Where is Pisa, Italy?
Pisa can be found in the western part of Italy known as the Tuscany region. It is a seaport city, resting in the Ligurian Sea area at the mouth of two rivers, the River Arno and River Serchio. During its developmental years, Pisa was the only port along the western coast, serving as a base for Roman naval expeditions.
This port status helped the city rise to fame and fortune and over the years, Pisa participated in many trade agreements and military conflicts. In 1063, the city invaded the island of Sicily and returned victorious, after attacking the city of Palermo. It’s conquerors returned to Pisa with great treasures from that invasion.
Why Was The Leaning Tower of Pisa Built?
After the invasion of Palermo, the conquerors returned to Pisa and wanted to show the rest of the world just how important their city was. They decided to build a complex of architectural buildings that would be grouped together. These buildings were to consist of a baptistery, a cathedral, a cemetery and a bell tower.
Construction began around 1173 but the tower was not completed until the 14th century due to construction stalls from debt, wars and eventually the engineering problem with the ‘lean’. The completed project included four monuments. The Baptistery, Monumental Cemetery, the Cathedral of Pisa and the Bell Tower of Pisa, otherwise known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa or Torre Pendente di Pisa.
Why Does the Leaning Tower Lean?
The Leaning Tower of Pisa leans due to the soft ground it was build upon. Foundation rocks were placed on top of shells, sand and clay. By the time construction reached the third story, the building began to take on a slight lean. The 12th century architectural engineers thought they could stabilize the building by finishing the remaining stories shorter on the uphill side evening out the weight, but this did not work. Each year, the tower continued to lean, and is currently more than five meters off its original base. Pisa is Greek for marshy land.
What are Some Attractions in Pisa?
The University of Pisa was established in 1343 and remains one of the most renowned and ancient universities in Italy. Currently home to more than 51,000 students, the University of Pisa still hosts the oldest botanical garden (Orto botanico di Pisa), which was founded in 1543.
Visitors can also enjoy a night of culture in the form of musical events or cathedral choirs at the local Opera Primaziale, which was built between 1077 and 1120, around the same time as the Piazza del Duomo.
There are also local Tuscan beaches in the region of Maremma where visitors can catch a boat and spend the day touring the islands of Giglio, Elba and Capraia.
The main attraction of course, remains the Square of Miracles or, in Italian, Piazza dei Miracoli. This square includes the Pisa Cathedral (Duomo di Pisa), the cemetery (Camposanto), the Pisa Baptistery and the Bell Tower (Torre Pendente di Pisa).
When visiting the Square of Miracles, you may be interested to know that the city of Pisa shipped in some 53 shiploads of soil from the Hill of Calvary in Jerusalem to compensate for this marshy land. Unfortunately, the cemetery is also sinking along with a few other towers in Pisa, namely the bell tower at St. Nicola and the church of St. Michele dei Scalzi.