If city planners have their way, this summer, the Leaning Tower of Pisa will have a new neighbor: a 150 foot tall Ferris wheel... nearly as tall as the Tower itself. The plan calls for a temporary three-month testing of the idea, placing the Ferris wheel in the tourist bus parking lot located about 1500 feet from the entrance to the Piazza dei Miracola which contains the Duomo, the Baptistry and the Tower. The tourist buses typically drop off large tour groups from cruise ships docked in the nearby port.
Many visitors to Pisa never see the rest of this medieval city, and that's just the point of the Big Wheel. Passengers will get a fantastic view of the Tower complex, but also what lies beyond the city’s medieval buildings, the Arno River, the mountains and the sea. The Culture Minister, Andrea Ferrante, said that the Ferris wheel will show tourists that there’s more to Pisa than the Leaning Tower and inspire them to visit the rest of the city and perhaps spend more time--and money--there. Over two and a half million tourists visit the Piazza dei Miracoli each year, with few exploring the rest of the beautiful town.
Of course, not everyone thinks this idea is a good one. Many consider the Big Wheel is going to be an eyesore on the historic cityscape and conflicts with its architectural heritage. Of course, the very successful 442 foot tall London Eye opened 15 years ago and has rotated over 32,000 miles and seen marriage proposals by 5,000 couples. It has 32 capsules, each holding 25 people during its 30 minute revolution. The 540 foot tall Singapore Flyer has 28 air-conditioned passenger capsules, each holding 28 people. The High Roller observation wheel in Las Vegas is the world’s tallest at 550ft and lit with more than 2,000 LED lights.
Not everyone is supportive of the plan. The non-profit group Italia Nostra, dedicated to preserving Italy’s heritage, says the amusement park-type attraction would not blend in with the city's medieval architecture. “In the city of the Leaning Tower, a 50-meter-diameter wheel a few steps from Piazza dei Miracoli doesn’t make any sense,” said regional president Mariarita Signorini.
I have a different opinion. First, I don't like the location. It's too close to the Tower, but to be honest, it's not close enough to get in any pictures taken of the Tower or any other position from the Piazza dei Miracola. It is also not that tall. In fact, I'm in favor of a much large wheel--saw 400 feet in height--that sits on the banks of the Arno and looks out over the river and both sides of the city, the Tower of Pisa toward the left with the rest of the old city laid out to the right.
There is a location that could easily be developed now that contains a large sports field and several other fairly vacant plots of land. To show how it would look, I made a mock-up of the view from a 400 foot wheel in exactly that spot--with the help of Google Earth set at 400 foot elevation, with 3D buildings turned on, and a Photoshop paste of a modern, capsule type of wheel (I used the London Eye).
The views would be fantastic, with the benefit of keeping the tourist buses further away from the Piazza dei Miracola. People could stroll from this location after having been oriented to Pisa from the wheel's high viewpoint... through the old city center (on either side of the Arno) and then stroll up toward the Tower as a final reward. Small tourist buses could transport people in Hop-On, Hop-Off loop around the city. In this way, visitors would get a wider appreciation of this wonderful town.
What do you all think?