Leaning Tower Of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the four buildings that make up the complex known as Campo dei Miracoli, translated as Field of Miracles. The other 3 buildings are the cathedral, the baptistery and the cemetery. The tower is actually know as the bell tower officially.
Although by modern standards the Leaning Tower of Pisa is not that tall, in the medieval period it probably would have been the tallest bell tower and an engineering marvel at the time. Although construction of the tower began in 1173, it took 200 years to be completed, due to many wars through this time.
The tower is made from marble and has 8 stories, including the bell chamber at the top. Each floor is encircled by marble arches, the number varying on each level. Inside is a 251 step spiral staircase taking you to the bell chamber.
You may be wondering when the leaning tower began to lean. Well it started to sink into the soft ground by the time they had built up to the 3rd level! The architects and engineers tried to correct the lean by making the stories shorter on the uphill side and then taller on the leaning side, but to no avail, it continued to lean more and more! The soft ground that the tower was built onto simply cannot hold the weight of the tower. Today the tower is 5 metres off perpendicular, although the tower has been stabilised in recent years, which should stop the tower from leaning further.
How To Get There
Pisa is on the West coast of Italy and you can easily fly there from the UK, which is around 2 1/2 hours direct from London. Alternatively you can travel by train from the UK, heading out on the Eurostar to France and South into Northern Italy, in Italy you will first head to Florence and then across to Pisa. Train travel from London on the Eurostar is around 16 hours, so it could be doable with a stop in France before continuing on to Pisa.
Driving from the UK would take you through France and Northern Italy and is just over 16 hours travel time, so again you would probably need a break somewhere in France or swap drivers to get sleep along the journey.
Best Photography Spots
You are probably going to want to get a shot of the tower without tons of tourists swarming across your picture. Plus you may want to get *that* photograph, you know, the one where you are pretending to hold the tower up?! Both are actually quite easy to get, although you may have to wait a short while to get the right spot and angle.
As the grass area in front of the tower is off limits you can easily stop just beside the fence between the grass and the tower and have a particularly clear shot to the tower. For a different angle head toward the cathedral, it’s a lot quieter on that side of the complex and you can get a different camera angle toward the tower from there.
For the all important holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa pose you will need to wait for a chance to stand on one of the bollards around the grass. This gets you high enough up that you can get a photo of you holding the tower without anyone around you. Even if you don’t want to take this picture it’s pretty fun to just watch everyone else standing on bollards for the perfect picture!
Climbing The Tower
This is the one thing we did wrong, much to our 5 year old’s annoyance, and the reason why we have to go back again! We didn’t manage to climb the tower and so the youngest was in floods of tears and we have promised to return again one day simply to climb the tower itself.
You need to book tickets to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This can be done at the ticket office behind the tower (be aware that they sell out quickly) or online up to a month in advance. I definitely recommend booking as far in advance as possible, especially if you’re going in a group of several people.
Taking The Kids
If your children are into seeing famous landmarks they’ve seen in many books and programmes, then they’re going to be ecstatic at seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa! However, it will probably be hot and jam packed with people if you are visiting in the summer, so it would be best to visit in the shoulder season if possible. If not then just be prepared with plenty of snacks and water.
Buy an ice cream for the kids from one of the shops opposite the grass (bring wipes for messy fingers!!) and let them browse the gift stalls outside the complex for a souvenir. Definitely make sure you book your ticket in advance to climb the tower, I can see that being a real highlight, I’m still kicking myself for not booking tickets in advance and missing the time we were visiting.