The iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the symbols of Italy itself. Visitors come from all over the globe to see its tilting sihouette, or for the exhilarating experience of climbing it. Come for a quick selfie, or stay and discover more about the Piazza dei Miracoli, a UNESCO heritage site.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa Facts and Location
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is situated in the so-called Piazza dei Miracoli or Square of Miracles. This is a walled area of 8.87 hectares, north of the river and close to Pisa San Rossore train station.
The Leaning Tower is the bell tower (campanile) of Pisa Cathedral is a remarkable sight, and not just because of its famously uneven stance. The whole Cathedral complex is made up of the Cathedral, the Bell Tower, the Baptistery and the monumental Cemetery. Together they form a unique architectural masterpiece.
The Tower is unusual as it has a round shape and is not attached to the church. Its considerable height was supposed to make it a focal point in the square, so it would be visible from afar; a symbol of the city’s pride. The construction work started in 1174 but was suspended many times, as a result of wars, lack of funds and because the soil had already started to subside.
The theory is that these interruptions allowed the soil to compress under the tower. Had this not been the case, the Tower would have certainly toppled over. By 1275 the subsidence was already at 17 cm. It was completed in 1350, after various failed attempts by different architects to correct the inclination.
The architectural style
The style is a mix of Romanesque and Gothic, like the other buildings in the square. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a large cylinder with an empty inner core, wrapped in columns that give a sense of lightness and elegance. Only the belfry on the eighth floor interrupts the regularity of the different stories. At the top there is gorgeous view over one of the most spectacular squares in Italy.
Best time to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Visit in the late afternoon for the gorgeous light, and to enjoy the view with fewer people around once the tour buses have departed. To avoid disappointment book in advance, as only forty people can go up at the same time. Bear in mind that children under 8 are not allowed up and those aged 8 to 10 years must hold the hand of an adult.
Booking in advance online is more expensive, as many private tour operators add a few euros to the cost of the ticket. Price to climb the tower: 18 Euro (including visit to the Cathedral). If you decide not to book it’s best to arrive early and go directly to the ticket booth. Often you’ll have to wait for a few hours (in high season, but remember it’s always pretty busy).
The Leaning Tower in numbers
The Leaning Tower of Pisa has seven bells, one for each note of the musical major scale.
Height: 55.863 metres (183 ft 3 in), 8 storeys
Its weight has been calculated at 14,453 tons.
Angle of inclination: 3.97 degrees or 3.9 metres (12 ft 10 in) from vertical.
There are 293 steps to reach the top.
There have been an innumerable series of attempts to straighten the tower, and to stabilise it. In 1993 it was closed to tourists while work was undertaken. Some 70 tonnes of earth were removed from below the foundation on the northern side. This caused the tower to sink and rectified the lean by 43.8cm. Experts believe this will save the Leaning Tower of Pisa for another three centuries.
Did you know? Galileo and The Leaning Tower of Pisa
A famous legend has it that Pisa born Galileo, who was studying here at the University, used to throw objects from the tower’s top while he was studying the laws of gravity. There’s no proof of this being true of course, but it still makes for a nice anecdote.
There are several other towers in Pisa that also lean: the bell tower at the church of St. Michele degli Scalzi, and the one at the church of St. Nicola. The Cathedral and Baptistery are also slowly sinking.