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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Fast Cars, Get Your Adrenaline Fix with Ferarri
- Emilia Romagna Beauty Captured in Instagram
- Italian Hospitality in the Apennines
- Meet Fabio Lamborghini, It’s all in the Family
Follow Travel Bloggers through 2013 as they explore the Emilia Romagna Region of Italy.