Europe 1979 – 9 – Italy: Pisa and Florence

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

One of our first stops in Italy was to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I hope my picture of it gives you a good laugh, like it does me. I’m not sure why the picture turned out like this, but you can tell from the people at the bottom of the picture, I wasn’t holding the camera level.

It’s very possible I was trying to take a picture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa showing it standing straight up. That sounds exactly like something I would do. I just didn’t do it quite right.

Construction on the Leaning Tower of Pisa began in 1173 and was completed in the mid 1300’s. It is a freestanding bell tower, part of Pisa’s cathedral complex of four buildings.

When I visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa in 1979, it was leaning at a 10 degree angle. However, beginning in 1990, the Tower underwent a stabilization procedure. According to towerofpisa.org, the tower now leans at a 3. 99 degree angle. To give you an idea, that is more than 5 meters off perpendicular.

Me leaning on
the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Did you know that tower actually began leaning during construction? This was noticed by workers as they built the second floor. So, the upper floors were built with one side shorter than the other side to offset this leaning. As a result of this “correction”, the building is said to be curved as well as leaning. You can read more about the stabilization process here.

The views from the top of the tower are beautiful, and we were lucky enough to be there on a sunny, clear day. But I have to say when I saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa, it was smaller than I thought it would be.

Diane and Betty at the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Diane and I at the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Several members of the tour group looking down into the bell tower.
The bells were ringing!

If you want to visit, just know there are 251 steps to get to the top. And from what I can tell from researching online, it now costs about $20 to go to the top of the tower. Experts say the tower will not fall over for about 200 years, so you’ll have to get there before then.

The view from the top
of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Another friend and I
at the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Our next stop was Florence. There we saw the statue of David, carved by Michelangelo. Before my trip, I read a number of the books recommended by the tour company, including “The Agony and The Ecstasy.” Reading this book was when I first learned Michelangelo and other artists dissected cadavers to improve their knowledge of the human body. I couldn’t help but recall this fact as I gazed at Michelangelo’s masterpiece in Florence.

Statue of David
Close up of the statue of David

I was also surprised how tall the statue of David stood. Not counting the base, it is seventeen feet tall. It is amazing to think this intricate statue was once a very large block of marble.

I don’t remember too much of what else we did in Florence. We went around the town, seeing different sights. But I do remember our group laughing as we saw every kind of retail establishment possible named after the iconic Michelangelo. Michelangelo’s Duds and Suds. Michelangelo’s Five and Dime. Michelangelo’s Quick-Mart. Michelangelo’s Diner. Michelangelo’s Coffee and Donuts. Michelangelo’s Dry Cleaning. There was more to his legacy than I realized!

We also saw Michelangelo’s final resting place. Here was a legacy much more befitting for the great artist. His impressive tomb is inside the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence.

Michelangelo's tomb

Next up: Roaming around in Rome

22 comments

  1. I have to admit, I was shocked at your photo of the tower until I saw the people at the bottom. I thought, “Wow! I knew it was leaning, but it should have fallen by now, if that’s how much it was leaning in the 70’s”. I smiled that you thought it would be taller. Hubs has that reaction to almost every well-known thing we see (except the Grand Canyon, lol). This was another fun and interesting read, Betty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Terry. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture showing how it actually looked – without the exaggerated leaning. I may have thought, “Everybody has a picture of it leaning; I’ll get one where it’s straight.” I had a semi-automatic 35 mm camera back then. I also cut off most of the bust on top of Michelangelo’s tomb, so I know I wasn’t the best photographer, also. There’s one other icon we saw that was much smaller than I thought it would be. That will be coming up soon. 🙂 You can tell Hubs he is not alone in his reaction! Have a good week!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such memories! The Leaning Tower is really leaning! I remember how exciting it was to climb the tower, and back then you could climb up on the outside, with no guardrails. I don’t think that’s allowed now. And being almost in tears when I saw the David. I was blown away by the beauty of it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The guard rails were minimal when we were there; I wonder if they were “beefed up” during the renovation in 1990. And I’m really wondering about climbing up on the outside? I am not sure how that could be done. In any case, I would highly doubt that could be done now! And oh yes, the Michelangelo sculpture was so amazingly beautiful. Of course, there will be a little more of Michelangelo’s work coming up. Hope you have a good week!

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  3. I am saddened that you don’t remember your trip to Florence very well. It’s such a beautiful city. You did visit the Uffizi, the famous art museum? Do you remember the Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge with all the little shops? I chuckled when I saw your picture of holding the leaning tower. I think we all have a similar picture in our photo album.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I wish I remembered more as well, but it was 42 years ago, and the trip was pretty much a whirlwind. I do have a small stack of slides which I didn’t label as I didn’t remember what it was, and I label the slides not long after I got back! I am just so glad I was able to make this trip, and that my slides and memory haven’t faded more than they already have. I do hope that one day I will reconnect with others from the trip. If that happens, and we share our memories and our pictures, it could help me remember more.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, Betty that would be wonderful if you could connect to some other from the trip. Maybe a youtube video of Florence might refresh the memory.
        On the other hand, I know how much is often “shoveled” into these trips to make sure people see as much as possible in the shortest amount of time to get their money worth. I did a few trips in Africa and had hardly any recollection until I went back and could visit at my own time without being dragged from place to place.

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  4. What wonderful memories. And it’s amazing how much you are able to remember. The picture of the tower, my first thought was, any moment it will be on the ground! How fortunate you were to be able to tour and see so many wonders of the world. Thanks again for sharing. Have a great day.

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  5. I love your leaning leaning tower photo! It is amazing to me that it has not tipped over yet, but I guess the architects know what it can withstand. My husband and I went there while on a Mediterranean cruise, so we only had part of a day and there was not enough time to go up to the top. One of the disadvantages of a cruise.

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  6. Lovely memories – I’ve visited Europe several times over the years and Italy remains one of my favourite places – my experience in Pisa was so interesting with new technology and the selfie generation that I was more entertained by the visitors than the tower itself.

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  7. A good laugh? Uhh! I was shocked. I didn’t notice the camera angle at first glance, so it appeared to defy gravity. I’m glad you straightened it out for me (pun intended). We did not go up inside the tower when we visited. As I recall, tickets were printed with an entry time and the first available ticket was like 3 1/2 hours away. We walked around the plaza and went inside the cathedral.

    We’ve been to Florence twice. I would go again in a heartbeat — so much to see. I still remember the chills running through me when I first laid eyes on David.

    Love reading about your trip to Europe. It brings back fond memories. Thank you. Have a great day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am glad my trip is bringing back fond memories for you. I hope my readers enjoy these posts in some way, so I am glad to know that. My guess is these attractions are much more crowded these days than in 1979. And I’d guess some of the areas around the attractions have been improved. Much of our trip was spent in Italy. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

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