A guide to visiting Piazza del Duomo in Pisa

Thursday, 14 February 2015 8:55 AM

If you're planning to go on holiday to Pisa, there is one place that will be at the top of your itinerary - Piazza del Duomo. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is where some of the city's most famous attractions are housed, making it a must-visit.

Indeed, the square is home to four major tourist hotspots; the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Duomo of Santa Maria Assunta, Camposanto (a graveyard) and baptistry. You can easily spend an entire day here visiting these four important monuments, and as good a place to start as any is the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

This iconic attraction is famous the world over for its unusual slant that appears to defy gravity. The foundations collapsed in 1185 and work was halted on the tower for nearly 100 years, until architect Giovanni di Simone stepped in.

He managed to rein in the angle, allowing it to stand the test of time. You might have also heard of the architect's name as a result of him working on the bell tower at the San Francesco Church. The Leaning Tower of Pisa's seventh and final ring was added in the middle of the 14th century by Tommaso Pisano.

Next on your sightseeing list will no doubt be the Duomo of Santa Maria Assunta. This dominates the beautiful square, with construction starting in 1063. Fast forward 100 years, and the facade and nave were given a makeover and made to appear even more majestic. This huge cathedral boasts five aisles, along with several works of art, including the Giovanni Pisano-designed pulpit.

At the front of the cathedral is the baptistry, which is in honour of Saint John the Baptist. Step inside, and you will notice a cone-shaped cupola that is unusual due to its truncated shape. With a 107.25 m circumference, the baptistry is the biggest in the world.

Construction on the building started in 1153, but it was rebuilt in 1278, although it is unclear why this was the case. At the middle of the baptistry lies a font, while you should also take a closer look at the Nicola Pisano-designed pulpit that dates back to 1260.

The final attraction to visit within Piazza del Duomo is the Camposanto. This sacred burial ground was established in 1277 when the first stone was laid, although it took until 1464 for work to finish. There are many stunning frescoes to admire while wandering around this tourist site, including those by Benozzo Gozzoli, Piero di Puccio, Andrea da Firenze and Spinello Aretino. Of particular interest is the Triumph of Death, a work of art that has been attributed to the highly-regarded Buonamico Buffalmacco.

You can also see sinopie, which are original preliminary drawings of the breathtaking frescoes that were on display until the Camposanto was badly damaged during the second world war. The sinopie were revealed as a result of the attack, and have since been restored to their former glory.

Once you've sorted your itinerary as to what attractions to visit, you should think about booking flights, accommodation and finding the cheapest deal for a hire car at Pisa Airport. That way, you can rest assured you have all of the practical things to do out of the way, leaving you with as much time as possible to enjoy the sights of Piazza del Duomo.

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