Monday, 29 July 2013

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The highlight of our visit to Pisa is the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which we climbed this evening.  More about that in a moment.

This morning we did chores.  We found a laundrette and washed our clothes.  While we were out, we noticed clouds had come over.  Next thing we knew, it was raining.  The rain brought a welcome relief.  It cooled right down, we got a bit wet, and we felt normal again.  To our surprise, within a few minutes of the rain starting, all these young Indian men suddenly appeared, selling small collapsable umbrellas.  It was funny.  Where were they, and what had they been doing before the rain?  Once the rain started, they came out of nowhere.  On this journey, we haven't seen rain since Wales.  We then wondered if every city we've been in has a collection of young Indian men each with a stack of umbrellas just waiting to hit the streets at the first drop of water from the sky.  One or two Africans were selling bottles of water as well.  Well, at least they're very enterprising.

We ate the rest of the yesterday's salad for lunch.  After lunch, we headed through the city, crossing the river Arno to the other side.  We walked through the streets in anticipation, knowing that soon...any moment now....a very familiar building would come into view...familiar because you've seen it a million times in your life in pictures and on television.

'There it is!', we cried, when at last the unmistakable white marble and unique appearance of the Leaning Tower of Pisa came into full view.  We had come at it from a good angle because we could appreciate from our standpoint the full effect of the lean.  We were impressed.  We continued on, and in a moment arrived in the square known as Campo dei Miracoli, which houses not only the leaning tower, but also a couple of other impressive looking buildings.  We purchased tickets for the Tower, for later, and poked our heads inside the Cathedral known as Santa Maria Esunta.

We went for a perambulatory tour of the streets nearby, passing the Piazza Cavalieri, where they say the Romans had a forum, went through a few more streets and entered a couple of churches dating back many centuries.  At last, we decided it was gelato o'clock, and we found a gelato restaurant, and sat down.  We were ignored for a long time by the staff, eventually were served with great quality ice cream.  But we could easily have walked out without paying, we were ignored by everyone, and I eventually paid a cranky late middle aged man who was too busy yelling at his son to notice me.

At 6.45 pm, we stepped inside the Tower.  The feel of a lean is, at first, only slight.  While we listened to a short introduction by the guide, we glanced up inside the Tower to the top.  The cylindrical shaped tower is totally hollow all the way up.  It is 20 metres in diameter, and I think 55 metres high.  Building commenced in 1173, and was intended to be a bell tower for the adjacent Cathedral.  Construction went through a few stops and starts.  They knew it was leaning as early as 1185.

We began climbing the 217 steps to the first level near the top.  On the way, some steps were easy to ascend, and others difficult as you spiralled upwards round the edges.  Similarly, as you climbed, you would sometimes find yourself leaning against the inner wall, and, round the other side, the outer wall.  On the first level near the top, we looked down on the grounds below.  Jean soon went down, but I stayed.  I began to appreciate the lean of the structure.  In one small spot, rain water collected in a corner where, on a fully level structure, it would just drain away.  I climbed the remaining 35 steps to the belfry, and enjoyed a good view of the Tuscan countryside.  For quite a distance, on all sides, the landscape is flat.  But to the northeast, a large mountain range could be seen.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Climbing the Leaning Tower
Santa Maria Cathedral from the Tower
Me holding the Tower up
Oh no, these trees!!......they're leaning!!

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