For much of the 1990s I assumed you’ve couldn’t go up the Leaning Tower of Pisa … because you couldn’t go up the Leaning Tower of Pisa! It’s only now after a recent trip there that I realise it was just closed between 1990 and 2001 for maintenance work in an attempt to reduce its lean, which at the time was 5.5°. So now, 14 years after the works’ completion the lean is a far less “leany” 3.97° and since December 2001 tourists have once again been able to climb up it. And you can climb up it too!
We visited Pisa’s Piazza del Miracoli in May while enroute to Florence so we could tackle Pisa’s tower, check out the Cathedral, and behold the beautiful Bapistry. Many friends had advised us to only spend half a day in Pisa and not stay overnight there. However due to our flight times from Luton it was easier to stay for 24 hours; the late afternoon on arrival to have a “wander around” amongst all the day-trippers, the evening to have a nice meal and savour the tower in relative peace and quiet, and then the following morning to actually climb up it.
We bought our tower tickets for €18 each from the official site at http://www.opapisa.it/en/tickets/buy/ which releases them 20 days in advance. This gave us a far better time selection throughout the day compared to sites like http://www.towerofpisa.org/tickets/ who additionally add on a cheeky €10 booking fee! Our €18 choice included entry to the Cathedral too.
So having photographed countless tourists pushing the tower upright, holding it up between their fingers, karate kicking it and pretending it was an ice cream cone we headed the 100m from our hotel (Hotel Kinzica) to the tower. With pre-bought tickets in hand we waited in the welcome shade of the tower’s shadow 15 minutes before our time slot of 11am. Handbags/bags/luggage/bumbags aren’t allowed up and must be left in the cloakroom (which is free) so we patiently waited our turn to enter with just cameras hanging around our necks, before having a routine hand-held metal detector check. Up close you notice how incredibly clean the tower’s smooth marble is along with the jaunty angle of the door as you walk through it.
The entrance room has some pictures and vertical metal stands to show you what “straight” looks like. A few of the devices we couldn’t work out immediately so we headed speedily for the staircase instead. There are 8 stories in total but you’re not allowed to walk out onto any of them apart from the very top level so it’s a straight 55 metres slog to the top. It was a hot day when we visited so it was a relief to eventually exit the narrow staircase and arrive up on the top level.
As you climb up be sure to check out the worn white marble steps which must have had millions of feet walk over them to erode them like this since its construction begun back in 1173. Once at the top I was surprised to see a round open roof rather than a flat domed roof of some sort. I didn’t even realise they had 7 bells at the top (one for each note of the musical major scale). One of which scared the living skylights out of an Indian family posing right next to it as it struck 12.
A round trip might take about 40 minutes but there’s no one ushering you down so within reason you can stay up there as long as you like. We took some photos of the Cathedral below on one side and our hotel on the other, and then sat on the south side which slopes forward sufficiently enough that you’re weary of placing anything on the steps in case it slides forwards and falls through the gaps onto the crowd below. Also it’s only just noticeable but on the way down you also have that sensation of slipping down off the steps as they are angled down slightly due to the 4° tilt on that side of the tower.
A few shots you don’t see that often are of the base of the tower and of its exposed open top half so make sure you take photos of both while remembering to chill out 251 steps up in the air as well. Grateful that the tower didn’t fall down at some point in the past, wasn’t targeted with an artillery strike when the US army found out the Germans were possibly using it as an observation post during WWII, and finally that it’s now open to the public once more. 🙂