Monday, November 22, 2010


I think today can be classified as our most expensive trip to date. We came to Pisa by train, about 1 1/2 hour trip. Once we hopped off the train, we stopped in a coffee shop to order a cappuccino each and a pastry each. This little breakfast cost us R170! I think we've become used to which coffee shops to go to in Rome and Firenze, and out of habit forgot to check the prices...

The tower of Pisa is actually quite amazing. We arrived at the tower while nothing much was going on yet, so we sat and waited in the better of the two ticket offices. They had a whole movie about the tower. The tower as we know it today is 7 stories and then a 8th with the bells at the top. The top most story was only completed in the 1800s. The first 4 stories were built in the 1100s if my memory serves me correctly. It was then the first time it started leaning. This is due to the ground deep underneath being sand and moist, since they eventually discovered that this area used to be sea - after finding boat wrecks in the ground! Today you can't even see the sea from the top of the tower. In the 13 or 1400s after some investigations they decided to build the last story, after which the tower started leaning some more, and in the 1800s it was completed.

From 1998 to 2001 or so they had to close access to the tower since it's risk of falling over has increased quite a bit. This was due to the fact that the ground on the one side could fall away some more, and the stress that the top levels of the building is putting on the first story was too much for it. They built huge weights from some kind of metal which they attached to the building, which actually decreased the leaning a bit. In an effort to maintain the look of the building without these weights, they then tried to build these weights underground, but this then increased the leaning again. They eventually used machinery to almost pull the lean in a bit. They also attached metal to some of the structures to strengthen it against the stress. Today all of these machines have been removed, and the tower is being monitored very closely by sone pretty nifty software! This includes lot of photography and scientific measures of the ground and environment, but it is still pretty cool!

We climbed the 250 steps to the top, and unfortunately we couldn't get to the front of the queue, so we couldn't sprint it! The view from the top is beautiful! We were lucky enough to have about 2 hours of sunshine, part of it while on top of the tower, so we could see all the buildings in Pisa, the mountains around it and even the snow on some of the mountains! The 250 stairs cost us R150 each, but with all the work that goes into this building I felt it was worth it. And then we had to pay R3 each to go to the loo!

We are now on our way back to Firenze, after strolling through the streets of Pisa for a while. We were double lucky on our way to the train station - we had rain AND sunshine, at the same time!

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