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Thanks to its infamous leaning tower, Pisa is known the world over. However, the tower is just one of a collection of magnificent buildings in the Campo dei Miracoli or Field of Miracles, that date to the city's heyday as a major maritime power between the 11th and 13th centuries. The arresting walled square is home to the cathedral, baptistry, cemetery and bell tower, which together form one of the world’s greatest collections of Romanesque architecture. Beyond the glorious square, the city has a youthful vibrancy thanks to its elite university, where Pisa’s most famous son, Galileo, was once a professor.

To get the most out of Pisa, go with a guide. Most visitors only climb the Leaning Tower, but don’t neglect its adjoining cathedral and baptistery. The baptistery has its own secret – its spectacular acoustics.

Italy specialist Caroline

Things to see and do in Pisa

The Leaning Tower

Construction of Pisa’s iconic bell tower began in 1173 and encountered issues with subsidence right from the start. Over the next 200 years a number of different architects attempted to correct the lean, eventually making the height of the tiers shorter on one side to even things out. By 1990 however, the tower was tilting 4.5m off the vertical and drastic steps were needed to shore it up. With the aid of steel braces and the removal of tons of earth, the lean was corrected by about 44cm (17 in) and the tower reopened to the public in 2001.

Duomo

Construction on Pisa's lavish medieval cathedral began in 1064 and, when completed in 1118, it was the largest in Europe. The marble façade features a series of tall blind arches topped by four tiers of open galleries with delicate columns. Three elaborate 16th-century bronze doors mark the entrance and lead to a soaring interior with a gilded coffered ceiling. The interior of the cathedral was largely destroyed in a fire in 1595, but the intricate 14th-century pulpit carved from Cararra marble by Giovanni Pisano survived, as did the impressive mosaic work in the apse. Other artworks in the cathedral date from the Renaissance period.

Baptistry

Pisa's ornate, round baptistry is the largest in Italy and is topped by a double dome adorned with a bronze of Saint John the Baptist. The building clearly demonstrates the changes in architectural styles over the period of its construction with rounded Romanesque arches on the lower levels and pointed Gothic arches above. Inside, the marble pulpit was sculpted by Nicola Pisano, but the most remarkable feature is the perfect acoustics created by the double dome. It's worth climbing to the Upper Gallery on the half hour to hear the custodian demonstrating the resonating sound effects.

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Audley Travel Specialist George

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