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The Leaning Tower of Pisa

In August 1173, the construction of the Pisa Cathedral’s bell tower began. When the tower reached three storeys, it started sinking, and all work stopped. It remained unfinished for the next 99 years, while the Pisans went to war with Genoa, Lucca, and Florence. Interestingly, this century-long wait allowed the soil underneath the tower to settle, and in 1272, construction resumed. The masons tried to compensate for the tilt by building one side of the floors taller than the other, and the tower became curved. The Leaning Tower of Pisa was completed with the addition of its bell chamber in 1372, and today is an Italian icon that draws travellers on their Pisa holidays.

Visitors touring the leaning tower must be physically fit, as they would have to negotiate 600 steps: 300 going up, and another 300 going down. Each tour lasts 35 minutes, and is limited to 30 people. These are headed by a member of the Opera della Primaziale Pisana, the organisation that supervises the erection of monuments at Pisa’s Piazza del Duomo.

More attractions can be found in the square around the leaning tower. The main cathedral was constructed in 1063 on top of an old church, the remains of which can be found beneath the lawn. The Baptistery is a round building with a truncated cone-shaped dome, crowned by a statue of St. John the Baptist. A cemetery lies on the northern side of the square, where many ancient Roman sarcophagi can be found.

The museum houses masterpieces by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano and Tino di Camaino. Visitors will also find an exhibit of the cathedral’s treasures, elaborate veneer marquetry works, and miniature furniture.

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