Nice report Jason, I have also been to Luca and also climbed the Tower of Pisa, but a long time ago. You are correct that arriving in the morning makes a big difference. If you arrive with cruise ships buses in the afternoon you never have enough time to wait in line for your chance to go inside and climb to the top.
Locally, the tower is considered to be nothing but a tourist trap, but I think more Americans are more interested in it than the locals are - especially if you have a chance to go inside and experience the tilting - it really IS something of a mind-bender.
I personally like Florence, but it surprises me that so many people rave that it is their favorite Italian city ever. I prefer Venice and the tiny coastal towns of Portofino and Portoveneri.
I just happen to see some of my own pictures of Monaco yesterday, so I will post one here...