My Visit to Italy’s Greats: Pisa and Pompeii
Learning about the Leaning Tower of Pisa in elementary school was amazing to me. I always found stories about Pompeii, the city unearthed from ash as a result of a volcanic explosion, intriguing. With the help of a Mediterranean cruise, I checked both the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Pompeii off of my travel bucket list. My daughters, friends, and I spent a day sightseeing two of Italy’s greatest sites.
A Brief Introduction to Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is situated in the Field of Miracles, a project dating back to 1172. It is comprised of four major buildings: the Campanile (leaning bell tower), Baptistry, Camposanto (monumental cemetery housing 84 tombs), and Pisa Cathedral. The Field of Miracles project was abandoned after the first of three completed towers was leaning. Today, the Tower’s lean is 14 feet but it moves at a rate of 1/4 inch per year.
My Time In Pisa
Our cruise docked at Livorno, 12 miles from Pisa. After getting off of the ship, we hopped onto a bus that drove us through the rich Tuscan countryside on our way to the Pisa. We arrived at the Field of Miracles (Piazza dei Miracoli0), the famous landmark, early in the morning. The deep contrast between the blue sky, shimmery white and pale gray buildings, and forest green grass was a visual stimulant that I will never forget. The most noteworthy worldly wonder that I had yearned to see was directly in front of me.
I enjoyed watching all of the tourists (ourselves included) try to take the perfect picture holding up the Leaning Tower. It is more difficult than you might think, especially with the technology available at the time. The Piazza dei Miracoli was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
A Glimpse of Historic Pompeii and the Deadly Eruption
Pompeii was a popular vacation destination, with many affluent Romans building summer homes there. The city was home to many impressive fountains and full of temples to the gods. In 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted covering this town in a layer of ash in six short hours. For nearly 2000 years, Pompeii remained in this state.
In 1748, the first excavations of Pompeii began. Pliny the Younger had chronicled the volcanic eruption and it was his details that helped archaeologists explore the grounds. The excavation of Pompeii is still going strong and they unearth new things all of the time. An estimated $300 million will finish the preservation project.
Our Visit To Pompeii
The tour that we chose brought us to the sprawling hillside property, which is extremely large and full of uneven terrain. The temperatures were extremely high and we were thankful to have brought bottled water from the cruise ship. Our guide explained what we saw as we walked miles around the property: bits and pieces of remains that had been uncovered and restored. The volcanic ash and debris had actually protected the remains, and it was remarkable to see intricate details still intact.
It was both devastating and surreal to see the unearthed collection of mummified bodies. Archaeologists were able to make casts of Pompeii’s residents with the look of horror on their faces as they realized their impending doom all of those years ago. It is riveting. Our day at Pompeii was a humbling experience, but one that I will forever hold dear to my heart.
Vesuvius is the only remaining active volcano in mainland Europe and one of the world’s most dangerous.
The Amphitheatre of Pompeii is the oldest stone building know in the world. It dates back to 80 BC.
There are 296 steps to the top of the Leaning Tower.
Galileo Galilee, perhaps the most famous Italian astronomer of our time, was born in Pisa and studied both math and medicine at the University of Pisa.
Pompeii’s is visited by 3 million people per year.
The excavation of Pompeii unearthed a large number of erotic images in all forms. They were housed in the National Museum of Naples until 2000, when they were made viewable to the adult public.
Check out our other European destination posts:
St. Petersburg, Russia