If you're in Pisa on the 24th/25th of March then you can see in Pisa's second (or first, if you're a patriotic local) New Year.
The tradition dates back to the glory days of Pisa as a mighty maritime republic and, in an Indiana Jones moment, the new year is said to begin when a sunbeam breaks through a specially placed window in the cathedral, lighting up a precisely positioned marble egg.
Cue lots of kissing, medieval costumes, marching, flag throwing and carousing. The main venue is clearly the cathedral, framed as it is by the Leaning Tower and the splendid baptistry in the 'Field Of Miracles'.
The tower, alongside the cathedral, finally free of all scaffolding and gleamingly white as of early 2011, may be ascended and you can book at the official site or use the second site below if you'd like to book for a date further in the future than allowed on the official site.
Duomo di Pisa, Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa, Tuscany
Google map: bit.ly/hlM9oY
Relax those feet and be pampered!
With tired feet and an afternoon plane to catch, we decided to spend our final day indulging ourselves at the local Spa, Bagni di Pisa. It is located in the sumptious converted residence of the (ex) Duke of Tuscany.
We took a taxi from Pisa to the Bagni di Pisa spa (€20), had a soak in their warm water thermal pool, followed by a 'Thai foot massage' for me and a facial treatment 'Silk Thermal' for my friend.
Upon arrival we were given bathrobes and plastic shoes to wear.
We found the place welcoming and atmospheric, the staff are professional and definitely know their stuff. We left feeling fantastic, soothed and relaxed. A nice way to end our holiday.
We then took the train back to Pisa (the train station is a five-minute walk from the spa - €1.60 each, 9 minutes' journey), changed trains in Pisa Centrale for the five-minute journey to the airport, Pisa Aeroporto, for our late afternoon flight home.
Note: Bagni di Pisa also is a four-star hotel.
Bagni di Pisa Natural Spa Resort
Largo Shelley 18
56017 San Giuliano Terme,
Tel Spa: 0039 (0)50 8850432
Phone hotel switchboard: 0039 (0)50 88501
Nearest railway station:
San Giuliano Terme (on the web its: S. Giuliano Terme) - on the main Pisa - Lucca railway line
Note: there is no ticket office at S. Giuliano Terme - one buys the tickets from the ticket conductor on board.
This is the place to get that picture every one has got of someone holding up the leaning tower or that postcard of all three buildings, the tower, the baptistry and the Duomo or cathedral.
Staying here for a night to get your flight or stop off before you hit the rest of Tuscany can be a good diea. It will leave you refreshed and ready to see all the wonders this part of Italy has to offer.
The Bed & Breakfast is located in Palazzo Agostini, also known as Palazzo dell’ Ussero, with its fifteenth century facade and remains of the ancient city walls dating back to before 1155, when Pisa was an important Maritime republic. The facade is late-Gothic which in the 1400s alternated with the Renaissance style.
The name of the building comes from the coffee rooms of Cafe dell’Ussero, historic meeting place founded on 1st September 1775. The cafe was previously an inn, the Locanda dell’Ussero. Famous and distinguished guests have been - Carlo Goldoni in 1744, Giacomo Casanova in 1760, Count Alfieri in 1785, Filippo Mazzei in 1792, Gioacchino Belli in 1829 and John Ruskin in 1840.
The Relais dell’ Ussero is on the right bank of the River Arno between the Ponte di Mezzo and Ponte Solferino bridges, in the historical centre of Pisa and the oldest part of town. The Palazzo della Sapienza and Palazzo del Rettorato of the University are 30 metres away, Piazza dei Cavalieri, where we find the Scuola Normale Superiore, at 250 metres. Piazza dei Miracoli with the Cathedral, Baptistery and the famous leaning Tower is only 850 metres away.
It is in the historic centre of Pisa, 1 km from Pisa rail station, 1.5 kms (5 minutes) from Pisa Airport, 80 kms (50 minutes) from Florence airport, 20 kms (15 minutes) from Livorno port - all can be reached by taxi.
This is a large round building next to the Duomo and the Tower, which shouldn't be overlooked. I was standing in a gallery half way up the building, looking down into the dark interior when one of the attendants stepped into the centre and just sang a few beautiful notes which, thanks to the acoustics, rang out really strongly. I really can't do justice to the sound that it produced and which echoed around the whole building - it was the most beautiful noise I've ever heard. Don't miss it if you visit the Tower.
The Relais dell’ Ussero at the Villa della Seta di Corliano is on the road which runs along the foot of the hills from Pisa to Lucca, passing through the small town of San Giuliano Terme. The Villa is a historical fifteenth century mansion surrounded by a centuries-old park. It is a property of great charm in which the owners offer, in 12 rooms, a relaxing stay immersed in the beauties of the local countryside.
The Villa della Seta is very conveniently located near the village of Corliano only 2km along the road from the health spa of San Giuliano Terme, and halfway between the historical cities of Pisa and Lucca (a 15 minute drive to both). Florence is only an hour away and Siena an hour and a half.
I recommend that you reserve tickets in advance of your visit. Get one ticket for The Baptistry, The Cathedral, Camposanto Monumentale (Cemetery), Museo dell' Opera del Duomo (Museum of the Cathedral) and Museo delle Sinopie (Museum of Sinopites). Tickets for the Leaning Tower of Pisa are separate.
Visit in the morning to beat the crowds and the heat. You get to choose the date and specific time for your climb to the tower, but you may have to wait between one and a half to two hours (or more) if really busy, before your assigned time, as there is a very limited number of people that are allowed to climb at one time. Children under 8 are not permitted to climb the tower - the guard rails on the top are quite low and spaced too far from one another. You will not be allowed to bring a bag or backpack with you during the climb, but there are free, secured lockers at the ticket office.
Admission charges for the group of monuments and museums on the campo are tied together in a needlessly complicated way. The Cattedrale alone costs 2€ ($2.30). Any other single sight is 5€ ($5.75). Any two sights are 6€ ($6.90). The Cattedrale plus any two other sights is 8€ ($9.20). An 8.50€ ($9.80) ticket gets you into the Baptistery, Camposanto, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, and Museo delle Sinopie, while a 10.50€ ($12) version throws in the Cattedrale as well. Children under 10 enter free. Admission to the Leaning Tower (17€/$20) is by advance reservation only.
For more information, visit their collective website: www.opapisa.it
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