Pisa

The final stop on our long day of bus touring was Pisa. I’ve heard mixed reports from travellers over the years about the value of coming here. People have often joked that if the tower falls down there will be nothing else to see here. One of those was the guide on our bus. That’s a little surprising, as the town has a long history and was a very important trading hub on the Arno River close to where it enters the sea. At one time it was one of the four main maritime republics of Italy. The Romans were in Pisa.

We had to park the bus some distance from Miracle Square, the large grassy piazza that is entered through a gate in the high medieval wall of the old city. Three white marble structures stood before us – the baptistry, the cathedral and the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was really quite beautiful. We tried to get a ticket to enter the cathedral, but only timed entries were permitted and the ticket we were issued did not allow us inside until well after our bus was due to leave to return to Florence.

That was a little disappointing, but we were really here to see the leaning tower. It was a bell tower that was built on unstable soil, and it developed a lean of about four degrees. When the tower began to lean, construction was abandoned for a period of time. Eventually the tower was completed over a hundred years later, but the tilt continued to increase to a point where there was concern that the tower might collapse if it leaned any further. So just over 20 years ago a massive project was undertaken to not only stabilise the ground beneath the tower, but also reduce the angle of the lean. Today the structure is not only stable, but also able to take limited numbers of tourists who are prepared to climb the hundreds of stairs to the top.

It might be a trick of the eyes, but viewing the tower it appears that in some places parts of the structure have been slightly shortened to correct the angle of the tilt.

An amusing sight is to watch the strange positions many tourists adopt when photographing the tower. You can see a few in my photos. Many like to take on a post where they appear to be pushing back the tower to stop it from toppling. Others are leaning on the same angle. One woman was lying on her side flat on the ground with her camera pointing upwards. Some were in dance positions.

We drove back to Florence with the hills of Tuscany to our left all the way. It was just over an hour away. We arrived just before 7.30pm, almost 12 hours from the time we’d left. It had been a long day, but a good one. We’d had a taste of Tuscany that left us wishing we could have more time here. We walked home from the bus pick up point, stopping at the central market area where we like the restaurants. It was the last of our five nights in Florence, a place that we’ve enjoyed immensely. Tomorrow we catch the train to Cinque Terre.

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