07 July 2009

The Leaning Tower of Pisa = 294 steps

The Leaning Tower of Pisa (Tower of Pisa), one of Europe's most famous towers and designed by Bonanno Pisano, is the free standing bell tower for the adjacent cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa. The work of art was built in the years 1173-1350 in 3 stages. It's 183.27 feet tall from the ground on the lowest side and 186.02 on the highest side. The walls are 8 feet thick at the base.

A little know fact is that many of the cathedrals in Italy have bell towers and many of them are leaning for one reason or another.

There are 7 bells in the tower at Pisa that are tuned to musical scale. The largest bell, cast in 1655, is three and a half tons.

Another fact is that the ground beneath the tower is soft so that even before the building was completed. it had already started to tilt. The builders tried to compensate by angling the new construction.

In 1275 architect Tomasso di Andrea da Pontedera realized that the tower could not be straightened due to the poorly laid foundation and loose substrate so many attempts were made to stop additional leaning. The tower (which leans to the southwest) has been closed at various times as engineers worked to shore up the base

The tower was closed in 1990 and re-opened in 2001. I was fortunate that while I was in Pisa I was able to climb to the top. There are 294 stairs, but as you climb, it feels more like 2094. There are no handrails and the walls have been worn smooth. The stairs have slippery groves from the thousands of feet that have gone up and down over the years. The stairs are in a very tight spiral and I think that it's harder to get down than go up.