The Leaning Tower of Pisa

We couldn’t argue with Sonja’s logic:  How can you go to Italy and not see the Leaning Tower of Pisa?  Off we went by train to Pisa one morning, only an hour from Florence and only 7 euros per person each way.  By now we were getting the hang of the train system which was very easy to use.  The trains were fast, clean, comfortable, and most important, on time.  Tickets could be booked online or purchased at the ticket machine at the train station.  We each had a euro rail pass which we used for the more costly trips between the major cities.

We arrived in Pisa without a map and without any idea where the Tower was located.  Luckily, there was a large tourist map outside the train station where the path to the Tower was actually worn out from use!  We studied the map for a minute, committed the route to memory and set out for the half hour walk through streets that were lined with many chic shops and restaurants along with a few churches which of course we popped in to see.


Suddenly, while walking down the street, the Tower appeared before our eyes, leaving me with a memorable first impression. I have seen pictures of the tower, but nothing prepared me for this first glimpse of it.  Quite simply, it was beautiful.  It was also much larger than I had expected.  For some reason, perhaps because all the photos I have seen the Tower stands alone, I wasn’t expecting it to be part of a large complex of equally stunning buildings which are now museums, open to the public. I don’t know what I was thinking because, after all, the tower is the freestanding bell tower of the cathedral. It is situated behind the Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in Pisa’s Cathedral Square after the Cathedral and the Baptistry.

The photo to the right is not an illusion.  It accurately illustrates the degree to which the tower is leaning – 3.99 degrees to be exact.  Prior to restoration work performed between 1990 and 2001, the tower leaned at an angle of 5.5 degrees. The top of the tower is now displaced horizontally 3.9 metres (12 ft 10 in) from where it would be if the structure were perfectly vertical.

Just like in Florence, this place was swarming with tourists, tour groups, and school children on class trips.  It was difficult to take a photo without a dozen strangers in it.  And of course everyone was posing for photographs pretending to “hold up” the leaning tower to prevent it from falling. The illusion is created through the principle of forced perspective.  We didn’t even bother trying to take such a photo mainly because we thought it was pretty cheesy but also because there were just too many people in the way.

Given our time constraints (we wanted to be back in Florence by early afternoon), we walked around the area, taking lots of pictures, before heading back to the train station.  Although our time in Pisa was short, we all agreed it was well worth the trip to see the Tower in person.

Of course, Chris and I were secretly content with the knowledge that we could return for a day to explore the Tower and the museums in depth later in May.

Category: Europe, Italy
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2 Responses
  1. Angus says:

    When you go back I want a picture of Chris holding up the tower 🙂

    • christina says:

      But that means I’ll have to take the picture! We’ll see what we can do, if we get back to Pisa.