Pisa Travel Blog

 › entry 5 of 11 › view all entries

Today on a free day in the tour I decide to take the local train to Pisa. It's only a short journey and you can't come to Italy and not visit the Iconic Leaning Tower can you!

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the most remarkable architectural structures left from medieval period of Europe. It stands only 60 metres tall but somehow looks bigger and until 1990 leaned as much as 10 degrees. Since then remedial work has steadied the structure but it still looks quite dramatic.

The construction of the Tower of Pisa began on August 9, 1173. Originally designed to be a bell tower, the tower actually stood upright for over 5 years, but just after the completion of the third floor it began to lean.

The foundation of the tower, only 3 meters deep, was built on a dense clay mixture and impacted the soil.

As it turned out, the clay was not nearly as strong enough as required to hold the tower upright, and so the weight of the tower began to diffuse downward until it had found the weakest point. Construction was thus delayed for 100 years. The Pisan government hoped that the soil would settle, giving it enough strength to hold the weight of the tower. 

After the 100 year hiatus, Giovanni di Simone stepped forward in 1272 and began to add four more floors to the tower. He actually managed to cause the tower to lean over more when he tried to compensate for the original lean by making one side of the upper floors taller than the other.

In 1284 construction was halted again, this time because of the Battle of Meloria, in which the Pisans were defeated by the Genoans.

In 1319 the 7th floor was finished. The bell-chamber was added in 1372, and then the tower was left alone until the 19th century.

In 1987, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, along with the entire Piazza Del Duomo.In 1990, the Leaning Tower was closed. The bells were removed and the tower was anchored with lead counter weights. Reopened in 2001 for tourists, the leaning tower of Pisa is finally sturdy and safe. Naturally, climbing to the top of the tower has become the most popular tourist activity in Pisa and although busy the queues are not too bad today and the view from the top of the Tuscan countryside are breathtaking.

Also located on the Field of Miracles are the Duomo and the Baptiry.

We have time to visit both before are train departs back to Florence.

The first stone of Pisa Cathedral was laid in 1093 being the start of what would become the distinctive Pisan Romanesque style. The main architect was Buscheto, who is buried in the last blind arch on the left side of the facade. The facade itself was built by Buscheto's successor, Rainaldo.

A disastrous fire in 1595 destroyed most of the cathedral's medieval art, but some of the best Renaissance artists were hired for the redecoration work. One of the survivors is the Tomb of Emperor Henry VII by Tino di Camaino  in the south transept. The Ghibelline Pisans enthusiastically supported Henry VII's ascension to the post of Holy Roman Emperor.

Another exceptional artwork from this era is Giovanni Pisano's pulpit, widely regarded as a great masterpiece.

It was not always so popular, however. Those who undertook the renovations after the 1595 fire thought the old Gothic pulpit was an eyesore, so they dismantled it and stored it in a crate. It was not rediscovered until 1926 when it was reassembled and once again occupies its original place on the north side of the nave.

Next door is the Baptistery,the largest in Italy.Construction on the baptistery began in the Romanesque style under Diotisalvi in 1153. Nicola and Giovanni Pisano gave the upper part a Gothic transformation between 1277 and 1297 and Cellino di Nese added the Gothic dome in the 1300s. It was finally completed in 1363.

 The Battistero di San Giovanni is also slightly taller than the Leaning Tower across the square. As it shares the same unstable ground as the tower, the baptistery also has a slight lean of 0.6 degrees towards the cathedral.

There's a lot more to the city of Pisa than its famous Tower but most people like us seem only to spend the day here which is a shame.

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
photo by: jsuuronen