This is what Pisa was all about for Son – a trip to the Leaning Tower so he could pose for one of those cheesy “holding it up” pictures. Husband and I had visited years ago mid restoration project when they were working to sort out the tilt and prevent the whole thing toppling. We were only able to admire from afar that time, on this trip a climb to the top was a priority. So excitement levels were high all round but when strolling through the old town we suddenly and unexpectedly came upon this sight, well those levels went through the roof.
We were all wowed by this first glimpse of the glistening and leaning white tower peeking out amongst the houses and buildings at the end of the street. The tower is beautiful, a tourist trap for sure but unmissable and we loved it. As we entered the square those awful photos were taken, Son posing happily but my attempts at capturing aforementioned pose got a definite thumbs down from him.
This is the bell tower for the cathedral, they started to build it in 1173 but didn’t finish until the late 14th century. It is cylindrical, 54 metres tall with 8 storeys and there are 294 marble steps up a spiral staircase should you have a desire to get to the very top. It started to lean soon after it was built – subsidence of the ground under the base – but the project to keep it from leaning more and tipping over completely was successful and now all and sundry can enter again and ascend to the highest level.
You need to buy a reservation based ticket – you can get these on the day for a specific time but this could be 45 minutes to 2 hours after you buy it. Train timetables and tourist hoards made me feel concerned so I bought the ticket in advance on-line for the time we specifically wanted. As it happens there were still plenty of available slots, it would have been fine on the day. You are not allowed to take any bags up the tower, they have to be left in a locker in a different building. The queue to leave (and retrieve) the bags was huge, we stood in a sweltering line for 30 minutes each time, the worst part of the whole day.
Inside the tower a lady gave us a short talk about the history and the restoration project, then it was time to ascend. The steps go round and round, you feel weirdly disoriented with the extreme tilt as you go up. Son hated this, felt very freaked out and Husband, as always with these things was entirely unsympathetic. I have to admit it is a strange and unnatural feeling going up but I quite liked it. The view at the top is gorgeous – definitely worth the pain of those steps.
You climb up in groups of about 20 but can take your time and we didn’t feel at all rushed. Children have to be minimum 8 years old to climb but I can’t imagine wanting to take kids younger than that up these steps. The worst part for me was the descent – hard on the knees, add to that the most slippery marble steps in the world with not a handrail in sight and you get one mildly terrifying experience.
Freaked out going up, Son skipped down those steps like a mountain goat, octogenarian would probably be more appropriate for my descent. Still, it was definitely worth all the drama, I would highly recommend this and I think, for one reason or another, none of us will forget going up the Leaning Tower of Pisa in a hurry.