Me, Miracle Square, I prefer it at night.

Pisa, Piazza dei Miracoli with its Leaning Tower: all seen through the eyes of Chiara, who lives nearby.

Living near Miracle Square means first of all answering at least two or three tourists a day who ask you which way to go for the Tower. Or for the Leaning Tower. Or for a-gesture-to-two-hands pointing to something that hangs. Someone must have gotten impatient one day, for living near Miracle Square also means running into light poles, parking-pay machines, and garbage cans with handwritten Tower → . In a couple of places the more forward-thinking have also added the English variant, Tower, and an indicative 100 m.

Wandering around the Piazza dei Miracoli, one immediately notices who it is that lives in Pisa, because it is a rare commodity to see him in the daytime passing that way, and it means that it is his obligatory passage to get to his destination. In fact you can see him slaloming through a Babel of plastic positions to avoid getting into those five or six ritual photos. In fact, I think you can also see him in as many photos taken on the same day and then ending up at the four sides of the globe. Those who live in Pisa cut through the Piazza as if it were a road, fast and and tense to dodge everything around them.

But one would have to stand still in one spot to savor all the human sampler gathered there. Senegalese stroll with parades of watches that become umbrellas on occasion. Coconut fountains keep company with swollen tubs of ice cream peeping out of cafes. Carriages and horses are parked to one side with garbage bags attached to the undertail as a chic touch. All around is a riot of sunglasses, immense groups with palettes in sight so as not to get lost, colors and bergs. There is actually no shortage of students, on whom weighs the burden of superstitious tradition (as well as the monetary burden of fifteen euros): if you climb the Tower, you don’t graduate. In addition, first-year students still do not use Piazza dei Miracoli as a street, but opt for the post-prandial nap at the foot of the Baptistery before returning to class.

The disfiguring trinket stalls at the end are not even that out of place, considering that once upon a time, back in August, the space was home to the Levant Fair. Then again, let’s not compare the ancient merchandise to T-shirts that say Ciao Bella and an army of Hanging Mugs, but you’ll see that something kitschy must have been sold even then. Surely there were already price crests while market stalls with cloth and spices invaded the area even during the laying of the foundation stone of the famous Tower. After all, an attempt was always made to collimate secular and religious events, these two aspects being strongly interconnected: two sides of the same social coin.

How many people from how many parts of the known world must have passed through there when the square still consisted of, what do I know, most of the Cathedral and half of the Tower. Or when the first surveys were being done given the new artifact’s tendency to lean. A Tower made for climbing up, which did not have creaky wooden steps pounded only by the bell-ringer, but had marble steps on which even horses climbed. And from above one could see the whole Fair from a vantage point and the procession of the Assumption along the meandering St. Mary’s Street.

For centuries the Piazza has been an inexhaustible source of humanity, making it a moving postcard. Even when Pisa was bombed in September 1943, the pilots of the flying fortresses noted that they passed over the Piazza and saw the famous Leaning Tower, except that they destroyed the Camposanto ten months later. If the Levant Fair and the boats that passed over the nearby Auser can only be imagined, the rubble of 1944 is well witnessed in photographs, as is the muddy water of the Arno that lapped the sides of the Tower in 1966, coming up from S.Maria, just like the procession of the Assumption.

Try one day, in the daytime, to arrive from the so-called road of the Forum, which is the one coming from Lucca city. Coming down the hairpin bends of the Pisan mountain, you can see stretched out below the plain of Pisa. And in an urban carpet made of houses and concrete you can see the whole complex de niveo marmore standing out. And I think of those who a few centuries ago arrived by barrow and saw the same spectacle in a different urban expanse: meadows, waterways and tower-houses. Then the eye did not have to struggle those extra four seconds to find its landmark.

After that, take a walk around the city. Look at the beautiful theater on the Lungarno, the majestic profile of the Logge dei Banchi and that enlarged Gothic reliquary that is the Church of the Thorn. Look at the Piazza dei Cavalieri with its crooked corners and the Piazza delle Vettovaglie with its stone slabs and pounded vegetables rolling on them. Also look at what’s there turning the hem of the Pisan postcards: a few grimy alleys, someone at every corner carrying on his personal battle against something or for something, appointments for mass gatherings written on the walls, and the pigeons of St. Catherine’s Square, the ugliest and most plucked pigeons in history. Be content to see eyeballs on the top of the Tower between street cuts.

When night falls you can go to the Piazza dei Miracoli, and it will be deserted, alone with its postcard profile, a motionless luminescence silhouetted against the dark sky. A marble-filled telescope, a striped flank, a big meringue in the middle of the lawn. Sometimes, in winter, they seem to rise from the mist like phantasmagoria. At other times, entering through the door of Piazza Manin, the viewpoint turns out to be so inflated that it seems to be inside an 18th-century engraving, and you have to blink to realize that it is instead real and you can even touch it.

Those who live in Pisa seem indifferent, but they are not. It’s just that he has already acquired the overall view and, in a sense, has become accustomed to it. Sometimes, however, he still loves to be amazed.

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