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The Shopping Tower of Pisa

The Tower & Cathedral at PisaWhen people think of taking a trip to Pisa, they usually have in mind the famous Leaning Tower, classic architecture and the renowned works of art.

I know that I always have ... until my last visit to Pisa with my family.

I admit it. I come from generations of women unable to pass up a bargain. My husband still jokes about how I found the 99-cent stores on our honeymoon in Paris. If you put the women in my family together on a desert island, we would be able to find a kiosk selling coconut shells and grass skirts. Italy is a shopper's paradise, and we discovered that Pisa is a mall in the shadow of beauty.

We traveled from our apartment in Florence to Pisa by bus. The public transportation in Tuscany is excellent. The buses run often and they are pleasant and comfortable. Fellow passengers are happy to point out the sights and are full of wonderful hints on what to see and where to eat when you arrive at your destination. Besides removing the stress of driving on strange roads, they provide a beautiful view of the countryside as you ride along the banks of the Arno and into the Tuscan hills.

Waiting at the bus station
Waiting at the
Bus Station in Pisa

When the bus let us off in Pisa, we waited for the connecting bus to take us to the Piazza dei Miracoli. We were eager to see the Baptistery, the Cathedral, the Leaning Tower and the Camposanto Monumentale and marvel at the stonework and engineering that is renowned throughout the world. We were definitely not planning on any shopping during this day tour.

This trip was a treat for my husband Joe, a stone carver and lover of all things Gothic. A man whose idea of being a good consumer is spending ten minutes or less in any store. After days of wandering with us on one shopping expedition after another he had earned a reward. He was getting a day filled with classic Gothic beauty in the Tower and other sites in the Piazza with no shopping on the itinerary.

We approached the arched entryway to the Piazza and had the first hint that our plans were about to change. The space is filled with tented stores. Many sell trinkets and souvenirs, miniature replicas of the Leaning Tower and shirts proclaiming that you were in Pisa. We didn't have time to truly explore the shopping possibilities here, but we were not impressed with the selection that we did see. Joe was happy and we were convinced that there would be no buying sprees in Pisa.

Shops  at the Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa
Shops at the Piazza dei Miracoli

Then we walked through the arch. The Tuscan sun played on the Piazza. The Torre Pendente di Pisa, the leaning bell tower that is familiar as one of the great wonders of the world stood before us. The domed Baptistry with its triangular jewels of stone carving drew murmurs of awe. The white marble of the cathedral contrasted with the dark green lawns. The Camposanto Monumentale with its rows of limestone carved arches completed the square. This beauty was the reason for the trip and pushed the thought of shopping from everyone's mind.


Directly across from the Camposanto and the Cathedral was a line of stalls that drew the attention of the shopoholics in the group. This was prime shopping. True there were trinkets and sweatshirts, but mixed in were some real treasures.

After admiring the tower, taking the necessary tourist pictures and making a quick tour of the other buildings, we left our Gothic fan to wander through the stonework at his leisure while we turned to some serious shopping.

Leaning Tower of PisaEach stall was a complete store. The shopkeepers were true Tuscan natives, friendly and willing to bargain.

We discovered tooled leather bags that rivaled those we were familiar with from New York's Fifth Avenue shops. Armani figurines and other exquisite ceramics were on display. Rows of Pashmina scarves and shawls in soft colors to match their texture were impossible to pass by. Tuscan pottery and crafts filled many of the little stalls. The prices were much less than what we had seen in Florence and Rome.

By the time the setting sun began to turn the buildings an unearthly shade of rose, we had reassembled to begin the trip back to Florence. At the end of the day we were all tired, but happy with our discoveries. Joe had several rolls of film to remember the day. The rest of us were carrying a different kind of treasure. We were loaded down with shopping bags bursting with memories of the great shopping in the shadow of Pisa's Leaning Tower.


also see -> Pisa Photo Gallery


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