Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Torre pedente di Pisa

Pisa, Italy.  Summer 2004.

It's not the only leaning tower in the world, but the campanile in the Piazza del Duomo is clearly the most famous.  Constructed in stages over a period of 177 years, the tower's poor foundation and unstable ground caused the tower to sink dramatically under its own weight during construction.  Thank goodness Pisa's near constant battles with the surrounding provinces stalled the project after the third floor - had the soil underneath not been allowed to settle during that time, the tower would have collapsed long before it reached completion.

(While we're here, can you imagine building that thing on an angle?  The southwest side of the tower started sinking after the third floor.  There are seven.  Before the restoration in the late 90's, the top of the tower was 18 feet from where it would have been had the building been completely vertical.  I'd have been afraid to go to work every day.) 

The entire cathedral piazza is aesthetically striking, a "modern" love letter to the architecture of passed generations.  The grass is a healthy green, on a clear day the sky is softly blue, and the buildings are a stark, pure white.  The ancient Roman's believed that this was the most beautiful picture you could create, and every building in the area - the cathedral, the tower, the baptistry, even the line of shops that surrounds the square - it all goes towards creating this incredibly picturesque landscape. 

The tower was closed to the public while we were there; the city was in the final stages of stabilizing the building, resetting the foundation to hold the tower at a less dramatic angle, and it wasn't quite safe to let Jane and Joe Tourist into the building.  It's reopened since then, I just haven't been back to look over the edge.  I bet it's a trip though, not being able to see the bottom of the tower because it's underneath and behind you.  Probably causes all sorts of vertigo.

On a side note, at any one time, at least twenty percent of the people at the base of the tower are standing with their hands out in front of them, posing for one of those "I'm holding it up!" pictures.  I had no one to hold my camera, and so there is no picture of me holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Just another excuse to go back, I suppose.

No comments: