After finishing her University course in 2007 my daughter Sally quickly found employment as a school teacher and being unaccustomed to a salary and a credit balance in her bank account quickly set about making arrangements to get it spent. What better way than to go on holiday, so in early August she set off for a whistle stop back packing trip to Italy. Before she went she invited me to meet her for a night at the end of the first week and we agreed on Pisa.
As she was planning to stay in hostel accommodation, Sally’s motive was to make sure that at the half way stage she would be guaranteed a hotel room with a decent bed and en-suite facilities. I have to confess that my motive was to some large extent to make sure that she was alright.
I flew to Pisa on 10th August on an uneventful early morning flight and arrived a couple of hours later in a bright sun-kissed Galileo Galilei Airport. The Airport is only a very short distance from the city so I took a bus and within minutes I was in the Campo di Miracoli and admiring the Leaning Tower. I checked in at the Hotel Francesco and then sat in a bar for a couple of Pironi beers while I waited for Sally and her friend Natalie to join me from their previous nights stop in Bologna. They arrived two hours later and I was pleased to see that they were both in good health and looking well, clearly I had been worrying unnecessarily about their trip.
Unpacking is an unnecessary distraction when there is sightseeing to do so they left their packs and we went straight out into the street and walked back the short distance to the Campo.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is probably one of the most instantly recognisable buildings in Europe and probably the whole World. Although intended to stand vertically of course, the tower began leaning over soon after construction began in 1173 due to a poorly prepared ground that allowed the inadequate foundations to shift. Today the height of the tower is nearly fifty-six metres from the ground on the lowest side and nearly fifty-seven metres on the highest side. The width of the walls at the base is a little over four metres and at the top two and a half metres. Its weight is estimated at fourteen thousand five hundred tonnes (that is about six hundred fully loaded UK dustcarts) so little wonder then that it started to sink.
We purchased immediate entry tickets to the museum next door and all of the other magnificent buildings at the Campo dei Miracoli including the Duomo (the Cathedral) and the Babtistry that were both constructed on the same unstable sand as the Tower and also lean half a degree from centre. We finished the tour by visiting the impressively and recently restored Camposanto or monumental cemetery with some renovated plaster wall paintings that had been destroyed during the Second-World-War by Allied bombing raids as the Germans were being pushed out of Italy and back towards Central Europe.
We rested for a while on the hotel terrace where I enjoyed some more beer and the girls caught up on their internet correspondence and then we returned at the appointed time for our visit to the tower. We had to climb the two hundred and ninety four steps spiral staircase that takes visitors up and which due to the absence of windows, and therefore orientation, was reminiscent of a fairground wacky house attraction, especially when although we knew that we were ascending sometimes according to the angle of the tilt it felt as though we were going down at the same time, which was a very weird experience.
I liked the Leaning Tower of Pisa because it lived up to all of my expectations, I tried to bring to mind anything else that was famous for leaning but all I could think of was Oliver Reed after forty pints of beer and George Formby who used to lean on lamp posts looking at ladies.