Tourists Should Be Cautious Of The Clothes They Wear To Visit Italy's Leaning Tower Of Pisa

As instantly recognizable as popular European tourist spots like the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is a world-renowned landmark that attracts around 5 million visitors each year. Unlike Europe's other major historic tourist attractions, however, it is arguably just as famous for how visitors behave in photos outside the crazily-tilted Romanesque masterpiece. We've all seen the pics: People simply can't resist getting a snapshot of themselves "holding up" the tower in various goofy poses. Those images (rightly or wrongly) give the tower the unwanted air of a tourist trap and, from the casual fashions invariably worn by tourists, you'd be forgiven for thinking the dress code is anything goes. However, there is a lot more to the area than just the tower, and a savvy visitor should take a more considered approach to their wardrobe to get the most out of a trip to Pisa.

Pisa is a small Tuscan city that is visit-worthy even if you skip the Leaning Tower. Even so, the tower is by far the town's biggest attraction, and for many of us, it exists in the collective conscience without context. We're all aware that there is a Leaning Tower in Pisa, but its original purpose and status as part of a larger complex of historical buildings is less well known. One of those buildings is a glorious cathedral, which may give some indication why dressing modestly is the way to go.

What clothing should you avoid at the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is found on Piazza del Duomo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The expansive area, also known as Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles), contains four major Medieval monuments: Pisa Cathedral, a baptistry, a cemetery, and the world-famous fourth, an elaborate campanile that is part of the cathedral as a free-standing bell tower. The latter looks like an elaborate wedding cake that grew wildly out of control, but it is the tilt that makes it truly extraordinary. Constructed between 1172 when the foundation was first dug and 1372 when its seven bells were hung in the top floor, the soft soil eventually caused the tower to lean, making it the subject of a million jokey tourist snaps.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa's dress code advises erring on the side of modesty to prevent causing any offense. This is most important in the cathedral, where you should show the same respect as you would at any other religious site in Italy (or anywhere, for that matter). That means dress for comfort, but not like you're going clubbing or ready to spend a day at the beach. Shorts and a T-shirt are okay for men, but sleeveless tops for all genders are barred. Women should refrain from wearing short skirts or dresses, and tops that reveal the midriff. In a worst-case scenario, throwing a shawl or scarf around the shoulders and/or waist may be an acceptable workaround.

Pick the right footwear to climb the tower

Some visitors consider the Leaning Tower of Pisa a tourist trap worth ditching, and there isn't much to see inside until you get to the top. It is essentially a hollow stone cylinder with a series of spiral staircases winding their way upwards to the belfry. With 251 well-worn steps standing between you and the top of the tower, choosing sensible footwear is a good idea for the climb.

The building is over 850 years old, and it isn't called the Leaning Tower for nothing. Thanks to subsidence, it is tilted at an angle of almost 4 degrees. That might not sound like much, but it is very noticeable once you enter and start making your way up the narrow flights of stairs. Needless to say, some of the steps are leaning, too, which can cause some visitors to feel dizzy as they ascend.

Beyond the tilted staircases, the ancient stone steps have eroded over the centuries, and the only light is provided by windows higher up in the tower, so it is important to watch your step. Comfortable shoes or sneakers are the best option to give you support and grip on the stairs. Flip-flops or open-toed sandals aren't recommended. Take heed of these precautions to ensure a less stressful climb to the top, where you will be rewarded with the sight of the tower's venerable bells and spectacular views across the city.