One of the great things about being in Bologna, Italy is it’s central location. From Bologna you can get to Venice in an hour and a half, Bologna to Rome in two hours and Bologna to Florence in one hour. If you go on for another hour from Florence into Tuscany, you can see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This was our fourth time to Italy and we had yet to go to Pisa, so we made it our mission to finally see the famous tower.

leaning tower of pisa

We almost didn’t go though. Bologna has it’s own leaning tower and it just so happens to be the tallest leaning tower in Italy. We felt quite satisfied climbing it and looking out over the city and weren’t too keen on spending the cash on the train to Pisa. The train system in Italy is great, but tickets to the glamour spots like Rome, Florence, Venice and Pisa are at a premium.

bologna

View of Bologna from the Bologna

The Leaning towers of Bologna are more rustic and authentic than the restored Leaning Tower of Pisa so with our lazy bones doing all the thinking, we thought, ah, we’ve seen a leaning tower already, why do we need to see more? The Asinelli Tower is the tallest tower and that is the one that you can climb in Bologna. We climbed up narrow stairs that some people find quite frightening as the stairs are very narrow and there’s just one little railing separating you from a long tumble down. But no matter, it’s fun and when you get to the top, the views are incredible. Bologna is one gorgeous city dating back to 1000 BC.

leaning tower of pisa

The Twin Leaning Towers of Pisa, Asinelli is the tallest Leaning tower in Italy

On to the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

After thinking it over, we realized that we just had to go see the most famous Leaning Tower and lucky for us Walks of Italy came to the rescue! So we packed our bags and set out for a two day getaway to Pisa. We stayed at a hotel right by the train station to make things easier. It was so nice to walk out of the station and instantly see our hotel to relax after the trip for a few minutes before walking over to see the tower.

The train station is about 20 minutes from the leaning tower. It’s an easy walk almost in a straight line across the river. Before we knew it, we were at the Piazza Arcivescovado where we met our Walks of Italy Guide Vincenzo.

pisa river

 We caught a quick glimpse of the tower, but that was to be saved for the end. First we took a stroll through the Monumental Cemetery or the Camposanto Monumentale.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Our First View of the Leaning Tower

Pisa may be crowded with tourists, but while walking through this cemetery, you’ll be in peace and quiet taking in the beauty of the frescoes and tombs. The Camposanto was built in the 12th century, but unfortunately it was all but destroyed during WWII. It has been beautifully rebuilt with 84 tombs still in tact and they have been working on restoring the frescoes as well.

Camposanto Monumentale Pisa

The Deserted Camposanto Monumentale

One frescoe that can still be seen is called the Triumph of Death. Check it out and you be the judge of what it’s all about.

Triumph of Death Pisa

Triumph of Death Frescoe

We then visited the Duomo. This was a little less serene but beautiful to see. Sifting through the crowds of people, we caught a glimpse of the pulpit, we marvelled at the gold ceiling and wove through the marble columns. At one time, Pisa ruled the Mediterranean and you can definitely see hints of that wealth in this building.

Pisa Duomo

The Duomo Interior

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Today Pisa is a university town and has a population of 88,000 residents and is most known for the Leaning Tower, our final stop on our tour. What’s interesting is the Leaning Tower was simply the bell tower of the Camposanto.  It was doomed from the start though and before they even finished construction it began to lean. It became famous as it started to lean more and for decades, engineers from around the world took a stab at fixing it. In 1989 the tower was finally closed and they fixed the problem saving it for generations to see for years to come. In 2001 the tower re-opened and it now has a more manageable lean. The top is 4 metres from vertical.

Leaning Tower

About to enter the Leaning Tower

With Walks of Italy, you skip the line and head right in to the front of the tower. Apparently you can spend over an hour in line, but we walked right in at our allotted time. When we entered the centre of the tower, our tour guide started talking about the history of the tower, but we noticed that people started walking up the stairs during her speech. We decided to follow so that we wouldn’t be stuck behind some slow climbers and I’m glad that we did.

Dave on the steps of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Climbing the Stairs of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

The steps were much wider and easier to climb than the Bologna Leaning tower and it wasn’t nearly as high, so it wasn’t quite the same adventure, but it was still a good climb to make us feel that we did a bit of exercise for the day. Before we knew it we were at the top and I’m glad we made good time. It turns out that you are allotted a very short tour of the top. We moved quickly and barely had enough time to see everything. The tower is in demand and they move tours through all day long. So remember, get up quickly and move quickly too.

top of leaning tower of Pisa

Dave safely behind the fence at the top of the leaning tower of Pisa

There are two levels to discover. The first floor gives you an overview of the city from safely from behind a tall fence. You can squeeze your camera through just enough to get a photo or two.

View from the Leaning Tower of pisa

Overlooking the Camposanto from the Leaning Tower

Don’t take too long here though, because as you move around the tower to the other side, they open up the next level that where you can walk up and see the bells. We were the last ones out and the guard had to come and move us along, but we managed to have it all to ourselves for a couple of seconds before being shooed down.

top of the leaning tower of pisa

Surrounded by Bells at the Leaning Tower of Pisa

I’m really glad we took the trip from Bologna to Pisa. It’s really cool to be able to compare the tallest leaning tower of Italy to the most famous leaning tower in the world. How can you not visit such a marvel? It’s only an hour from Florence and a must to see. The big difference between Pisa and the Bologna towers is the setting. With the leaning tower of Pisa, you can look at it from a distance. It stands alone in a clearing and is very easy to view from all angles. In Bologna, the city surrounds the towers and it’s difficult to really take in the lean. They both are very different and they both are equally as cool.

For more information on tours around Italy and Pisa, check out Walks of Italy
Visit more of Walks of Italy post at:
Venice City Tour, The Way it Was Meant to Be
A Tale of Two Davids, a Walking Tour of Florence

Trains to Pisa go through Florence and can be booked at Trenitalia

For more posts on Emilia Romagna check out

Follow Travel Bloggers through 2013 as they explore the Emilia Romagna Region of Italy.

Our Trip to Italy was part of the This is a Blog Ville campaign, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with the Emilia-Romagna tourism board,

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40 Comments

  1. David in Norway

    I went to Pisa for the first time last week. I’m surprised you found the train tickets expensive, I paid a little over 5 Euro to get from Florence to Pisa. The intercity routes will always be much more expensive if you don’t book in advance. As for the tower, it’s easy to miss the line, you just buy a timed ticket, then spend the waiting time looking around the other sights, when it reaches your time you’re straight in. No need to waste money on a guide :-)

    1. debndave Post author

      Thanks for the heads up David. We came from Bologna and couldn’t find any tickets for that cheap. Good to know though that the route from Florence to Pisa is affordable. And thanks for the heads up on the lines. Appreciate giving all our readers different perspectives. We obviously mess up on our research but good to know there are people out there who have it all figured out and share their expertise. Cheers!

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  3. Shawna

    Shows what I know about Italy, I had no idea there was more than one leaning tower! I think it’s fun that you got to see both, a nice way to compare and contrast. And, as always, great pictures!

    1. debndave Post author

      Don’t worry Shawna, we didn’t know before going either. I believe that there are a few leaning towers in Italy, they’re all so old that they’ve all started to lean. But I wouldn’t quote me on that.

  4. Lindsay

    Wow, great post and incredible photos! The photo of Bologna is great – I wish I’d made that stop when I was in the area.

    Were you planning on visiting Portofino at any point while you wander around there? It’s my favorite of all the smaller towns in Italy and worth going a little out of the way for.

    1. debndave Post author

      Thanks Lindsay, all the more reason to go back. We didn’t make it to Portofino, but it gives us a reason to go back too!

    1. debndave Post author

      That’s wonderful that you had the chance to go to Pisa with your dad, we’d love to travel more with our parents.

  5. sam hall

    Hi Guys

    Just wandering how you always manage to get that beautiful bright blue sky on your images no matter what time of day. Would love to know your secret.

    1. debndave Post author

      Hi Sam, we actually go out when the sky is blue. When we have grey days I shoot in black and white or use HDR to capture dramatic clouds

  6. Dean

    We didn’t climb the tower but it was certainly impressive even from below. I actually found the entire historical centre of Pisa to be quite interesting. There is certainly more to Pisa than just the leaning tower.

  7. T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries

    I was there back in 2009 and have to admit, it was the least spectacular part of my tour of Italy. We actually had more fun staying in a town (forget the name; it was before I started travel blogging and recording all of those details!) about 45 minutes out.

    That being said, it was still pretty groovy! And, as your own shots detail, you get a great view from up at the top!

    Thanks for sharing :)

    1. debndave Post author

      I know how you feel. There are places that I have no idea where I stayed, but I remember them being a pleasant experience. Now I have a record of everything. Glad you had the chance to visit, it may be touristy, but something you’ve got to see.

  8. Jennifer

    Beautiful shots! I visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa back in 2006 but at the time it was closed to visitors to climb it. Even though we’ve been living just a few hours away for over 4 years now, we never seem to make it back to Pisa.

    1. debndave Post author

      Ha, that’s funny eh? It’s always traveling in your own backyard that gets put on the backburner. You’ll have to go to Bologna and then Pisa and do a comparison of your own

  9. Dan

    Gah Italy looks so amazing. Dying to visit, definitely have to stop in bologna and check out the tallest tower in Italy

    1. debndave Post author

      You are going to love Italy. I remember the first time we went there, we drove from Spain and the energy changed as soon as we entered the Cinque Terre. Everyone was smiling and laughing and yelling Buongiorno and Ciao! Not that Spain wasn’t amazing too, but the Italians are so passionate and Bologna, well, you see how much we love it :-)

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  12. Ali

    Andy really likes the city of Pisa, but I’ve only seen the tower itself, and even that was 18 years ago. We didn’t get to climb up because it was a quick stop on a whirlwind tour (I was 15, gotta start somewhere!) but I’d like to go back someday and explore the city.

    1. debndave Post author

      Great that you both have had the chance to see it though. I wonder how much it has changed since 18 years ago. Very cool.

  13. Noel

    These are spectacular shots of such majestic beauties. I’ll save more to see Italy in the future. Thank you for taking us over there.

  14. noel

    Nice pics, I’m looking forward to seeing the leaning tower in Bologna. The Pisa tower was nice but for some reason, I didn’t get enough there, there if you know what I mean, so I’m really looking forward to seeing Bologna.

    1. debndave Post author

      I think I know what you mean. It’s a bit strange because it’s all been renovated. I have a feeling the Leaning tower would have been more impressive before the renovation. This didn’t quite feel real. It’s so white and perfect. It’s been propped back up, reinforced and fixed up to look like new. The Bologna Tower feels more authentic.

  15. Ian Faulds

    Your story reminds me of my family trip to Pisa in the summer of 2008. We were also trying to avoid terribly touristy places in Italy, but decided to see it anyway. I actually enjoyed the Duomo more than the tower itself, the stonework and magnitude of the interior are awe-inspiring.

    Thanks for your story,
    Ian Faulds

    1. debndave Post author

      You are right Ian, the Duomo is impressive and the cemetery too. We found that the surrounding area was quite beautiful. I think it’s worth spending more than one day in Pisa

    1. debndave Post author

      It’s definitely worth the stop. I love going off the beaten path, but I do love seeing all the great iconic buildings that I grew up hearing about and Pisa is definitely iconic.

  16. Andrew

    I went a few years ago with my parents, which was a blast. We too had no problem getting the timed ticket and grabbing lunch as we waited for our time.

    I don’t remember the high fence, just the railing. I wonder if it is new? I do remember that even on the stairs you could tell from the lean which part of the tower you were on (the high or the low side). I’m sure we had the same amount of time as you guys, but I don’t remember feeling rushed.

    It was a good day with my parents, seeing stuff on our own.

    1. debndave Post author

      The fence must be new. You can’t get close to it unless you have tickets to go up. Glad you didn’t feel rushed, maybe they’ve moved people along more over the years, or maybe since you went when you were younger, you didn’t take so many photos.

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