292, 293, 294! I had finally made it up all the stairs and was overlooking the town of Pisa.
When I looked at the Leaning Tower of Pisa I knew that the pictures I had always seen were true: It really was leaning. Why is it leaning? Well, when the tower was being built, there was a small (okay, major) foundation problem. The foundation was too soft and lopsided. The builders didn’t realize the mistake until the third story was built! Not surprisingly, the architect didn’t claim his work. To this day, the original architect is still unknown. Two more architects were hired to straighten up his mess, but the lean couldn’t be corrected.
The Leaning Tower is actually the bell tower for the cathedral next door. Most cathedrals have bell towers. This one just happened to become famous. Several years ago, they did some structural work to make it a tiny bit straighter. Lucky for us, it is now safe for touring for another 200 years.
We walked to the tower and sat on a bench wrapped around the inside of the tower. Once it was full, a man gave us a five minute lecture on it’s history.
“What did he say?” I whispered to my mom. Due to his accent, I couldn’t understand what the teacher was saying. “He said that there are 294 steps to the top of the tower and it is 183 feet high. It was built from 1173 to 1373,” Mom whispered back. That’s when everyone stood up, and started walking to the stairs.
The climb was long, and many people stepped to the side to let others pass them. I noticed wear patterns on the stone steps from where gravity had pulled people to the edge, sometimes to the left, sometimes to the right. It felt like being in a carnival fun house. Out of breath, I trudged up the last few steps. Three, two, one. As I got up, I exhaled deeply and walked to the edge of the tower. I did the thing where you smushed someone in your fingers to a man still on the ground. They were like ants! I walked up about ten more stairs on a separate staircase, and really got to the top. I carefully treaded the perimeter of the tower (even though there were gates on the edge) and looked at the ginormous bells hung up. I would HATE it if one went off.
My family got several pictures at the top, and soon after, we had to walk back down the steps.
I thought about how this tower probably wouldn’t be famous if it wasn’t leaning. Pisa is out of the way, Italy-wise. Either way, I enjoyed what we did later that day more.
We took the train to Lucca, a small town 30 or so minutes from Pisa. Lucca is famous because it still has it’s medieval walls up, and the walls are up to 150 feet wide in some parts! We got off the train, and headed across the street to a bike rental store. All four of us got pretty blue bikes, and started riding. We rode to a big ramp, to go up the wall on the bike trail. Yes, a bike and running trail on top of the wall. Talk about big!
We were able to ride around the whole wall in about 50 minutes, including the occasional stop at a playground. I’ve noticed that the older playgrounds are WAY more fun than the new ones. Anyway, definitely spend a couple hours in Lucca if you ever go to Pisa. It is well worth it and more fun than looking at cathedrals!