This post describes our morning trip to the Field of Miracles in Pisa. First things first, Pisa didn’t interest me a lot when I planned this trip. I thought of it as a one sight wonder where people go just to take photos of themselves propping up the Leaning tower. And I was mostly right, 95% of the people at the field of miracles were doing just that!! But it also has some beautiful, relatively ignored sights like the Camposanto cemetery which made it worth my time.
We had booked trains to Pisa from Florence.(That is not a grammatical error, I had also booked a connecting train from Pisa Central which took us to a station very close to the field of miracles itself) At this point of time I must mention the excellent breakfast provided at the Konnubio cafe as a part of our booking at the Le Stanze Duomo. Ultra fresh croissants with chocolate and vanilla sauce oozing out at the first bite, excellent variety of egg dishes, cold cuts and fresh cheeses and the best brewed coffee I had in this entire trip. Now that I have finished drooling over the memories of the excellent breakfast lets get to the trip itself.
We had just packed a small day bag with us as we were going to stay overnight in the walled city of Lucca tonight before returning to Florence tomorrow. The train ride was a short one with only tourists and students for company. Pisa is as famous for its educational institutes in Italy as it is for the Leaning tower elsewhere. We changed trains to get to a station called Pisa San Rossore which is a short but dull walk to the Field of Miracles through a line of educational institutes.
The square outside the Field of Miracles is chock a block with stalls with Bangla people selling China made stuff, stuff nightmares are made of!!! We quickly moved into the compound past the stalls and into the walled Field of Miracles. It is without doubt a very beautiful place, elegant white structures on a pristine green lawn, the blue skies with cloud formations further accentuated its beauty.
We moved straight past the Baptistery and the Duomo to the tourist magnet that is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Looking at it in person the tower does look dangerously tilted and worth the effort of trying to hold it up in photos as everyone was trying to do!! We readily succumbed to the temptation and took photos trying to correct the tilt with our brute strength.( But I’m not going to post any here!!)
When we moved closer, we could hear strangely out of place Karate noises. And sure enough there was a demonstration of Karate going on at the base of the Tower – Kids breaking tiles held at different heights and the entire jamboree. But I was happy as it gave me something different to photograph with the tower.
We didn’t have any intention of climbing the tower itself because, a) It is exorbitantly expensive – It costs as much as the dome climbs at Florence, St Peters and the Guinigi Tower at Lucca combined. & b) Pisa is not that beautiful a city to view from top. So taking that much effort just to see the Cathedral and Baptistery roofs didn’t make much sense to me. So we watched the kids do their Karate for some time and then went to buy tickets for the other sights.
The Duomo entry is free but you have to collect vouchers for the same at the ticket office. We also bought a combined ticket for the Baptistery and the Camposanto Cemetery since these were the two structures which interested me. The Duomo is under some serious restoration work and most of the mosaics in the dome were boarded off. What I found very nice about the restoration efforts, not just here but all over Italy was, they would place a true size picture of the boarded-off area over the boards which looks very elegant.
The most famous art work inside the cathedral is an intricately carved pulpit by Pisano. ( I forget whether it was Senior or Junior Pisano, as both are famous for their elegant carvings) The Pulpit is a real work of art with no piece of marble left uncarved. Imagine the effort put into making such a basic thing so beautiful.
After the Duomo the next place we visited was the Camposanto Cemetery. The cemetery was a major attraction in Pisa before the cult of the Leaning tower started. It was also the only structure which suffered severe damage in World War II. It was rebuilt by the American soldiers and even today the age old frescos lining the walls are being restored. It is a serene place with a courtyard in the middle surrounded by corridors lined with frescos and over the top tombstones. Compared to the zoo outside we were the only people enjoying the serene beauty of the Camposanto cemetery.
The tombstones have statues and carved relief fit for museum pieces. Each one was grander than the previous one. It was like they were trying to outdo the previous tombs as time went on. There is also a room displaying photos depicting the devastation caused by bombs in the World War. So to see it in this glorious state today is testament to the restoration done.
I was glad that I had researched about the cemetery and not just clicked photos of the tower and waltzed off!! The next part of the field we visited was the Baptistery. The exterior is a perfectly cylindrical base lined with columns and arches topped by a half tiled & half lead lined dome.
The interior has another Pisano pulpit and a huge baptismal pond in the centre. It is also possible to climb to the top gallery of the baptistery for a birds eye view of the space below. There is also a demonstration of the superb acoustics of the baptistery every hour, which we were lucky enough to witness.
As we got out of the Baptistery I realised that the best view of the Duomo facade was from the Baptistery doors which gave a perfectly end-on view. The five tiers of arches capped by a bronze Mary and baby Jesus must have looked imposing for the people entered the Cathedral after a baptism.
That concluded our Pisa sightseeing, we had meandered around this beautiful place for more than 3 hours. We had packed our lunch before leaving Florence, so we decided to have our lunch just outside the limits of the historic site, so as not to be hit with a heavy fine that picnicking on the lawns attracts. With a final look at the tipsy tower, we moved on to our next destination of Lucca.
Lucca deserves a separate post as it was one my favourite destinations in this trip. So see you next time from the walls of Lucca.