No hilarious holiday snap is better than the fake lean against the leaning tower of Pisa. It’s a classic – *chef’s kiss*. Located in the Italian city of Pisa, this tower has been leaning at an angle for centuries. But we’re so used to this iconic tower that we forget to ask the most obvious question: “Hold up, why is it leaning?”
While the world-famous lean has captured the attention of millions, it surely wasn’t the original intention. So, what went wrong? How did the tower of Pisa get its lean?
History of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Instantly recognizable worldwide and definitely a must-see when in Italy, this tower attracts millions to its doorstep. Yet, despite its notoriety, few people are familiar with its history. The tower was built over a period of 200 years, starting in 1173 and finishing in 1372. It was designed to be a bell tower for the nearby cathedral and was constructed in three stages.
Standing at an impressive 58 meters, the tower is made of white marble and reaches eight floors. Each floor relies on a different number of columns to reach this height – 15 columns on the first floor, 30 on the second, another 30 on the third, and so on. Finally, at the pinnacle, the tower is capped with a bell chamber from which it derives its Italian name, the Duomo’s campanile (bell tower).
Why Is the Leaning Tower of Pisa Leaning?
When sculptor Bonanno Pisano began construction in 1173, things quickly took a downward turn. Built on soft soil, the colossal weight of only three of the tower’s seven tiers led to the destabilization of the foundations. As the tower began to sink on one side, work was abandoned almost a century after its commencement.
In 1272, a collection of artisans and masons attempted to finish the construction bolstering the foundations. To compensate for the lean, the builders built the upper floors at a slight angle. It helped to reduce the lean, but not completely.
In fact, the three-stage construction is partly responsible. Because each stage was constructed on top of the previous one, the leaning tower of Pisa history shows that the tower’s weight was never evenly distributed. As a result, the tower’s lower levels are stronger and more stable than the upper levels, which are lighter and less durable. (Hence, the unusual number of columns.)
Several attempts were made to straighten the tower over the years, but none succeeded. In the 1990s, engineers worked to stabilize it and reduce its lean. They used various techniques, including adding weights to the tower’s base and drilling holes in the ground to remove soil. These efforts were successful, and they reopened it to the public in 2001.
Fun Facts About the Leaning Tower of Pisa
- The tower is located in the Piazza dei Miracoli, which means “Square of Miracles.”
- The tower’s lean has been reduced by about 45 centimeters (17.7 inches) since its stabilization in 2001.
- The tower was closed to the public for almost 20 years in the 1990s while engineers worked to stabilize it and reduce its lean.
- The tower attracts millions of visitors annually, making it one of Italy’s most popular tourist attractions.
- The tower is not the only leaning structure in Pisa – several other buildings in the city also lean.
The Inside of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Scared of heights? No? Well, even the most fearless traveler may find climbing it a little daunting. Although perhaps, it’s a different fear from what you’d feel at the Tower of London.
But, yes, you can climb to the top and marvel at the panoramic views over Tuscany. See if you can spot the nearby Piazza dei Miracoli.
Just 45 people are allowed in at a time – and you have only 35 minutes to ascend the 251 – occasionally slippery – steps.
Along the way, visitors can see the intricate wooden framework that supports the tower, the bell chamber, and the famous pendulum that helps to stabilize it.
You can purchase tickets to the leaning tower of Pisa online or at the tower itself. Visitors should be aware that large bags and backpacks are prohibited inside the tower. It is recommended to wear comfortable shoes and clothing and to purchase tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
Climbing to the top of the tower and taking in the breathtaking views of Pisa is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In addition, exploring the surrounding Piazza dei Miracoli and its historic buildings is a bonus that makes the trip even more memorable.
So, if you are planning a trip to Europe, be sure to include a visit to Italy and add the leaning tower of Pisa to your itinerary. Its fascinating history, stunning architecture, and incredible views make it a true wonder of the world.
What other landmarks do you find most puzzling? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and keep exploring the world!