The first half of today, we are spending in the small town of Pisa for obvious reasons – the tower. It’s pretty much the only thing Pisa is known for, apart from being the birthplace of Galileo.
After all the stairs of yesterday, we were glad to have booked a guided tour to get us there and back, and even more glad that we had not opted to climb the tower’s 284 steps, which meant that when we arrived, we had plenty of spare time to ourselves to enjoy the small town.
So, a bit about the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This simple bell tower in the middle of the Square of Miracles (named not because of any miracles that happened here – rather that everything in the square is so beautiful that it is a miracle) has been leaning since day 1 due to the soft ground in the area, which weakened the foundations of the tower.
In any case, it is a major tourist attraction and all along the square you will find people trying to take that funny photo of themselves pushing the tower over.
By 1990, it was on a 10º lean and it was decided it was tie to do something about it before it fell over. They pumped concrete underneath the foundations to steady the tower and it now leans at 4º and is curved slightly as a result of the rectification works.
Deciding to stop for lunch in the little square while the other tourists were still occupied with their photo taking, we head to one of the little cafes selling pizza. Each one in fact sells pizza, so it depends on whether you want to eat in view of the tower, or want to wander further away where the price is no doubt cheaper. We ordered two ‘individual size’ pizzas, which were way more than we should have eaten but that were so damn delicious we couldn’t help but finish them off, did a spot of window shopping and then made our way back to the square for our walking tour of the Cathedral.
The Cathedral and the baptistry are also sinking. The Cathedral was consecrated in 1118 by Pope Gelasius II and it’s Romanesque architecture represents the wealth of Pisa at the time. It was here that Galileo was baptised. It was also here where he formed his theory of “isochronism of the pendulum” whilst looking at the chandelier swinging for incense ash coming down. The chandelier, now known as “Galileo’s Lamp” can be seen in the Cathedral.
At the end of the day, we catch a local bus up to Piazza Michaelangelo for incredible views over the city of Florence until it begins to rain, forcing us to find the refuge of our villa. Tomorrow, we will explore Florence.