Leaning Tower of Pisa (Copyright Lee Krystek,
the Curator's Office - A Climb Up the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Tower of Pisa is one of those iconic structures that everyone
knows from the time they are a child. A pilgrimage to visit it
gave me a chance to see it with my own eyes, touch with my own
hands and interact with something I had known in my mind for decades,
but didn't really know in reality.
a trip across Italy in 2018 my wife and I listed the sights we
wanted to see: Pompeii, the Coliseum, St Mark's square in Venice,
but should the Pisa be on the list too? While Rome with its myriad,
ruins and Venice with its architecture and canals were no brainers,
did Pisa with its single iconic bell tower warrant a stop?
end we decided to sandwich an afternoon there during our train
ride from Rome to Venice. Now to tell you the truth Pisa is not
exactly on the way from Rome to Venice, but we decided, in the
end, that this pretty Tuscan city deserved a stop on our crowded
Lee Krystek, 2018).
trip to Pisa was typical of how most tourists see the city, though
the majority of people probably come from Florence which is only
an hour or so away. Wherever you come from, however, you are most
likely to enter the city via the Pisa Central station, a twenty
minute walk from the tower.
got in at 10AM. Unlike day visitors from Florence, we had luggage
that we didn't want to haul with us through the town. Fortunately,
most larger train stations in Italy have a counter to deposit
luggage and Pisa was no exception, though at 6 Euros a bag, it
that the famed bell tower and its associated "Field of Miracles'"
is the main attraction in the town, it isn't surprising that the
streets between the station and the field are lined with shops
and restaurants, making it hard to get off track. Halfway to the
tower you need to cross the Arno River and there are only a handful
of bridges that cross it. The Arno, which runs through the center
of the town.
its height, the narrow streets of the town lined with buildings
several stories high, tend to hide the monument until you are
almost on it, but once you see the white, marble structure, with
its classic columns, peering down on you over the roof tops, you
have no doubt you're at the right place.
Lee Krystek, 2018).
are five attractions at Pisa's "Field of Miracles:" The famed
tower, the associated cathedral, a baptistery, the cemetery (Camposanto)
and the Sinopie Museum. You can buy a combination ticket for all
five for 26 euros (about $30), but we opted for the just the tower
at 18 euros (about $21). The cathedral is actually free, but you
still need to get ticket for entry at a specific time so the building
doesn't get overcrowded. Our tower ticket, however, allowed us
to access it at any time during the day.
in Pisa about 10 o'clock and by 11 where walking though the large
Romanesque cathedral. Designed by the architect Buscheto, it clearly
matches the style of the tower and Baptistery. Construction started
in 1063 and took nearly 30 years. We couldn't spend an excessive
amount of time inside, however, as we had tickets to climb the
tower at 11:30.
might expect with a world famous icon like the leaning tower,
access is limited and only so many people get to climb the off-kilter
structure in a single day. This isn't surprising as the top can
only be reached by a narrow, winding stairway that will only accommodate
a limited number of people. The official website states that ticket
holder needs to be at the entrance on time, or they will lose
their opportunity to make the climb.
Lee Krystek, 2018).
reasons nothing larger than a wallet is permitted to be brought
inside the building, but fortunately the ticket also provides
you access to the tower's bag check at a nearby building. Once
our turn had arrived we were allowed through the gate and into
the single door at the base of the structure.
was my first surprise: The tower itself is simply an empty cylinder.
You can stand at the bottom and look up straight up to the top
(which is the floor of the level below the belfry) and it's filled
with pretty much nothing but empty space. The floors you see from
the outside, suggested by the arrangement of columns, do not extend
into the interior at all. The steps to the top are contained within
the outer walls of the tower and spiral around as they climb.
The famous tilt of the tower is obvious from the inside as a mechanical
device that appears to be used to move the bells up and down if
they need to be serviced, goes straight up and down, while the
tower itself is on a nearly 4 degree slant.
climb the tower you almost have a the feeling you are in a fun
house as the walls first tilt one way, then the other as you round
the structure. Positioned at regular intervals are windows that
allow the visitor to get a glimpse outside. Because there is a
small platform at that point, these locations make a good place
to stop and grab a breath, letting younger and more energetic
visitors pass you on the way up, or let people headed down, slip
Lee Krystek, 2018).
top you come out just below the belfry. A second, but more tightly
twisted staircase takes you the final 10 feet or so to the belfry
itself, which is open to the sky. There seven bells (each sounding
with a different pitch on the musical scale) hang. With the exception
of the roof of the cathedral, at 191 feet (55m) the tower is the
tallest building in the town, so it gives you a magnificent view
of the surrounding area.
is a debate among travelers on whether the small town of Pisa
is worth an afternoon stop in a land filled with such cities filled
with art and architecture as the Rome and Venice, but I found
he afternoon there we spent in the Tuscan city well worth our
time and now I can now I can check off one more item on my bucket
more detailed look at the history of the Leaning Tower, click
Lee Krystek 2018. All Rights Reserved.