Italy is famous for its beautiful countryside, lakes, history and architecture including the Leaning Tower of Pisa. In 2016 I was privileged to go on a tour of Italy which included a stop in Pisa with a visit, of course, to the famous Leaning Tower.
The history of this tower is intriguing and I would like to tell you about my visit.
Work started on building the tower in August 1173 and it was completed in 1399. At completion, it was originally 60m high but today it is 56.67m on the highest side and 55.86m on the lowest side, with getting close to 300 steps to get to the top. It was quite early during the build that the tower began to lean.
The tower is for the bell to summon the worshippers to the Basilica. There is also a Baptistery forming a row of buildings, the Baptistery first, then the Basilica and headed up by the Tower of Pisa. Unbaptised Catholics were not allowed into the Basilica and hence the Baptistery is a separate building.
As the tower was built there were attempts to correct the leaning by adding structures at another angle. This means that if the leaning tower today was stood upright it would still be wonky as a result. If you look carefully at the tower you can see the change of angles as the tower was built. The reason for the lean of course is the soft ground and it has also affected the Baptistery and Basilica but due to the width of these buildings, this is not really noticeable.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is now Stable
There have been many attempts to prevent the Tower of Pisa from falling down. There is a good reason not to straighten it – the tourists would not come in the same numbers! The most recent work has finally stabilised the tower and it now sits leaning at about 17 feet (5.18m) off the perpendicular. This final work was completed in 2001 and the tower is no longer moving towards disaster. You can pay to climb the steps to the top of the tower but make sure that you are fairly fit and be prepared for a strange feeling due to the lean. If you wish to climb the tower and it is advisable to book tickets in advance to avoid disappointment on the day. Numbers are limited.
Standing at the base of the leaning tower and looking upwards made me feel quite dizzy and others standing next to me felt the same way. It must be our brains trying to straighten the tower coupled with the fact that beautiful white cumulus clouds were moving across the sky. It was a weird feeling!
Interestingly, the word Pisa comes from an ancient Greek word meaning ‘marshy land’, which perhaps in hindsight, should have given the early engineers and architects a clue about how good and deep the foundations should have been.
The City of Pisa – More than the Leaning Tower
Pisa has more to offer than the leaning tower. It is a famed also for its university, which is the 19th oldest in the existence in the world, founded in 1343. The students form a large part of the population of the City of Pisa. The University of Pisa is a public research university and has students of the highest calibre. (see the photo below)
There are some beautiful buildings in Pisa and it’s well worth exploring away from the area that the leaning tower is located. Many of the tourists turn up on coaches, look at the tower and leave so even a few hundred yards away it can be much quieter to explore and take in the everyday Pisa. If you ever do get the opportunity to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa make sure you allow enough time to take in much more of this interesting and beautiful Italian city.
I hope that you have enjoyed a glimpse into a visit to The Leaning Tower of Pisa. This post has been written by guest blogger Roland Millward from England. You can read his blog here at Roland Millward – Blogging about Life, People & Travel.