Which architectural landmark is first on your wish list - the Parisian skyscraper or the leaning beauty in Pisa? Our experts help you decide.
By Amy Cooper
Size really does matter when you're talking towers, so I'll get straight to the point. The Eiffel Tower triumphs, soaring to a sky-scraping 330 metres, while the leaning loser is a paltry 55.86 metres. That's a couple of metres shy of the Iron Lady's lowest level. Sorry, Pisa, but it's tough at the top.
Storeys are important - and so are stories. The Eiffel's is a towering saga of ambition, imagination, passion and the Belle Epoque. Pisa's is one of ... dodgy tradies. In a scenario all too familiar to any modern homeowner, the 12th-century Pisa construction crew put up a large, heavy tower on boggy ground. Four floors in, they noticed it was wonky and did what builders do: disappeared for 100 years. The job was finally finished another century later, and they probably wanted paying in cash.
Meanwhile in Paris 1889, the Eiffel Tower, almost six times bigger, was completed in two years and two months. For four decades, it was the world's tallest building.
Was it a feat inspired by love? I like to think so. I totally bought into the 2022 movie Eiffel, in which engineering genius Gustave Eiffel designs the tower's distinctive "A" shape as a grand gesture to his forbidden love, Adrienne. Sigh. Nothing says je t'aime like the planet's biggest erection towering over its most romantic city.
If a bloke built you the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you'd swipe left. Or call Hire a Hubby to fix it.
Paris is for lovers, and the Iron Lady radiates romance. At sunset she dances on the skyline, clad head-to-toe in twinkling golden lights, every hour, on the hour. She's the scene of countless love stories, with as many as 10,000 people a year proposing on, around or beneath the sexy structure.
This being France, there's a champagne bar at the top for toasting l'amour on a high, with the City of Light's boulevards, golden domes, pinnacles and spires glittering far below.
The Pisans downed tools and took a hundred-year smoko while they wondered what to do.
That's just an aperitif for the Eiffel Tower's gourmet delights: Michelin-starred Le Jules Verne restaurant on level two, and celebrity chef Thierry Marx's acclaimed Madame Brasserie on level one. There are buffets on levels one and two and on the tower's ground level Esplanade, along with boutiques, kiosks and information about the awesome engineering above. All set amid landscaped gardens with lakes and lush greenery where you can sit or stroll for free.
For the Paris 2024 Olympics the grande dame will be a glamorous hostess, wearing a fabulous new shade of gold paint. It'll be a magnifique party.
You could be feasting and toasting upon a marvel of modern engineering and eternal symbol of love - or sweating up 294 steps to the top of a terminally tilted testament to shoddy workmanship. I know which way I'm inclined.
By Mal Chenu
This towering tete-a-tete is essentially a contretemps between a Romanesque/Gothic marvel with an enthralling history spanning centuries, and a big brown Meccano set that shares a nickname with Margaret Thatcher.
French writer Guy de Maupassant famously had lunch in the Eiffel Tower's restaurant every day because it was the only place in Paris where he didn't have to look at it. Guy and 299 other arty pre-NIMBYs signed a petition that called the potential erection "... a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack".
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, on the other hand, is a much-loved tourist attraction and a cliched photo-op that can't be beat.
Pisa's picturesque principal protagonist has plenty of parallels with development in Australia. It ran way over budget, took 200 years to finish and still wasn't done right. Work began in 1173CE and generations of Pisa's peeps watched the "progress". Nonnas would tell their grand-bambinos: "When I was your age it was an inch taller than it is today." Weak subsoil caused the lean, which started as soon as the fourth level was completed. The Pisans downed tools and took a hundred-year smoko while they wondered what to do. In the meantime, they busied themselves with other stuff, such as wars with Genoa, Lucca, Florence and Genoa again. By the time they got back to construction, the soil had settled a bit and they had another tilt at it. This span of time explains why the tower is Romanesque and the belfry is Gothic.
It was finally completed in 1372 and bells were added over the next few hundred years. Important not to rush these things. The largest of these was cast in 1655 and weighs three and a half tonnes. Around 1590, a crowd gathered to watch local hero Galileo Galilei drop two cannonballs of different masses from the top of the Tower, proving that gravity doesn't care how much you weigh.
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Throughout all this, the leaning continued. It wasn't until the 1990s (again, no hurry, guys) that an eight-year remediation finally stabilised the Tower at the eye-pleasing, four-degree slant we see today.
Torre Pendente, as she is known in these parts, is actually the campanile (freestanding bell tower) of the nearby Pisa Cathedral, part of the Piazza dei Miracoli complex, a magnificent nine-hectare World Heritage-listed site of medieval art and architecture. You can climb the Tower's 294 well-worn stairs up to a viewing platform and the belfry with its seven bells, one for each of the main musical notes.
The Eiffel Tower is fine (if you like that sort of thing) but the Leaning Tower should be on everyone's bucket "list". If I had to lean one way or the other, I'd be inclined to choose Pisa, if you get my angle.