THE LEANING TOWER OF PISA

The Leaning Tower of Pisa or simply the Tower of Pisa is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa. It is situated behind the Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in Pisa’s Cathedral Square after the Cathedral and the Baptistry

Construction of the tower occurred in three stages across 177 years. Work on the first floor of the white marble campanile began on August 8, 1173, during a period of military success and prosperity. This first floor is a blind arcade articulated by engaged columns with classical Corinthian capitals.

The tower began to sink after construction had progressed to the third floor in 1178. This was due to a mere three-metre foundation, set in weak, unstable subsoil, a design that was flawed from the beginning. Construction was subsequently halted for almost a century, because the Republic of Pisa was almost continually engaged in battles with Genoa, Lucca and Florence. This allowed time for the underlying soil to settle. Otherwise, the tower would almost certainly have toppled. In 1198 clocks were temporarily installed on the third floor of the unfinished construction.

In 1272 construction resumed under Giovanni di Simone, architect of the Camposanto. In an effort to compensate for the tilt, the engineers built upper floors with one side taller than the other. Because of this, the tower is actually curved. Construction was halted again in 1284, when the Pisans were defeated by the Genoans in the Battle of Meloria.

The seventh floor was completed in 1319. It was built by Tommaso di Andrea Pisano, who succeeded in harmonizing the Gothic elements of the bell-chamber with the Romanesque style of the tower. There are seven bells, one for each note of the musical major scale. The largest one was installed in 1655. The bell-chamber was finally added in 1372.

After a phase (1990–2001) of structural strengthening, the tower is currently undergoing gradual surface restoration, in order to repair visual damage, mostly corrosion and blackening. These are particularly pronounced due to the tower’s age and its exposure to wind and rain.

It’s easy to reach the Leaning Tower from the Pisa train station, either by walking or by taking the bus or a taxi. Bus lines 3 and 4 run from Pisa Centrale, the main station, as does Shuttle Bus A – all of these will drop you near the Tower. Taxis are plentiful as well, and the ride isn’t very long. The buses and taxis are all available across from the train station’s main entrance.

If you’re in the mood for a walk, leave Pisa Centrale’s main entrance and go toward Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Turn onto Via Crispi and go as far as Ponte Solferino. Cross the bridge and continue until you read Via Roma. Turn onto Via Roma and continue until you reach Piazza dei Miracoli – the home of the Leaning Tower. The walk will take you just under a half-hour.

If you’ve come into Pisa’s San Rossore train station, however, it’s only a five minute walk from where the subway stops. Take the subway from the train station and get out through Piazza Fancelli. Walk to Via Andrea Pisano, turn left and continue until you reach the Piazza dei Miracoli.

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~ by ferry1984 on August 10, 2011.

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