La Spezia to Florence. Thursday, March 30
We awake in a gloomy morning in Fezzano Marina. We pack up and prepare to head out. Walking over to the caffe (Italian spelling) to have breakfast, we find it closed. Odd, we think! So we load the car and head out towards Pisa. We find a service area on the highway that has a caffe and we get coffee and meat and cheese sandwiches. Tummies full, we move on along. The total drive to Pisa is just over an hour and the biggest problem we face is where to park the car. We find a neighborhood with a parking space and start walking. It becomes obvious after about a mile that we chose the wrong parking space! we also see what looks like newly built gates through the old wall of the city!
So we go back to the car and re-navigate to the entrance of Cathedral Square, the location of the Leaning Tower and Duomo as well as the Baptismal building (the other building of note here). We find a parking lot labeled Tower and Duomo and all is good! Now, for the record, we have been here before, albeit with Elee’s mom in a wheelchair which limited our mobility.
Today we purchase tickets for Elee to visit the Baptismal and Duomo, and for me to visit the Duomo and Climb the Tower of Pisa! So Elee heads off to the Baptismal and I head for the Leaning Tower. We meet up in a half hour and visit the Duomo together.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa… Quite the building and I get to climb it! When I am allowed in, I am immediately shocked! Did you know that the Tower is hollow? Really! It’s a hollow shaft in the middle which makes up most of the building! The outside diameter consists of another marble wall with steps about 3 feet wide that you climb in circles all the way to the top! The occasional window lets you know where you are. There are windows about every two floors, one window per floor!
But here’s where it gets interesting! Because of how the tower leans, you lean with it as you climb! So the walls change from leaning right to leaning left as you go around and around! The wear on the steps changes from side to side also, depending on which side you are on! There are no railings at all on the entire climb so you find yourself bracing your hands on the walls all the way. Now also keep in mind that up and down traffic uses the same stairs so when you pass people you have to let go of that wall, LOL. The following photo is taken with a correctly straight horizon! The fence is not straight because that is the lean of the Tower!
But the end result is worth it! Stepping out on the top and walking around the Tower, seeing the Duomo roof looking down, and the rooftops of the surrounding city is a sight for sore camera eyes! My cameras threw me kisses all the way around! Wait! What is this? I find another doorway with even narrower steps! And they go up! Yes, up! Okay then, don’t call me late for dinner! So I go up these 2 foot wide steps. Oh, right, people come down these too! So it’s a bit of a challenge but what’s an adventure without a challenge? Right? So on up I go, squeezing tight to the side as others come down! I don’t know if the bells in the Tower are ever rang anymore. They weren’t while we were there.
I come out at an even higher level and my cameras are even happier! Then I spot another spiral staircase that goes up even further! Oh bummer, this one is closed off! Oh well, it is a fantastic view from here! So I let my cameras play and they are like little kids in a water park! I tell them enough, it is time to go and if they could wail out loud, they would! But since I am the boss they have to listen and I have a date with my one true love somewhere down below!
So down I go, another challenge in itself as many more tourists want to come up! At least the tickets are limited and timed to restrict the crowds and I make it to the bottom unscathed. As I walk out to finish getting the photos of the best lean shots, I hear a familiar voice call my name and there my date stands, getting her own shots! So meeting up is easy and we head off together to visit the Duomo!
Tickets are necessary to all 3 important building here and I love it! It means the crowds are limited (and the crowds in the place are huge, much larger than I remember in the last visit in October of a year) and it helps with getting good photos! We assess the crowds and a vast majority seem to be Spring Breakers. Even though we are more than a week away from Easter! So, I digress but we go into the Duomo and it it again spectacular in it’s own right! Altars and ceilings galore assault our cameras lenses!
I have espoused my opinions before of the grandiose spending of wealth that it took (takes?) to build such marvels and what that wealth would have done for the betterment of society directly, but I will leave that on the table as I am a hypocrite like many as I see these places and all I want to do is see more. So we take the obligatory photos of our attempt to support the Tower!
Tower of Pisa History:
Did you ever know that the Leaning Tower of Pisa is empty from the inside and not a multi-story residential tower?!
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
It is a cathedral bell tower in the Italian city of Pisa, built in the Field of Miracles.
Let’s get acquainted with the Leaning Tower of Pisa from a structural point of view:
Its construction began in 1173 AD and they began to establish the bases and then the walls, and after the building reached the third floor, it was noticed that there was a slope.
Can you imagine that a tower weighing 14,500 tons is built on foundations 3 m deep and installed on sand and silt?!!
After discovering the slope, the engineers built the rest of the floors (external walls) so that the height of the floor in the inclined direction is greater than its height in the other direction.
Which increased the inclination of the tower due to the sinking of the foundations in a greater proportion in the soil, due to the increase in the weight of the floors.
Among the reasons why the tower did not collapse:
The construction continued for 199 years, and the construction halt in it for a long time is one of the reasons that allowed the soil to compact, which reduced the rate of inclination, and thus the tower did not collapse completely.
The clay soil helped and the main reason for the tower’s tendency not to collapse and its resilience in front of 4 earthquakes.
The engineers calculated the center of gravity of the tower, and it was concluded from the calculations that the tower collapsed completely upon reaching a slope of 5.44 degrees. The tower was closed in 1990 at a tilt of 5.5 degrees, yet the tower did not collapse.
Attempts made to stop the tilt of the tower and not collapse:
Digging deep holes in the ground at a depth of 40 m, and installing the tower with iron cables through the holes. Liquid nitrogen was pumped, which led to the freezing of water in the soil and its expansion and contraction again, which led to the subsidence of the soil and the subsidence of the foundations, and consequently the slope of the tower at the rate of its inclination throughout these years.
They dug 361 holes and injected the soil with 90 tons of cement, which led to the tower’s tilt strongly.
And finally, Soil Extraction was used in 1990:
The soil was removed from the non-slanted side so that the tower tilts in that direction, then iron cables were used to fix the tower bases in the ground and the slope was reduced to 4 bikes, and this was what it was at the beginning.
The engineers could have made it vertical, but they didn’t want to lose its fame and tourist value because of its tilt.
And after that was completed, the tower was opened.
And it was confirmed that the tower could endure without any collapse for 300 years.
So we walk away, not unchanged, and move on to our destination tonight in Firenze (Florence). Another hour plus of driving and we pull into Firenze again marveling at the ancient architecture! The cars GPS gets us to Firenze, but is not able to find our actual destination. But my iPhone with an Italian sim card works like a dream! We only use it for fine navigation as we did not pay for Unlimited Data Usage.
We locate our building but now the problems begin. We rented an apartment on AirBnB and the communication on AirBnB is less than stellar. Probably won’t use that company a lot in the future especially because of this issue. We spend over 2 hours trying to contact the owner and AirBnB much to no avail. Finally, AirBnB helps us fix the issues and we get access into the apartment, a 6th story walk up! Now those of you who know us know that Elee needs knee replacement surgery and has it scheduled in May and July. But in the meantime, we trudge up 6 flights of stairs!
We decide to minimize our needing to go up and down stairs and we find a restaurant for dinner and I have a pasta dish with Lamb Ragu Sauce. Great taste but I’m unimpressed with the cook of the noodles. Having experienced good Italian ‘Al Dente’ pasta, this is a bit overcooked. Flavorful yes! Elee has prawns and calimari steak and is also unimpressed. Okay, but just that. But okay we have a place to stay and dinner was not that bad.
We ask our waiter to help us get a taxi to our car because it is almost a 15 minute walk one way and we are tired. (Got 13000 steps in today! LOL) So he calls a taxi and he takes us to our car and loads up our luggage for us and takes us back to our apartment. I tip him well and he is happy! But now we have the 6 floor walk up, LOL
Lucky for us that we are traveling light with only carry on luggage! I carry our luggage up while Elee manages to carry up our portable cooler with the salami and wine! LOL The apartment has a washing machine, which we knew of in advance and we planned this as a laundry stop. Too bad it took several hours to get into the unit for we had planned to immediately get laundry started. But it’s going now and the “One Hour” washing machine label takes almost three! So 11PM and one load is done. But there is no dryer! So wet laundry is spread out on radiators and a couch to dry. There are clotheslines out a window but we are reserving those for shirts and pants. What we have done so far is all our underwear!
But all is working out and we are not stressing. This is an adventure, after all! And it’s time to turn in! Photos are loaded! Text is typed! I’ll get it all put together soon! And laundry is moving along! Good night all!