While at the moment the closest we can get to Italian travel is a trip to the deli counter in the supermarket, things will eventually return to normal. And, when they do, here at Walkabout Florence we’ll be ready and raring to show off all the wonderful things to do in Tuscany to our wonderful clients once again.
Our Tuscany in a Day tour is not only our most comprehensive, it’s also our clients’ favourite. It’s a pretty big challenge to pack just one day with all the best things to do in Tuscany, but I’m delighted to say we’re pretty confident we’ve done it! We take you out into the stunning countryside to visit Siena, Chianti (vino anyone?), San Gimignano and, naturally, Pisa, for a truly glorious fun and food filled day.
But even though our guides can’t get out there on the road to all the iconic monuments and attractions in person right now, they’ve been looking for ways to keep themselves inspired and bring all the things to do in Tuscany to life in the living rooms of all our potential clients.
One of our most passionate guides (a leader of our Tuscany in a Day tour) has come up with a great way to do her job without actually having to be there. She scoured the internet for some of the best ‘virtual tours’ of Pisa’s most important attractions and put her very own spin on them! We think it could be the perfect solution until you can get to do the real thing. Here’s what she has to say…
Explore the Monuments of Pisa from Your Home
Pisa is one of the most famous cities in Italy and, when it comes to things to do in Tuscany, a visit to this cultural and historical gem is an absolute must. Here at Walkabout Florence we’re proud of each and every stop we’ve incorporated into our tours, but it’s possible we’ve got a couple of favourites. And it could be that Pisa just might be one of them…
But, for now, the reality is that we can’t go anywhere. Or can we?
The enforced lockdown on travel is actually a wonderful time to do some research into the history of some of the touristic attractions we take for granted. Come with me…
The Leaning Tower
Ah, Pisa’s most famous monument, you think you know it, right? Well there are quite a few things that might surprise you and, to be honest, there’s nothing quite like seeing it in the flesh. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a few interesting facts from your armchair at home. (Here’s an amazing 360-degree view from the outside as it sits in the Piazza dei Miracoli.)
While not everyone I take to Pisa wants to climb the tower, I strongly recommend that if you’re physically up to it, you do. Yes, it’s a bit of a climb (nearly 300 steps!) and it’s certainly not for the faint hearted, but the views from the top are unbelievable. You can see right over the city and the surrounding Tuscan countryside. This excellent video not only gives you a taste of those views, you’ll also get an idea of what it’s like to climb it. Again, it’s not quite like doing it yourself, but soon enough…
Construction on the campanile (or what we’d call a bell tower) was begun in the twelfth century and there were problems right from the start. It is built on a former swamp (hence the name ‘Pisa’ which comes from the ancient Greek for ‘marshy land’) and, when you know that it’s sitting on shifty sub-soil it goes some way to explaining that famous lean.
The truth is that most experts now believe that there was a basic error of judgement in its engineering: a structure this tall (around 57 metres) and this heavy (about 14,500 tonnes) would need very deep and solid foundations to remain stable. In fact, the foundations go down only three metres. Its ‘centre of mass’ is actually the only thing that keeps it standing, and it’s pretty amazing that it hasn’t fallen down over the centuries.
There have been multiple rescue attempts, of varying success, over the tower’s history (including an ill-fated one by Mussolini), but in 1990 it was finally closed to visitors as the situation was getting dire. The ensuing attempt to stabilise it was almost catastrophic but it was eventually brought back from the brink and re-opened to visitors in 2001. It’s a pretty fascinating story and I found this video that gives you a really good idea as to just how close we came to losing this iconic monument. Thank goodness we didn’t as it’s one of the most popular things to do in Tuscany.
While the Leaning Tower is the star of the show in Pisa, the Piazza dei Miracoli is also home to the stunning Baptistery, which is the largest in the country. The Battistero di San Giovanni, to give it its full name, dates back to 1152, and its marble construction, in the Gothic and Pisan Romanesque style, endows it with a beauty that’s as impressive as its size. How big? Big: 55 metres high and more than 100 metres in circumference.
A little known fact is that it too is on a slight tilt! This video I found gives you a fantastic view of both the inside and outside of the Baptistery and you can get some idea of the size with the 360-degree interior images. But good as it is, I’m sorry to say that nothing prepares you for the experience of standing in this incredible echoing construction in person. It’s a start though, to whet your appetite.
The last important tenant in the Piazza dei Miracoli is the magnificent Cathedral of Pisa, or Duomo. Constructed from 1063-1092, it is a truly stunning example of Romanesque architecture and is considered one of the most impressive churches in Italy. Its full name is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and, with its gleaming white marble edifice, bronze doors, spectacular elliptical dome (added later, in 1380) and intricate interiors, it’s no surprise it’s such a popular and revered attraction. The interiors are something else, with exquisite Byzantine mosaics, monolithic columns, golden ceilings and the Giovanni Pisano designed pulpit. This video gives you an armchair tour inside this incredible building so you can prepare yourself for the real thing. Next year?
While watching videos and reading about these amazing feats of engineering is entertaining and hopefully very inspiring, of course it can’t possibly compete with the real thing. But the experience of visiting these culturally and historically important sites in Pisa in person will be made all the more exceptional for understanding some of the background to what you’ll see.
The Tuscany in a Day tour is one of our most popular for a very good reason! We’ve selected the very best things to do in Tuscany and packaged them up in one fun-filled, fabulous day. We can’t wait to see you soon!
We Are Walkabout Florence
Here at Walkabout Florence we’re renowned as one of the top in the industry, specialising in fun filled day tours that show you the best things to do in Tuscany and the heart and soul of Italy’s art, culture, history and cuisine. Not only are our guides friendly and knowledgeable, they’re totally committed to our guests’ satisfaction. With everything from food and wine experiences, Fiat 500 and Vespa tours and cultural day tours, we always strive to provide the most memorable and fulfilling experience possible.