The Leaning Two-hours of Pisa

Italy was like the flavor of the month some days back when I wrote this incomplete article and saved it in drafts praying that it may have moulds and grows complete. It did not, and procrastination gave in to the several multiple innumerous reminders by self and the significant other, and I collaborated all of myself to write it.

From Florence, the city I wrote about last, we headed towards Pisa for all of a couple of hours. We knew it was too short and there were barely two things to look forward to – the Leaning Tower and the flea shopping outside the tower (a la Taj Mahal).

We went to Pisa by road and it was a solitary ride – most of the guys were tired after all the walking, and the lunch, and had their shares of 40 winks in the comfy seats of the coach. We arrived Pisa around 5, the sun had started setting.

The city of Pisa sits on the banks of river Arno in the Tuscany regions of Italy, and is known for its world-famous Bell Tower. We did not know much about the city besides the Tower and that Galileo Galilei was from Pisa. And for all that while we were there, we did not learn much anyway – aside from the Tower and it’s being.

It looked like a perfectly Italian city, with no high-rise buildings, not-so-broad roads, bikers, colorful graffiti and the crispy brown leaves of fall shining at the crimson rays of the sun.

From the bus depot we walked to the Tower. And just as we got off, we were mobbed by this group of African-Italians selling fake designer stuff (oh, we were so tempted – but first things first, we told ourselves and continued the walk).

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a part of the cathedral of Pisa city – it is actually the “Campanile” (or the bell tower) and is a beautiful structure set against a beautiful setting of the Cathedral and the Bapistry. The tower is visibly at an angle of about 75 degrees. Though, when constructed, it was meant to stand erect, but poor construction material, weak foundation and soft earth made it lean to a side – slowly and steadily. The leaning kept happening till a few years back when the Pisans realised that they need to restore the monument and prevent it from toppling over. It must’ve been a humongous task, this one, for which they hired engineers, architects, mathematicians’ task force. The restoration took more than a decade during which the tower was closed to public.

The Cathedral

The Bapistry

The leaning Bell Tower

One would wonder how in the first place the huge, leaned tower survived for so many eras. As per the story engraved there, the construction happened in phases – over the gaps of a century or two. This allowed the structure to settle into the soft soils where it was erected.

There are 7 + 1 floors, the top one has a bell-chamber that has seven bells of seven sizes – each has its own note on the given music scale. Very, very interesting, and tempting to go inside and hear for one’s self. The tower is not open for the public to go inside and climb the floors, but one can go as close as 8 feet.

After clicking numerous pictures from all possible angles (including lying down on one’s back on the middle of the road and piggy-backing another for a view) people did it all.

And then there were these open shops, like a small flea market, from where people bought souvenirs (supposedly the cheapest on Italy streets), imitation watches, faux sunglasses etc.

All this was topped with a lavish Indian dinner at a Bangladeshi restaurant right outside, something that most people loved. There were some of us who sulked, since we had not had enough of the ah-so-wonderful Italian spread, but that is okay, since it is a large group.

I wish I can go back again to the lovely streets that we rushed through, on foot. Soak the sunset all again, without being in a hurry. Haggle with the salesmen selling the souvenirs and buy more. And once, have the Italian cuisine of Pisa.


  • Ram Dhall says:

    You have fulfilled my wish of going to see the Leaning Pisa. Although I have been to Florence, due to time constraints, I had to postpone the visit to Pisa to some other time, which as usual never came.

    Your superbly narrated account is equally informative too. Honestly, I never knew that it was a bell tower. I always, thought that like the other towers of the renaissance days, it must be some sort of surveillance tower.

    The post is very well supported by some excellent pictures.

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience.

    God bless you.

  • smitadhall says:

    Thank you very much. I have been off-ghumakkar for quite a while now and hopefully, with this post, be back on track.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Glad that its done :). Great pics.

    Its been a while I stepped out. After reading this, its getting all the more difficult to remain here.

    What next ?

  • Patrick Jones says:

    Fluid narration. Would like to see more of it.

    A little more history wouldn’t have been out of place; also, the tilt appears to be overestimated :-)

  • Celine says:

    I like the opening sentence..haha! I have many such drafts in my folder.

    Two comments, or questions: How does piggy-backing give a better view, I wonder? I like the thought though.. lol
    Secondly, if you think Pisa is like a “perfectly Italian city with no high-rise buildings” what about Rome?
    I like this post on Pisa, thanks for sharing these lovely photos.

  • Patrick says:

    How romantic. One of these days a european tour is in the offing – has any one done it – france, italy, amsterdam, sweden, switzerland etc all in one go and on a shoestring budget?

    Anyway thats a wonderful write up with splendid photos.

  • Sudhir says:

    Smita at her best. The pics are simply awesome. I bet you would have sulked for missing the Italian spread.

    You just added Italy to my wish list. Italy, here I come… when….don’t know :-)

  • smitadhall says:

    Thank you all very much, really :-)

    Patrick (Jones) :- Yeah… but in two hours, this is all one could register. And then, yes. The tilt does actually look pretty ordinary in the pics, but out there, it is quite visible – I could be wrong on my estimation either way.

    Celine :- I’m now scratching hard to remember what they were trying to do… so i’ll answer that later :-p

    Rome. Is Rome. Is more than Italy. Whereas Pisa seemed almost like country-side, a small town that makes its living on a wonder-of-the-world.

    Patrick :- tell us about this tour (shoestring budget) if you have the details!!!!

  • manish khamesra says:

    Beautiful Pictures Smita. I loved looking at these beautiful pictures as they reminded me of my own visit. Its beautifully narrated story.

    We too visited Pisa from Florence and we were wondering should we go there or miss it, but we loved our decison of going there. The only difference being that when we visited there, it was possible to go to the top, though we could not go as small kids below 5 were not allowed, because of narrow stairs and today also I feel that it would have been very interesting to go to the top :)

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