The original Campanile (Bell tower) was built in the ninth century. Originally it served more as a lighthouse and a watchtower. From the get-go it had big problems, namely, it kept getting hit by lightning. For that reason it underwent numerous reconstructions. In 1388 it was virtually destroyed by lightning, in 1417 somebody set it on fire, in 1489 there was another fire that destroyed the wooden spire. Then, to make matters worse, in 1511 there was an earthquake. By 1513 it was rebuilt for the umpteenth time and took the form that you see today, complete with bells. Unfortunately, it was hit by lighting again in 1548, 1565, 1658 and 1745, when, this time, falling bricks killed several people. But it got hit by lighting again in 1761 and 1762. FINALLY, in the year of our independence, 1776, after yet another lightning strike, somebody came up with the bright idea to install a lightning rod!!! Problem solved!
Well, that problem was solved, but that was not the end of troubles for this poor tower. In July 1902 someone strolling along the piazza happened to notice a rather large crack in the tower’s north wall. Officials got everyone out and sealed it off. A few days later, on a bright, sunny morning, the whole damn thing fell over. Fortunately, it fell in the right direction, missing the cathedral and all the other nearby treasures.
To their credit, the town council met the very night of the collapse and ponied up 500,000 lira to build a new one. The new design was made to look exactly like the old one with two hugely important differences: it was properly reinforced from the inside, and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, they put in elevators!!! Hallelujah!!!
So, let’s ride up and take a look around!
Here is where you enter, after standing in a long, but steadily moving line,
Then up you go! As you might imagine, the view is breathtaking!
Looking back over the Piazza San Marco:
Looking over the cathedral and the Doge’s Palace:
And, along the harbor:
It is not hard to imagine a harbor full of sailing ships serving what was, then, the most powerful city in the world.
Across the harbor is the island and cathedral of San Giorgio Maggiore, which we did not have time to visit. You can take a vaporetto over there if you want. One thing you will notice as you look at the plaza in front of the cathedral. From time to time flooding could be an issue.
And, of course, we have the biggest gondola service in the city:
So, we were up there gawking around at all the sights, when, for some reason, I happened to look up:
It was only seconds later that this happened:
It was plenty loud, that’s for sure, but not bad enough to, say, drive one to madness. Our ears were ringing long after the bells stopped, though. During all this we expected to see Quasimodo come around the corner.
OK. Back down the tower we go! So here’s the plan: next we will visit the Doge’s Palace. Then we will hop onto one of those gondolas you just saw and go for a spin! OK one last look while were up here:
What a place!