All of us except Michael left Tuscany on Saturday, July 7, and headed to the north coast of Italy. Steve rented a huge car (by Italian standards) to hold five travelers and our luggage, so we traveled in style. Steve drove, Jenny navigated, and Julie, Cade, and I sat in the backseat and sang camp songs (do you remember “Found a Peanut,” “I’m a Little Acorn Brown,” “The Princess Pat,” and “Catalina Madelina”?). We didn’t get into trouble once (unlike Julie’s, Tom’s, and my childhood trips in cars), although we may have caused Steve to inadvertently exit the freeway just outside Florence. Sorry! Jenny did say that she knew what it would be like for Cade to have a sibling—I’m not sure if that was good or bad. Every once in a while after that drive Cade would sing softly in my ear, “You’re a nut, nut, nut, nut, nut!” Truth is a defense, but ouch!
According to plan, we stopped in Pisa and visited the Leaning Tower. The Piazza del Duomo (also known as Piazza dei Miracoli—the Piazza of Miracles) holds three beautiful buildings: the Duomo (begun in 1064), the baptistery (begun in 1153), and the campanile (the Leaning Tower—begun in 1173). Unfortunately, the piazza and the main street leading up to it are littered with tacky souvenir and refreshment stands. Fortunately, you can turn your back on these eyesores and ooh and aah over the dazzling gray marble and white stone that covers the facades of the buildings in this beautiful piazza, and I have to admit, you can get water (or gelato or a souvenir) when the mood strikes.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa began to lean during construction for two reasons: the foundation was inadequate, and the ground on one side was too soft to support the tower’s weight. Before the latest engineering correction was completed in 2001, the tower leaned 5.5 degrees; today it leans 4 degrees. Four degrees doesn’t seem like much, but the darned thing really leans!
Before we left Rome, we purchased tickets online to climb the Leaning Tower. Julie and I, however, opted out of the climb and left that to the kids, who had a great time but said that it was disorienting to climb standing straight in a leaning building. They also said that the stairs were well worn and markedly uneven, causing some people to slip. I remember visiting the leaning house in Parco dei Mostri, where the sloping floors made me dizzy and nauseated, so I imagine the Leaning Tower must feel somewhat like that.
Julie and I went instead to the beautiful Duomo with a nice, flat floor and left just in time to snap photos of the climbers on top and at the bottom of the Leaning Tower.
If you go to Pisa and you want to climb the Leaning Tower, make reservations online before you go. People were being turned away when we were there because the tickets were sold out for the day. If you visit in the summer, prepare for HOT weather! Prepare also for huge crowds of people. This is one of the busiest tourist attractions that I’ve seen yet in Italy—including the Colosseum and Pompeii! Whatever you do, don’t miss the inside of the Duomo—gorgeous!