Campo dei Miracoli (Piazza del Duomo) ★★★

The Baptistery, Duomo, and Campanile (Leaning Tower) on Pisa's Campo dei Miracoli, Campo dei Miracoli, Pisa, Italy (Photo by Char)
The Baptistery, Duomo, and Campanile (Leaning Tower) on Pisa's Campo dei Miracoli

Pisa's Field of Miracles

Pisa Tower And Cathedral, Campo dei Miracoli, Pisa, Italy. (Photo by Richard Wilier)
The Baptistery, Duomo, and Campanile (Leaning Tower) on Pisa's Campo dei Miracoli, Campo dei Miracoli, Pisa, Italy. (Photo by Alessio Facchin)
The cathedral and Leaning Tower, Campo dei Miracoli, Pisa, Italy. (Photo by Tom Wright 1964)

On a grassy lawn wedged into the northwest corner of the city walls, medieval Pisans created one of the most beautiful squares in the world. Historically dubbed the Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles), Piazza del Duomo contains an array of elegant buildings that heralded the Pisan Romanesque style—white marble structures with subtle grayish-green stripes, blind (filled-in) arcades with diamond-shaped losenges embossed at the tops, and subdued garnishes of colorful inlaid marble fragments that liven the austere lines of pure white as you get near. .

But Piazza del Duomo isn’t Pisa Central, not the central plaza in town as in most Italian cities. When it was built between the 11th and 13th centuries, the square was against the city walls, surrounded by farmland. But this peripheral location also somehow plays a role in the piazza’s uniqueness.

“The group of buildings...clustered there, together, away from the ordinary transactions and details of the town, they have a singularly venerable and impressive character. It is the architectural essence of a rich old city, with all its common life and common habitations pressed out, and filtered away.”

—Charles Dickens, "Pictures from Italy," 1846

A very large but hidden part of its appeal, aside from the beauty of the buildings, is its spatial geometry. The piazza’s medieval engineers knew what they were doing. If you take an aerial photo of the square and draw connect-the-dot lines between the centers, doors, and other focal points of the buildings and the spots where streets enter the piazza, you’ll come up with all sorts of perfect triangles, tangential lines of mathematical grace, and other unfathomable hypotenuses. (If you want proof that the precision placement of its monuments is anything but arbitrary, they’ve got a plan of it all in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.)

It would likely be famous for the sheer beauty of its structures even if the soft, sandy subsoil hasn't given most of its buildings a jaunty, drunken tilt— the cathedral facade leans out, the baptistery lurches quietly to one side, and there's one more thing I'm forgetting...

Ah, yes the bell tower slants a full 15 feet out of vertical (you may have seen a reproduction of this Leaning Tower on a pizza delivery box).

People come from around the world to marvel at the Gothic Pisano pulpit in the baptistery, visit the Duomo, its museum, and the camposanto cemetery rich with their treasures of the Romanesque, Gothic, and baroque eras, and simply gawk at the leaning tower with the one overriding thought: “Hey, it’s really leaning”—a verification that some things in life truly do live up to expectations.

The immaculate emerald lawn surrounding the group is filled even in winter with boisterous knots of school kids being herded around, backpacking students furtively tossing a Frisbee, and couples taking naps on the grass under the warm sun. Even the phalanx of souvenir stands selling some of the tackiest momentos this side of Velvet Elvis somehow adds to the charm.

Incidentally, only the tourist industry calls it "Campo dei Miracoli." Pisans think that’s just a bit too much and refer to it, as they always have, as Piazza del Duomo.

The arcades of the campanile (Photo by Frans-Banja Mulder)
Leaning Tower
Pisa: Around Campo dei Miracoli

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is world's most famous bell tower, and an icon of pizza boxes everywhere

The Battistero (Photo by Kiste11)
Pisa: Around Campo dei Miracoli

A massive drum-like Romanesque base with a Pisano-designed Gothic skullcap of a roof

The gorgeous Cathedral of Pisa (and its famously tipsy bell tower in the background) (Photo by Vitbaisa)
Pisa: Around Campo dei Miracoli

The glorious Gothic cathedral of Pisa

The museum recreates the placements of the original frescoes (Photo by Joanbanjo)
Museo delle Sinopie
Pisa: Around Campo dei Miracoli

A Pisa museum housing the amazing, full-sized medieval preparatory sketches for the lost Camposanto frescoes

The central cemetery of the Campsanto, filled with dirt from the Holy Land (Photo by Luca Aless)
Il Camposanto
Pisa: Around Campo dei Miracoli

The famous ruined frescoes and ancient sculptures inside Pisa's holy burial ground

The Giovanni Pisano room (Photo by Sailko)
CLOSED: Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
Pisa: Around Campo dei Miracoli

CURENTLY CLOSED. The museum of artifacts and original sculpture from the Duomo group in Pisa

Photo gallery
  • The Baptistery, Duomo, and Campanile (Leaning Tower) on Pisa
  • Pisa Tower And Cathedral, Campo dei Miracoli, Italy (Photo by Richard Wilier)
  • The Baptistery, Duomo, and Campanile (Leaning Tower) on Pisa
  • The cathedral and Leaning Tower, Campo dei Miracoli, Italy (Photo by Tom Wright 1964)
Pisa tours
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How to get to the Campo dei Miracoli / Piazza del Duomo

Unfortunately, the Campo dei Miracoli and Leaning Tower are a stiff 20– to 30-minute walk north of the main Pisa-Centrale train station.

To get to the Campo dei Miracoli from the main Pisa train station (Pisa-Centrale), first buy two bus tickets—due biglietti autobus—from a newsstand inside the station (one for each way).

Exit the station, cross the little piazza out front, and cross the street to stand on the far side, a bit to the right of center—you need to do this because the city bus ( you are catching goes both ways, and you want the one headed to the left (west)—otherwise, you're on your way to the airport!

The bus you want is called LAM Rosso (the high speed red line, also abbreviated L/R). This will take you to the "Torre 1" stop at Pizza Daniele Manin (whicuh is along Via Bonanno Pisano) just beyond the western edge of Piazza del Duomo (a.k.a. Campo dei Miracoli).

Follow the crowds through the thicket of souvenir stands and the Porta Santa Maria gate in the city walls and you're on Campo dei Miracoli.

If you happen to get off a train at the secondary Pisa-San Rossore station, you're in luck: it's just a five-minute stroll west of the Field of Miracles. Exit using the underpass of Piazza Fancelli. Walk straight ahead to Via Andrea Pisano and turn left. Walk three blocks. You can't miss it.

If you arrive in Pisa by car, there's an amazingly convenient public parking lot just a block up from the western edge of the Campo dei Miracoli on Via Cammeo Carlo Salomone, on your left just past the Vecchia di Barbaricina.

Visit Camposanto after the museums

I recommend visiting the Camposanto after the two museums, since both contain exhibits that’ll help you appreciate the loss of the Camposanto frescoes.

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah

* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).