The leaning tower of Pisa is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. The “Pisanis” (the inhabitants of Pisa) built the Piazza dei Miracoli with its cathedral, baptistry and bell tower as a way to celebrate their power and wealth. Little did they know, more than 8 centuries later, it would remain famous for its bad engineering more than for its beauty.
Pisa is easily reachable from Florence and is perfect for a full or half day visit, along with its neighbouring city of Lucca.
Here are ten interesting facts about the tower that you may not know:
Fact #1. It was never straight
The subsoil under the Leaning Tower of Pisa is very soft. The tilt became visible almost from the start, creating headaches for generation upon generation of engineers.
Fact #2. It almost never got finished
By the fourth tier of the tower, its builders were at a loss. Everything they tried to do to offset the lean didn’t work. The work site came to a close. It only reopened 100 years later.
Fact #3. It was once an embarrassment to Italy
Mussolini hated the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He thought it was an embarrassment to Italy and wanted it straightened. Sadly, his engineers made the situation worse by injecting cement into the foundation.
Fact #4. Engineers and builders have tried to straighten it for centuries
Throughout history there have been many failed attempts to straighten the tower. At its worse in 1990, it was tilted at a 5.5 degree angle. Most thought it would collapse! Luckily, this state of emergency forced the slow Italian administration to intervene and save the tower.
Fact #5. It should be safe for another 200 years
It took until 2008 for the Leaning Tower to final stabilize. Scientist say it should stay that way for another 200 years. The tower is constantly monitored to make sure the situation doesn’t worsen.
Fact #6. It’s a chimeless bell tower
The leaning tower is actually the bell tower of the Pisa cathedral. It has 7 bells, each one a different musical note from the major scale. The bells haven’t tolled since the 20th century though, because engineers fear their movement could worsen its lean.
Fact #7. It almost got raised to the ground
During WWII, the allies were given the order to destroy any building that could be used as a watchtower. The leaning tower actually served that purpose but was spared because of its beauty.
Fact #8. It’s not the only leaning tower in Pisa
Pisa was built on marshy land and quite a few buildings have sank a little. The bell towers of churches San Nicola and San Michele degli Scalzi also have a noticeable tilt.
Fact #9. It has imperfect measurements
The tower’s builders had to make modifications to the original plans to compensate for the tilt. Instead of being 60 m tall it is 56.67 m on the highest side and 55,86 m on the lowest side.
Fact #10. Visitors can go up to the top
One would think that with all its engineering problems, the tower would be closed off to visitors. Actually, just in 2017, 3.2 million people visited the tower. Make sure to book your ticket in advance if you don’t want to spend hours waiting in line.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is an absolute must see, but don’t forget the rest of the Miracoli square. The cathedral and baptistry are architectural wonders. Remember also that Pisa is much more than the Tower. As soon as you leave the Piazza dei Miracoli, the amount of tourists will decrease exponentially and you will discover the other wonders of Pisa.
Book your Pisa and Lucca tour from Florence now!