Thursday, October 23, 2008

Note da Italia : Torre Pendente di Pisa

Torre Pendente di Pisa, The leaning tower of Pisa

On a dull summer afternoon about seventeen years ago, a young girl turns to her friend and hands out a postcard. Her friend, a slightly buck toothed fellow wearing black thick rimmed glasses and smelling of coconut oil, giggles back and says ‘…its about to fall!’ to which the girl responds ‘…no man…that’s the leaning tower of Pisa…it never falls…’

Yes. It has certainly been almost two decades since that eventful moment I shared with my school mate Poornima under a dusty fan of our noisy classroom in Bangalore. I had a weird flashback when I first laid eyes on this architectural wonder after having read about it for so long. Set on the side of a bustling city that has now gotten used to thousands of tourists flocking it each passing day, the leaning tower sure stands tall. The view is truly picturesque as one walks into an opening surrounded by thick walls about thirty feet high. One wonders if that was done deliberately to give the visitor a well placed surprise after walking past them – the leaning tower. One really can’t see the tower from the street but a clear view emerges once you peek through the giant opening that connect the two ends of the crawling wall.

As I got off the bus (with the red arrow pointing downwards, I was told) right in front of the monument, there was a sense of accomplishment. In a day and age when almost nothing can be taken for granted anymore, monuments like this one are better seen as soon as possible. With time and the termite of history eating them up, it is becoming increasingly difficult for curators to truly preserve these wonderful examples of an era bygone.

The one thing I immediately wanted to do – apart from getting a photograph taken in front of it (and no, not the clichéd one with an image of me trying to support the tower from a distance) – was to explore the source of its support! The base! In all the visuals I had seen of the tower I had never seen a glimpse of the foundation that held this wonder in place. It was truly refreshing to say the least. Given the land slippage that caused this otherwise ordinary seeming tower to become a global phenomenon, they have actually re-designed the base to become a tilted disc. This took place, if you recall, in 2001 when a British engineer led a team that saved the tower from toppling over from further slippage. After what was certainly quite a complicated process, the tower is now said to be stable – albeit still leaning southwards.

Tourists are allowed to walk up the tower but with a pre-condition that only x number of people can go at a time. I noticed people standing on the topmost point of the tower but did not risk going up there since I didn’t want to feel responsible to cause any further damage to a structure that has already seen enough in eight centuries.

All said and done, truly a delightful day in Italia as I finally smiled to myself and sent a mental message to Poornima – ‘Yes, old friend, this tower will never fall. Amen.’


2 reflections:

Madhura said...

Nice article on Leaning tower of pisa :) The structure is truly Amazing! Good to know that lot of efforts have been made to save the monument from further slippage.
Looking forward to your next post.


shakri said...


Thank you. I am glad you liked the narrative. Yes - it indeed is a sight for sore eyes. You should definitely see it some day.