On our way from Florence to Cinque Terre on the Ligurian Coast of Italy, we stopped to climb the Leaning Tower—Torre Pendente in Italian—of Pisa. It’s a marvelous structure, even if it does “lean in” (as they say these days)! But experientially, the visit has some disorienting aspects across several domains.
First, there’s the physical disorientation of climbing a spiral stair that is on an angle, and passing windows that are successively just a little bit sideways. By the way, I saw a woman climb these stairs in the highest of heels, quite a feat! But I digress.
Something about this disorientation leads to a popular phenomenon: the “selfie” with the Leaning Tower that uses perspective to distort the scale of things. In these selfies, the perpetrator is either “pushing” the tower over, or “propping” it up with gigantic figures out of proportion compared to the tower.
There always seems to be a crowd at the Leaning Tower’s piazza: sellers of plastic models, police, tourists, crowds. Gated admission is by advance ticket sales in groups every 15 minutes, with security pat-downs. This is not a quiet place, in fact it is a bit overwhelming. Security is very tight, no bags of any sort are allowed up the tower (don’t even dream of taking your tripod!).
So this is the other facet of disorientation: modern life seems to intrude in an objectionable way in a place that is visited because of a structure that didn’t perform to specifications and is almost a thousand years old. Go figure!
When all is said and done, if you get the chance, don’t miss climbing the tower. It’s worth the disorientation and logistical hassles.