Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tower of Pisa--Leaning Toward Fame (part two)

A modern-day soil extraction technique has finally brought a measure of stability to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Closed for a decade for safety reasons, the tower reopened to the public in December 2001 after a massive three-year project to remove soil from beneath its 800-year-old foundation. Reducing the incline by 10 percent seems enough to stabilize the Tower for an estimated 200-300 years.
The structure is quite massive, which makes its curved shape all the more awesome. The height of the Tower from its foundation floor is 191 feet 47 inches. The outer diameter of the base measures 50 feet 9.6 inches. After another 77 tons of earth was removed in May 2008, the Tower stopped moving for the first time in its history.

Trekking to the top of the Tower requires careful footing as the steps are worn and slick, the result of centuries of climbers traversing the narrow passages. History comes alive when you stop near the top to admire the bell chamber. Added in 1372, it houses seven bells (the original reason for building the tower), all with different sounds on the musical scale.

Notice uneven arches on Cathedral wall.
Continue climbing for great views of Pisa and the square called Field of Miracles (Piazza dei Miracoli). Take time to tour the Cathedral (uneven arches indicate that it’s off-kilter, too), the Baptistery, and the cemetery called Campo Santo. All are beautiful and worth visiting for their historical, religious, and architectural significance.

City view from top of tower
We found Pisa to be a charming and authentic city. It was an important port during the Roman Empire, the capital of a powerful shipping and trade center. Galileo purportedly conducted his famous gravity experiments by dropping articles from the Tower, and the puppet Pinocchio, son of a poor Tuscan carpenter, is a revered symbol of the region that pops up in all the souvenir shops.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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