The infamous Leaning Tower of Pisa has been so lampooned down through history that many people are actually unaware that it is not a stand alone tourist attraction. The quirky, white marble masterpiece of a building actually constitutes just one of an incredible trio of buildings that grace what is known in Italian as the Campo dei Miracoli- quite literally, the Field of Miracles.
An amazing triple flourish dominates the grassy expanse of the complex, comprising of the Duomo, the vast Romanesque cathedral, an elegant Baptistery, and, of course, the infamous Bell Tower itself, the Campanile.
By far the biggest and most expansive of these buildings is the stunning cathedral. Construction originally started on it in 1062, some four years prior to William the Conquerer’s invasion of Great Britain. It’s a staggering sight; sheathed in floor to ceiling grey marble and white stone, it is entered by a pair of vaulting, bronzed doors installed in 1595.
Inside, you are almost literally overwhelmed by acres of glistening, black and white marble. Overhead, a fantastically gilded ceiling leads up to the vast, frescoed dome the looms above everything else. You could spend the whole day just breathing in the sumptuous, overblown splendour of this cool, vaulting, marble clad colossus. But the Field of Miracles has far more to show you.
Off to the west of the cathedral is the Baptistery, a squat, hulking Romanesque construction that began to take shape in 1153. With a circumference well in excess of three hundred feet, this is the largest surviving building of the kind in Italy, and the marble clad facade bears many of the ornate, overly fussed decorative elements found on the cathedral. Inside, the surprisingly spartan interior has some truly amazing acoustics.
Last, but far from least on the public radar, is the infamous Leaning Tower, a soaring, white marble wedding cake now slanted a full fourteen feet from the perpendicular. It’s demise has been gleefully predicted since construction began in 1173. It took a full 177 years to complete; a quirky white colossus, shearing against a powder blue Tuscan sky.
And that infamous lean? Five years after construction began, when the building had already reached the third tier, it became obvious that a pronounced ‘lean’ was beginning to manifest itself. Partially, this was down to the poor quality of the foundations but, in main, it was as a result of the overly soft sub soil. The architects wisely left it for a hundred years, allowing the soil to harden, before resuming construction.
You can climb the 206 steps to the top, and savour an amazing panorama. But, truth be told, the most amazing vistas of all are to be had at ground level, across the vast, sprawling expanse of this amazing. awe inspiring complex.
So, to give you an appetiser, here are some of the visual highlights of this amazing triple flourish- the fabled Campo dei Miracoli.