One of the things that we always recommend to people is that, if you are spending four or more days in a city, you take time for at least one day excursion into the surrounding area. While we were in Florence, we took our own advise and did take a day tour, which ended with a couple of hours in Pisa. Obviously the main reason that people travel to Pisa is to see the famous leaning bell tower. The bell tower is a freestanding tower, meaning that unlike most bell towers that are attached to the main cathedral, this tower is an independent structure. Rarely do you ever visit a location just to see something that was a completely unintended result.
The tower started leaning during its original construction due to the soft ground and not allocating a large enough foundation to support the tower. The tower has been stabilized a couple of times in recent years to ensure that it doesn’t actually fall over, so it doesn’t actually lean quite as much today as it did a few decades ago. The tower started leaning during its construction, so the architect and builders made slight adjustments as they finished the tower, so you can see a slight difference in angles between the lower rings of the tower and the final ring that holds the bells.
If you want to go to the top of the bell tower, you will need to be sure to buy your tickets in advance as only a limited number of people are allowed to enter every thirty minutes. We went during the off-season, but there will still plenty of crowds and we purchased our tickets a few days in advance. The ticket to the tower also includes visiting either the Pisa Cathedral or the Baptistery. We chose to visit the cathedral, which is certainly beautiful, but perhaps not as remarkable as some of the other cathedrals found in Italy and Europe in general.
After climbing the almost three-hundred stairs to the top of the bell tower, the views are certainly amazing. The marble stairs are very worn and can be quite slippery, but the leaning of the tower makes for an odd effect as you circle around, leaning different directions as you climb or descend. As people exit, you can see slight symptoms of dizziness on their faces as they reacquaint themselves to level footing. Despite the overcast skies, we truly enjoyed seeing the historic rooftops of the city of Pisa.
We would certainly recommend to anyone that they visit this iconic sight, but you really only need a couple of hours to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Pisa Cathedral. Not that the town of Pisa isn’t a pleasant place to visit, there are several other smaller cities in Tuscany that are worth a longer visit. You won’t see any photos of us where we look like we are trying to hold up the tower, but almost every other tourist seemed to be attempting to create that classic image. We were just happy to enjoy seeing the tower and take a few pictures to capture the memory.