We took a day trip to Sienna, San Gimignano, and Pisa.

Pisa is a city in the Tuscany region of Central Italy straddling the Arno just before it empties into the Ligurian Sea. Although Pisa is known worldwide for its leaning tower (the bell tower of the city's cathedral), the city of over 91,104 residents (around 200,000 with the metropolitan area) contains more than 20 other historic churches, several medieval palaces and various bridges across the Arno. Much of the city's architecture was financed from its history as one of the Italian maritime republics

The origin of the name, Pisa, is a mystery. While the origin of the city had remained unknown for centuries, the Pelasgi, the Greeks, the Etruscans, and the Ligurians had variously been proposed as founders of the city (for example, a colony of the ancient city of Pisa, Greece). Archaeological remains from the 5th century BC confirmed the existence of a city at the sea, trading with Greeks and Gauls. Ancient Roman authors referred to Pisa as an old city. Strabo referred Pisa's origins to the mythical Nestor, king of Pylos, after the fall of Troy. Virgil, in his Aeneid, states that Pisa was already a great center by the times described.

The power of Pisa as a mighty maritime nation began to grow and reached its apex in the 11th century when it acquired traditional fame as one of the four main historical Maritime Republics of Italy. At that time, the city was a very important commercial centre and controlled a significant Mediterranean merchant fleet and navy. It expanded its powers in 1005 through the sack of Reggio Calabria in the south of Italy. Pisa was in continuous conflict with the Saracens, who had their bases in Corsica, for control of the Mediterranean.

The decline of Pisa as an empire began on August 6, 1284, when the numerically superior fleet of Pisa, under the command of Albertino Morosini, was defeated by the brilliant tactics of the Genoese fleet, under the command of Benedetto Zaccaria and Oberto Doria, in the dramatic naval Battle of Meloria. This defeat ended the maritime power of Pisa and the town never fully recovered: in 1290 the Genoese destroyed forever the Porto Pisano (Pisa's Port), and covered the land with salt. The region around Pisa did not permit the city to recover from the loss of thousands of sailors from the Meloria

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, or simply the Tower of Pisa, is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its unintended tilt. The tower is situated behind the Pisa Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in the city's Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo), after the cathedral and the Pisa Baptistry.

The tower's tilt began during construction in the 12th century, caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure's weight. The tilt increased in the decades before the structure was completed in the 14th century. It gradually increased until the structure was stabilized (and the tilt partially corrected) by efforts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

The height of the tower is 55.86 metres (183.27 feet) from the ground on the low side and 56.67 metres (185.93 feet) on the high side. The width of the walls at the base is 2.44 m (8 ft 0.06 in). The tower has 296 or 294 steps; the seventh floor has two fewer steps on the north-facing staircase. Prior to restoration work performed between 1990 and 2001, the tower leaned at an angle of 5.5 degrees, but the tower now leans at about 3.99 degrees. This means the top of the tower is displaced horizontally 3.9 metres (12 ft 10 in) from the centre.

Unfortunately, due to extensive bombing during World War II, the only remaining sites left in Pisa are the baptistery, cathedral, and tower.

Read more about Pisa (link opens in a new window).

Read more about Leaning Tower of Pisa (link opens in a new window).