10 facts about the Leaning Tower

Everyone is familiar with the cylindrical shape and Romanesque architecture of . With its tilting outline, it is indeed one of the world's most iconic buildings.

We've put together some intriguing and little-known facts about the Leaning Tower, facts we hope will entice you to pay it a visit.

1. Why does the Tower tilt?

Leaning Tower of Pisa

When designing the Tower, a tilt was probably not part of the original plans. However, the architects overlooked the fact that it was to be built on marshy swampland.

The name 'Pisa' actually means 'marshy land' in Greek, so it's a little surprising that the presence of water-logged land wasn't spotted.

When the builders reached the second story, the Tower began to slowly sink. Work continued to cause headaches for the builders who desperately attempted to compensate for the tilt by adding height to the opposite side. It soon became obvious that this wouldn't work and building stopped for nearly two centuries. The Tower was eventually finished, complete with the famous tilt.

2. A hair-raising climb

'Leaning Tower of Pisa' mural

As hair-raising as it looks, climbing the 294 steps of the narrow spiral staircase is totally safe. Pisa doesn't want to lose its most famous landmark so regular structural checks ensure it remains more or less upright.

When you see the panoramic views from the belfry, you'll be glad you took the risk!

3. Who built the tower?

Leaning Tower of Pisa

While historians generally agree that building on the Tower started in 1173, they can't agree on who actually designed it.

Some evidence points to a local architect, Bonanno Pisano as the architect with construction overseen by master-craftsman, Diotisalvi.

He had a habit of signing his work and as the Tower carries no signature, confirmation of this remains elusive.

4. The bells, the bells!

Bell of the Traitor

In the belfry, seven heavy bells each used to toll to a different ringing note.

One, in particular, has acquired a sinister nickname. Every time someone was put to death for treason in the city, the Bell of the Traitor tolled.

To prevent worrisome vibrations, the bells have remained silent for over a century.

5. The legendary experiments of Galileo Galilei

Plaque in memory of Galileo Galilei's experiments

When Pisa's famous son, Galileo Galilei, needed a tall building for his experiments on mass versus velocity, what better place was there than the Leaning Tower?

Legend says he dropped two cannonballs of different mass from the top of the Tower. Apparently, they both reached the ground at the same time and a theory was formed!

6. A movie star is born

Frame from the Movie 'Superman III'

The Tower has played a starring role in many movies, some better known than others.

Probably the most famous is 'Superman III' (1983) when our superhero tried to straighten the Tower.

In 'Lovers and Liars' (1979) it played a supporting role in Goldie Hawn's Italian love affair.

7. How the Tower survived a war

Leaning Tower of Pisa

It's not often that soldiers are feted for disobeying orders but when Allied troops retook Pisa from the Germans in World War II and were given orders to destroy local landmarks, they didn't have the heart to blow up the historic Tower.

8. Lighting up the Tower

Leaning Tower of Pisa

In recent years, visitors to Pisa have seen the Tower shining out in different colors.

In 2015, it turned blue for the United Nation's 70th birthday party while other shades have included green to celebrate St Patrick's Day and pink for the fight against breast cancer.

But, lighting up the Tower is not a new phenomenon. For centuries, an oil lamp has been placed in each window opening to celebrate the Festival of San Ranieri, the city's patron saint.

9. What is your zodiac sign?

Tower's entrance

Belief in astronomy was once a huge part of everybody's life and every city was linked to its own zodiac sign.

Pisa's was Aries, represented by a bas-relief that can be seen near the Tower's entrance.

10. Are there any other leaning towers in Pisa?

St. Michele degli Scalzi

Yes, there are!

The bell towers belonging to the Churches of St. Nicola and St. Michele degli Scalzi have both fallen victim to the city's treacherous subsoil.

If these intriguing and little-known facts about the Leaning Tower of Pisa have tempted you, why not visit this charming Tuscan city to see what other attractions it has to offer?


Share this article:


All rights are reserved. No part of any material on this web site may be reproduced, or stored in a database or retrieval system, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the ComPart Multimedia srl.

MMXXIII Tèmperàntia Àngelus Sol