stand-there poses.
You know, like the one on the left:
There it is. The photo for our grandkids to laugh at…
We’ll admit, making our way to see the hotspots and taking the prove-it-pictures are all part of the experience, and it felt pretty great to see the square, breeze through the line, view Pisa from the top, snap the shots, and escape the masses unscathed.
The secret to being a savvy tourist is in finding the classy, efficient route and relishing the visit.
Stay tuned for Paying Pisa a Savvy Visit Part II in which we venture beyond the Piazza Dei Miracolli for a local lunch of cecina, a hidden skyline view, and a road trip beyond city limits in search of ancient curiosities, historical oddities, artisan pizza, and microbrew.
If you find yourself planning a trip to Pisa, check out the details on two hour speed date with the city’s fair symbols at Walks of Italy’s VIP Access – Pisa’s Leaning Tower and Square of Miracles.
We are grateful to Walks of Italy for inviting us to review current and soon-to-be-launched private tour itineraries during our time in Umbria, Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, and the Veneto. Walks of Italy provided the experiences; our words and images are our own. For more on how Walks of Italy fits into our Italian Adventure, check out our Definitionarium.