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Pisa

The Leaning Tower is, of course, Pisa’s main attraction. Even before three of its eight stories were constructed (building began in 1173 and continued until 1350), it had begun to lean. In 1990, the instability of the tower made it necessary to close it to visitors. Fortunately, an extensive program to rebalance the tower was successful in slowly righting the structure to its original degree of “lean.” Now, thanks to modern engineering, the tower and its 294 stairs are once again open for climbing. The tower is on the Campo dei Miracoli, a large, grassy square that’s a pleasant place to relax. While you’re there, visit the Baptistry, which contains a beautiful baptismal font and pulpit by Nicola Pisano; the Romanesque Cathedral di San Zeno, with its silver altar and figures by Brunelleschi; and the Camposanto Cemetery. All in white, the medieval buildings and the wall of the cemetery form a beautiful thematic whole. Stop at the 16th-century church and Palazzo dei Cavalieri, the piazza and the National Museum of San Matteo (excellent collection of 12th- through 15th-century art). And if you have time, visit Pisa’s other leaning tower at the Church of San Michele degli Scalzi: Completed in the 13th century, this seldom-visited tower is worth a look, too. 40 mi/65 km west of Florence.

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