We arrived so early at the Piazza dei Miracoli that the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa was still darkened by its own shadow. We sat down on the cold marble tiles of the Duomo and watched as the trickle of tourists turned into a steady flow. Luckily we had pre-booked our time slot, so at 8:15 exactly, Gareth and I were allowed past the guards and started the climb up the disconcertingly tilted bell tower.
I won’t lie to you – I was out of breath before we were even halfway. With 296 steps to the top, I wondered if I was going to make it all the way there. But this was the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and I had a once in a lifetime chance to climb it, so I wasn’t going to give up. Panting, and with frequent rest stops to ostensibly admire the scenery through the small windows at every level, the spiralled staircase eventually opened up onto the seventh floor.
I found Gareth there, pale-faced and clinging to the wall, peeking over the edge of the railing. Wordlessly, he handed me the SLR. Apparently I was the designated photographer from now on.
One more set of steps to go and I found myself at the very top of the Tower. Blissfully, it was just me and the bells (the bells, the bells!) up there. The solitude didn’t last long, but it was long enough to admire the spectacular view and remember Galileo’s renowned experiment.
Afterwards, we did the touristy thing and posed for forced perspective photos next to the Tower. It was actually more fun to watch the others – arms flailing, legs in the air, some even upside down – as everyone tried to get a memorable pose.
The interior of the cathedral was busy, but beautiful. Golden ceilings and colourful stained glass windows drew my eyes ever upwards, as I suppose they’re meant to do. We didn’t visit the baptistry or Campo Santa, the cemetery, but instead watched as a newly married couple made memories of their own in front of the Leaning Tower.
Our morning at Pisa ended with pizzas on the steps in the shade of the Duomo. I watched the crowds pass by, listening to interesting snippets from tour guides, and reminded myself how very lucky I am to have had this wonderful day in one of the most historic places in Europe.
For more posts in the Ciao Italy 2014 series, click here.