See a Wonder of the World for Fourteen Euro

As the rest of our group headed off to the Amalfi Coast for the weekend, my roommate Andrea and I set our alarms for 10:00 am (yes, this is necessary) to hop on the train to Pisa for the day. After paying a measly seven euro each and missing a train (this is a learning process, people) we got to Pisa, which was only about an hour away by train. When you drive as much as I do, an hour seems like an obscenely long time. But when someone else is driving and you get to gander at the Italian countryside, it’s really quite pleasant!

Anyway, Pisa is an odd place. When you’re in Italy you kind of expect cities to land in a few different categories– ancient, beautiful cities like my Firenze (it’s nice to feel like “it’s so good to be home” when you’re studying abroad), modern, expensive cities like Milano, and picturesque countryside towns like Lucca that ooze romanticism and make you want to skip. Pisa is not like any of those. It’s a little dirty and there isn’t too much going on.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure that there’s a couple nice sights in Pisa that don’t include one of the Wonders of the World. But I’ve never heard of them and I forgot my travel guide that day. So instead of trying to see it all, Andrea and I bought a map for 1.50 and crossed Fuime Arno (the main river that crosses the city) and walked the mile-or-so to the Square of Miracles, which houses the Leaning Tower and a couple of other buildings no one really cares about.

The only miracle in the Square of Miracles is that there is a fair amount of green grass, one of the only spots I saw in the city, that is actually quite cozy in the sun and seems to be a good place for tourists to lounge after they took their photos. It’s pretty pleasant for such an ugly city, really.

The Leaning Tower, which is mobbed with tourists in stupid positions (myself included) and their significant others laying on the grass trying to take their pictures, can be climbed if you’re willing to pay up and stand in a really long line. Otherwise, you can try to read the information poster on it, but nowhere on it that I saw does it explain why the damn tower, which was built in 1174, leans to one side. So I’ll tell you why.

In good ol 1174, the Tower’s architects didn’t realize that the soil was unstable and the three meter foundation would be insufficient. Uhh, whoops. After the first three stories were done, the ground sunk some and the Tower began to lean. While Pisa was at war with other republics, construction stopped for about a century, which was for the best because it let the soil settle. When construction began again, the engineers built the upper floors with one side higher than the other to compensate. Each year, it leans about a millimeter more, and in my own uneducated opinion, that baby is doomed.

Spend the fourteen euros and the few hours of your life is this picture is worth it to you–

(I think it is).


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