Few images are as iconic as the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. Opened in 1372 as a freestanding campanile (bell tower) to accompany Pisa’s Cathedral and Baptistry of the Piazza del Duomo or Cathedral Square. The tower was constructed in three stages across 199 years. Work on the ground floor of the white marble campanile began on August 14, 1173.
The tower didn’t begin to lean until the building of the second story began in 1178. Because it was built on shifting subsoil, the tower started to sink and all construction halted for nearly a hundred years. New architects designed walls higher on one side than the other to compensate for the leaning, so the Tower of Pisa is actually curved!
The Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square) is also known as Piazza dei Miracoli (“Square of Miracles”). This name was created by the Italian writer and poet Gabriele d’Annunzio who, in his novel Forse che sì forse che no (1910) described the square in this way: “L’Ardea roteò nel cielo di Cristo, sul prato dei Miracoli”, which means: “The Ardea rotated over the sky of Christ, over the Meadow of Miracles.”
We had the unique opportunity to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Piazza del Duomo just before sunrise one morning. We’d just dropped off our house-sitting family at the Pisa airport and had planned on just waiting in the car until the sun rose. However, the sky was so beautiful and the plaza so quiet, we couldn’t resist getting out to look. We were alone with only the groundskeeper. The peacefulness and lack of crowds was such a treat! Normally, it’s impossible to get a photograph without hundreds of others vying for a shot of themselves holding up the tower. This was truly a special morning as the sky began to change from black to deep purple and the historic Tower of Pisa came into our view.