Kids with the Baptistry, Duomo and the Leaning Tower as backdrop

That is what Em called The Leaning Tower of Pisa, which we visited on Monday.  Truth be told, this was one of those sights that I just wanted to “check off the list.”  If the kids hadn’t wanted to go so badly, I probably would have skipped it.  Given that the major sites are outside of the town of Pisa proper, I knew it would be loaded with nothing but tourists, which, even though I am one, is not my favorite way to travel.  As with most things that we make an effort to do, however, I ended up being glad we made the trip.

The funny thing is, I think the kids were nearly as excited about being permitted to have a whole can

Em "holding" the Tower

of Coke as they were to see the Tower.  Jay is still talking about it.  You can tell how often I give them soda.  But this was a special case because after a two-hour train trip, a lunch that took longer than expected, a 20 minute wait on the curb for a bus and then a 15 minute bus ride in an non-air conditioned bus, they were tired, thirsty and crabby.  The soda was the perfect pick-me-up.

We spent a couple of pleasant hours touring the sites and then retraced our steps to get back home.  At first I didn’t think the kids got too much out of it, and I started wondering how much of an impression Italy is going to leave on them.  Would they just remember the sea?  Would it not feel as different or as foreign to them as being in Paris did for me the first time I went as a teenager?  Then two things happened that surprised me.  The first was Monday night, when we asked the kids what their favorite part of the trip to Pisa was.

Jay's mosaic

Jay said, “My favorite part was the Duomo (cathedral).”  Honestly that was the very last thing I expected him to say, but when I asked him why he said, “…because I loved that huge mosaic.  It was amazing.  I can’t believe they made that whole thing from tiny little stones.”  Turns out he has very good taste.  The mosaic was the last work executed by Cimabue before his death in 1302.

Then, during our stroll yesterday evening, Em said, “You know Mommy, the Leaning Tower has been making me think a lot about the mistakes I make with my art.” (I should interject here to give the context, which is that she had a fit on the train home yesterday because she thought her sketches were terrible.)

It turns out she had been reflecting on the fact that the reason the Tower is so famous is because it leans, which was the result of a mistake.  “It’s most famous for its greatest failure,” she said.  “You never know how a mistake might turn into something great.”

And that is where the phrase, “Out of the mouths of babes…” comes from.

Where, or from whom, have you received a piece of unexpected wisdom?

Jay "holding" the Tower

Categories: Family, Italy, Travel · Tags: , , , , , ,



  1. When he was little my son had a Peanuts cup which said “Winning may not be everything, but losing isn’t anything.” That’s a piece of unexpected wisdom.
    I love the leaning tower. I don’t go in high season, but I can imagine the crowds would be a bit of a pest. The centre of the city is actually really interesting if you have the time to wander.

  2. Glad you’re enjoying Italy together. I expect that your kids will NOT remember much from the trip 10 years from now. But you will. 😀

  3. A nice post that reminded me of my own visit to Pisa. I can remember the Tower from a school encyclopedia article and when I was a schoolboy I was always intrigued by the concept of a building listing so perilously to one side that it was apparently just waiting for a strong wind to topple it over. I had secretly suspected that the pictures had exaggerated the buildings predicament so I was astounded when I actually saw it for the first time and was able to satisfy myself that it really does lean over a very long way indeed.

    • Andrew, thanks for stopping by! It really IS amazing to see how far it leans. I felt the same way – that somehow it would be anticlimactic. Luckily, it wasn’t.

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