1YoT: The Leaning Tower of Pisa

After three days in Florence, it was time to go back to Bologna. But we didn’t go direct, instead we stopped by the one site I was most frustrated to have not visited on my last visit to Florence: the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

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The Leaning Tower of Pisa is located in Pisa, a beautiful city one hour west of Florence. 

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Here it is, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This tower was built in three stages: the first three floors were built in 1173, the next three between 1272-1284, and the top floor and bell tower were added in the 1300s. During each construction period, architects corrected for the lean by angling the floor, resulting in a tower that is slightly curved in addition to leaning.

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The base of the tower shows the reason for the lean: ground sinking under the south side of the tower. All told, the ground has sunk approximately 4.5 feet, at one point causing the tower to lean by more than five degrees. However, to stabilize the tower, engineers recently lowered the base of the north side by 1.5 feet, reducing the lean to approximately four degrees. At this angle, the top of the tower is displaced by almost thirteen feet.

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In addition to its lean, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is also beautiful. So beautiful in fact that allied forces refused to order an artillery strike on it, even after learning that Nazis were using it as a lookout post.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is also famous as the supposed site where Galileo dropped two cannonballs of different masses to demonstrate that speed of descent is independent of mass. If that last sentence sounds like a foreign language that’s okay, just know that Galileo’s experiment was instrumental in the development of modern physics.

Also located in Pisa, in the same square as the Leaning Tower, are the Pisa Baptistery and Cathedral. These buildings are actually older than the Leaning Tower, which was built to complement them. All three structures comprise Pisa’s famous Piazza dei Miracoli.

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Finally, a panorama of Piazza dei Miracoli, complete with the three historic buildings and the nearby Statue of Angels.

This brings us to the end of our Pisa visit. We only spent a couple hours here, just enough time to get lunch, check out the tower, and catch the train back to Bologna. From here we visited another historic Italian city, this one known for its mosaics and also as the origin of some pretty fundamental ideas in Christianity. To read about this, head to our next post!

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