Within the town of Pisa is the Piazza dei Miracoli, which translates to The Square of Miracles. It is home to one of the most iconic architectural marvels, namely the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Not only is the tower a popular attraction for the funny pictures taken by visitors, but it’s part of a collection of buildings which epitomise the beauty of European medieval art. Within this guide we’re not only going to focus on the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but also the other buildings within the square, because they are equally as impressive.
What is The Square of Miracles in Pisa?
Based within a walled square you will find some of the most beautiful buildings in the world. In all honesty we went to Pisa purely to see the Leaning Tower, but we didn’t realise how pretty it was and how many stunning buildings surrounded it. Now the first thing to tell you is that the square itself is completely free to enter, which is a rarity for travellers. If you simply want to wander around and take in the sights then you can do so freely, but if you choose to enter any of the buildings then you will have to buy a ticket for most of them; especially the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The square houses the following buildings which are all owned by the Catholic Church, and they are;
- Pisa Church
- Pisa Baptistry
- Camposanto Monumentale
Within the area you will also find the New Hospital of the Holy Spirit, the Sinopias Museum and the Cathedral Museum. You may notice we haven’t mentioned the tower? That’s because the Leaning Tower of Pisa is called the Campanile, because it’s actually a bell tower.
The Square of Miracles was named by the Italian writer Gabriele d’Annunizo who called it the ‘meadow of miracles’. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and is considered a symbol for life. This is because it reflects the main stages in a person’s life, the Baptistery for birth, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta for life and the Camposanto Monumentale which is a cemetery and as such would connect to death.
There is plenty of walking space and lush green grass everywhere, which brings out the colours and beauty of the buildings surrounding you.
History of the Square of Miracles
In 1064 they began the construction of the Duomo which is the Cathedral dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta. The baptistery then started in 1152, as did the wall and twenty years later the bell tower known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa began. It wasn’t until 1277 that the graveyard commenced, with all work being completed by the 19th century.
So, here’s a little more about each of the buildings.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the Duomo
For most of you walking into the Square of Miracles, this is the first building you will see. As with the rest of the monuments the Cathedral has a black and white look to it, reminiscent to other popular attractions in Italy. This is due to the Arab or Islamic influences that were prevalent to the area at the time. For example, if you look at the columns within the Duomo, you will find a striking similarity to ones found in mosques. Many of the buildings from that era were made from reused materials of Roman monuments, which enhanced the decorative extravagant features. Within the Cathedral you will be welcomed by two rows of monolithic columns and lots of ornate decoration, which can only be expected from a building of that era.
The Cathedral is huge and simply breath-taking, so it is well worth taking the time to wander around. This was difficult for us because we visited Pisa as part of a cruise tour and as such only had an hour.
Near the Cathedral is the baptistry which is the largest one in Italy and provides a gothic atheistic which was reminiscent of the time. The dome of the baptistry matches the cathedral in that it has an Islamic style and is surrounded by beautiful green lawns. In comparison it is a smaller space, but still, it is worth taking a moment to have a look at the impressive architecture.
The Graveyard or Camposanto Monumentale
Known as the monumental cemetery, old cemetery, or holy field, the Camposanto is found on the northern side of the Square of Miracles. There is legend that the soil within the cemetery is from Golgotha which is a site outside the walls of Jerusalem and that because this soil is sacred, any body buried there will dissolve in a mere 24 hours.
Camposanto was built over an earlier burial ground, and it is a wonderful example of gothic architecture. There are 43 arches on the outer and inner walls, with a number of tombs found under the arches and on the central lawn.
There are three chapels in the Camposanto called the Chapel Ammannati, Chapel Aulla and Chapel Dal Pozzo. You will find historic relics connected to the twelve Apostles such as a thorn from the ‘Crown of Thorns’, fragments from the ‘True Cross’ and a piece of garment from the Virgin Mary.
Alike the other two building the Camposanto Monumentale was a beautiful sight and perfect for those of you interested in Catholic relics and history.
The Campanile Known as The Leaning Tower of Pisa
Probably this is the information you have been waiting for because most people who visit the Square of Miracles come to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We’ve mentioned above but we actually visited the Square of Miracles for one reason alone and that was the tower. It was during a cruise holiday where we were taken to Pisa and then Florence, which meant we only got one hour within the square itself. That’s not a long time when you have so much to see, but it is do-able, depending on the time of year and how busy the crowds are. We visited in June 2022 and although there were quite a few people when we arrive, we still managed quite a bit.
To start with we expected the tower to be on its own, or in the middle of a city or town, a little like the Duomo in Florence. When we arrived at this walled square and saw the other beautiful buildings we were surprised. Although wanting to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa, we didn’t think we would be as taken with it as we were. As you can imagine we have seen some incredible sights around the world, so this was just another tick off the bucket list. But we absolutely loved it, especially when you add in the surroundings. The look of the tower matches the other buildings, especially with its white marble design and eight columned stories including the chamber for the bell.
Of course, this icons fame is because it has a 5-degree lean, which is due to the foundation of the tower. As the third story of the tower was build it was noticed that due to the foundations which were a mixture of clay, sand, and shells, it had settled unevenly. There were still another five stories planned to be added, but due to the Pisa and Genoa war this was delayed for nearly a century. By delaying the building work, the foundations were able to settle further which is said to have stopped the tower from collapsing.
For those of you who like your stats, then the Leaning Tower of Pisa is 55 meters high and there are 294 steps to the top: so not for the faint hearted. Each level has galleries and arcades, with the exception of the last one which is home to 7 bells, because after all this is a freestanding bell tower.
Tickets for The Leaning Tower of Pisa and Square of Miracles
Our first piece of advice is to always pre-book your tickets for the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This is a really popular attraction and can get busy, especially during the peak season of summer. You may find that the tower is booked weeks in advance, so once you have decided to go to Miracle Square think about getting tickets. By having a time slot in advance, you will skip a number of lines and save time. The process for booking is pretty easy, it’s similar to other attractions websites, you just have to know which of the buildings you wish to visit in the Square of Miracles.
Remember you can walk around the square and see the buildings and tower for free, there is no entry cost at the walls. That was a big surprise for us and it’s probably another reason why this spot gets so busy.
If you are climbing the tower then think about whether you also wish to visit the others, because ticket prices will vary depending on what you want. Currently (July 2022) the full package which includes everything but the museum, is 27 Euros. If you remove the tower from the package then the cost goes down to 10 Euros, so as you can imagine it is the tower which is the most expensive. They also offer tickets for two attractions in a variety of formats, for example the tower and Cathedral is 20 Euros, whereas the Cathedral and Baptistry is only 7 Euros.
Tickets to the Leaning Tower of Pisa are limited which is why they cost a little bit more and it’s sensible to pre-book. You will be given a time slot, so it’s best to pre-plan and work out what time you can make it to the square and if the tower is the first place you want to visit. It would make sense that the earlier the better, before the big crowds and the cruise ship tours arrive.
If you choose to purchase your ticket on the day then you may end up paying more and have to wait to climb the tower, but you will have flexibility of choice. Ticket offices are found by the entrances to the square and will open 30 minutes before the monument opens.
You can drop off any bags at a bag check which is near the fallen angel statue, and it is a completely free service, simply show them your ticket.
Opening and Closing Times for The Square of Miracles
Opening times will generally be about 9am or 10am, but they can vary depending on the time of year. This is even more relevant for closing times because most of the building close around 8pm in the summer with a couple of them being a 10pm close. Closing times will be earlier in winter months due to the fact that it gets darker earlier. You may also find that the religious buildings may be closed to the public for specific holidays or ceremonies, which is why it’s worth doing your homework and pre-planning your visit.
Facilities In and Around the Square
Within the square you will not find any eating or drinking establishments, but they can be found on the outside of the walls. Make sure you have plenty of water with you because it can get warm within the square, although the buildings make the perfect shade.
In addition to that, you will see lots of souvenir markets selling the usual tourist bits and locally handmade items. Put some time aside to have a look around if you like that kind of thing. Close to the ticket offices you will find the official souvenir shop and a bookstore.
Finally, and probably the most important facility is the toilets, and there are many dotted around the piazza. Some are installed within the monuments and as such are only available to ticket buying visitors. Others are available for a small fee which when we used them it was 1 Euro, but they were incredibly clean.
Should I Visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Square of Miracles?
This is obviously going to be a personal decision, but if you’re in the area or visiting from a cruise ship then why on earth not. The tower is a spectacular sight and a lot prettier than we imagined, especially when it is surrounded by so many beautiful buildings. We found the climb was relatively easy in comparison to others we have done, such as the San Giovanni Fortress in Kotor, Montenegro.
Of course, you must partake in the ritualistic poses with the tower because it’s all part of the fun. It’s also great to see other visitors doing funny pictures with their families, because that’s what vacations are all about, quality time and enjoyment.
Hopefully this has provided you with all of the information you need to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Square of Miracles. If you do go to see them then please tag us into your Instagram pictures, because we love to see what our followers are up to and that they’re ticking those incredible goals off their bucket list.
If you’re heading to other areas in Italy then check out our guides, including Rome.