Italy 10: Pisa

Where We Lean into a Tower

Thursday, May 16, 2019

On our way from La Spezia to Pisa we drove through a lovely little town (I have hunted all over the area in question on Google maps and I cannot figure out which town it was) that had such lovely views back towards the mountains (not sure which mountains, either) that we had to get out and take some photos of all that loveliness. We also had cups of coffee that snapped us to attention – and I ate a cream-filled something or other – at a little bakery that shall also remain nameless unless someone happens upon this post who can fill in all the blanks.

First view of the Tower

As you may know, in Pisa there is a tower. It tilts. We took some pictures of it, too.

I was quite surprised to see the tower when it first appeared, rising above the wall of the Botanic Gardens, when we were still a few blocks away. I’ve seen so many pictures of it that the real one looked fake. It wasn’t.


We learned that construction on the tower started in 1173 and wasn’t completed until 1372 (!! Wars interfered). One side started sinking during construction and over the next decades it continued to sink and sink. The top sections were built at a slight angle away from the tilt to try to help the tower to stay upright, but it wasn’t stabilized (using cement grouting) until the early 20th century. Today, the top is approximately 17 feet off the vertical, and the tower is slightly curved because of all the efforts to get it to stand up straight.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the bell-tower (campanile) of the Pisa Cathedral (Duomo di Pisa) and was the third of four buildings erected in the Square of Miracles (Piazza dei Miracoli). The tower was constructed after the cathedral itself, which is magnificent, and the baptistry, but before the camposanto, or cemetery. Taken together, the complex – Romanesque style with an Arab influence – is yet another example of the astounding array of architecture everywhere in Italy. I could write a whole blog post just about the griffin, figures and other decorations on the roof of the Duomo – but I won’t.

No Time for Pizza in the Piazza in Pisa

We wandered around quite happily for an hour or more taking several identical photos of everything. We were headed for Siena that day, so we didn’t do any tours, but I have checked out the inside of these buildings online and if you are going to be in the area and have the time, you will probably want to get tickets and take tours of everything you can.

The drive to Siena was another series of splendid vistas, one after another. We were amused that we were able to tune in some bluegrass music on an Italian radio station as we went along, and we drove through one town where the road was so narrow that there was a stoplight to hold cars in one direction until those going the other way had passed through.

3 responses to “Italy 10: Pisa

  1. Thanks for the tour, Mary. You’re right about seeing the real thing up close. I thought it would be huge. And when I saw it at first, it reminded me of a multi-layered wedding cake that had somehow turned out wrong.

  2. Daniel K. Riskin

    Fun. I like the exaggerated lean. That’s comedy.


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