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Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy

Pisa, the famously lopsided tower is one of Italy‘s top attractions, drawing millions of visitors each year to marvel at its fascinating, if failed, engineering and its glorious architecture.

The construction of the Tower began in 1173. Originally designed to be a bell tower, it stood upright for over 5 years, but when the third floorwas completed in 1178 it began to lean. Italians were shocked by the event, as the tower began to lean ever so slightly.

Who built the Leaning Tower of Pisa

The real identity of Tower of Pisa’s architects is a mystery.

The most accredited architects of this first phase of work are Bonanno Pisano and Gherardo din Gherardo.

The second phase of construction started in 1275, and the work is attributed to Giovani di Simone. Tommaso Pisano (1350-1372) was the architect who finished the work.

Why does the Tower of Pisa lean

The leaning of the Tower of Pisa comes into the story in 1173, when construction began.

Thanks to the soft ground, it had begun to lean by the time its builders got to the third story, in 1178. Shifting soil had destabilized the tower’s foundations.

Over the next 800 years, it became clear the 55-metre tower wasn’t just learning but was actually falling at a rate of one to two millimeters per year.

Today, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is more than five meters off perpendicular.

Its architect and engineer tried to correct this by making the remaining stories shorter on the uphill side – but to no avail. It kept leaning more and more.

The lean, first noted when three of the tower’s eight stories had been built, resulted from the foundation stones being laid on soft ground consisting of clay, fine sand and shells.

The next stories were built slightly taller on the short side of the tower in an attempt to compensate for the lean. However, the weight of the extra floors caused the edifice to sink further and lean more.

The lean creates some interesting imbalances

italy tower of pisa
Tower of Pisa

The leaning tower of Pisa was supposed to be 60 meters tall (196.85 feet). After the lean, however, the highest side of the tower reaches a mere 56.67 meters (about 186 feet), while the lowest side is 55.86m, or 183 feet.

By 1990 the tower had reached a tilt of 5.5 degrees – nearly 15 feet from its base and enough to topple it over by most calculations! Luckily, this considerable tilt was enough to overcome the world-famous inertia of Italian bureaucracy and kick start a massive restoration program that reduced the tilt to only 3.97 degrees. Because of the tower’s original list, the north side staircase has something like 296 steps to the top, while the south side has just 294.

The tower is currently stable

The tower has survived centuries of well-meaning but misguided attempts to right it, including various engineers who added levels and arches of all different heights and one overzealous group who dug around the tower to open an underground tour (which only helped to fill the area with even more water). But someone finally got it right in the 21st century and as of 2001, the tower was officially declared stable for at least the next 200 years. In 2008 engineers found that the tower is officially no longer moving – the first time in its history that it hasn’t been slowly listing to one side. 200 years from now, let’s just hope we have the technology to save the tower for another 200!

The Allies intended to destroy the tower

American soldiers had orders to tear down any and all buildings in Italy that could serve as lookout points or “nests” for enemy snipers during World War Two. In fact, the Germans who were occupying Italy at the time did often use the tower as a lookout, but it’s said that when the Allies arrived they were so impressed by the beauty of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the surrounding Field of Miracles that they decided not to level the area.

Mussolini hated the tower and made it worse

Italy’s 20th-century dictator, Benito Mussolini, was ashamed of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He considered its mistaken construction and subsequent lean a national disgrace and an embarrassment to Italy’s reputation. So as with many of the things that he considered shortcoming of Italy, he set out to fix it. Unlike some of his other projects, like draining the swamps of Sicily, it didn’t go well. The idea was to drill hundreds of holes in the base of the tower and pump in grout and mortar to essentially ballast the entire structure and set it straight. In reality, all this accomplished was to create an even heavier base that made the tower lean even more than it had before.

Where is Tower of Pisa

The city of Pisa, located in northern Tuscany approximately 50 miles west of Florence, is home to the iconic 13th-century Leaning Tower of Pisa (pronounced peez-ah, not pizza).

Location: Campo dei Miracoli, 56100 Pisa, Italy

Why visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Tower of Pisa is a true jewel of Romanesque art. In addition it is a monument that has acquired importance through the centuries by its pronounced inclination creating admiration and concern to both experts and tourists. The Tower of Pisa was proposed as one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World!

This tower is the bell tower of the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in the Cathedral Square and has 55.86 meters in height, 8 floors and about 294 steps. The 8 floors are surrounded by a loggia with arches that reproduce the motif of the facade of the Cathedral and has 7 bells on the top floor of the Tower, their names are: Assunta the largest and heaviest, Crucifix (Crocifisso), San Ranieri , Dal Pozzo, Pasquareccia, Terza, Vespruccio. At the moment they continue to sound before the beginning of the masses of the Cathedral and at noon thanks to an electronic system.

Tower of Pisa Tickets

As it gets closer to the departure date for Italy, it is absolutely necessary to prepare your intinerary and buy your tickets in advance: especially your Leaning Tower of Pisa tickets. A trip to Tuscany will surely include the infamous Leaning Tower of Pisa and the exceptionally beautiful Square of Miracles. Both are stunning examples of the beautiful architecture and talented marble craftsmen found only in Tuscany. However, the Tower is only open to those who have one of the limited tickets and time slot reserved. There are no exceptions: space to visit the Leaning Tower is limited and tickets have an entrance time which is strictly observed for every half-hour. So be forewarned, buy your tickets online and don’t risk not finding a time slot when you arrive in Pisa.

Reserve your Leaning Tower of Pisa Tickets Today »

Tower of Pisa Tours

The 10 best hotels close to Leaning Tower of Pisa

So, where should you stay to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Below you can find a list of the closest hotels to the Pisa Tower which we recommend. To see and book all hotels in Pisa Italy you can check here.

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