By Sylvie Hogg
Climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa shouldn't be missed by anyone able-bodied enough to ascend its 300 spiraling steps. But to ensure a smooth Pisa experience and keep to your schedule, book your tower visit ahead of time. Otherwise, you could be in for several hours' wait or even find that all the tickets are sold out for that day, especially in summer.
Advance (prepaid) tickets must be booked at least 16 days but no more than 45 days ahead of your visit. This service is only available online at www.opapisa.it or in person at the box offices on Piazza dei Miracoli. Tickets cost €17 in advance (guaranteeing you a set entrance time) or €15 at the box office (but with no guarantee that you'll be able to climb the tower that day). Entrance times are every half-hour, and you must arrive punctually or risk being turned away. As a rule, plan to be at Piazza dei Miracoli at least 30 minutes before your appointed entrance time.
When you book online, you'll be sent a voucher that you need to print out and bring with you to either of the box offices (biglietterie) on the edges of Piazza dei Miracoli. If you have a prepaid voucher, you can go directly to the front of the line and pick up your entrance ticket -- be prepared to show some form of photo identification.
You'll have to deposit any handbags, backpacks, umbrellas, etc., in the bag drop area along the north side of Piazza dei Miracoli. Even the smallest purses must be checked, though you can bring a camera with you. The bag drop service is free of charge and monitored by security personnel.
Now, you just have to wait for the clock to strike your appointed entrance hour. Pisa's tower isn't the tallest in Italy, but it does require considerable physical effort. For many, the sense of imbalance that comes from climbing the spiral stairs of a seriously tilting edifice is the most challenging part. The ascent takes about 10 minutes, but it takes another 5 minutes or so to recover from the dizziness. At the uppermost terrace, serious vertigo-sufferers will want to keep away from the low edge, which cantilevers thrillingly over the grassy piazza.
The tower is open "all day" every day, but the hours change a bit throughout the year (10am-5pm Nov-Feb, except between Dec 25 and Jan 7, when it's open from 9am-6pm; 9am-6pm Mar 1-Mar 13; 9am-7pm Mar 13-Mar 21 and all of Oct; 8:30am-8:30pm Mar 21-Jun 15 and all of Sept; and 8:30am-11pm Jun 16-Aug 31).
Trip Ideas: Arts and Culture
View the original "Climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa: The Nuts & Bolts" story at www.frommers.com