The Bell Tolls No More In Pienza, Italy

The clock tower in Pienza will not chime from 10 pm to 7 am due to complaints from foreign visitors staying in nearby hotels
Clock tower in Pienza, Italy
Clock tower in Pienza, ItalyKrisztian Juhasz/

Similar to other clock towers around the world, the clock tower in Pienza also has bells that chime every half an hour, creating a sense of regularity for the locals in the town. However, due to tourist complaints, it will no longer follow this routine. Following this news, many residents are unhappy with this decision.

Like London’s Big Ben, this Renaissance clock tower in the south of Pienza has played a central part in city life for many decades. Accordingly, this sudden change in its routine is being considered an unwelcome disturbance of an old tradition.

Clock Towers In History

Clock towers have played a crucial role in history, serving as iconic landmarks, timekeepers, and symbols of civic pride. Their origins can be traced back to ancient civilizations, but it was during the Middle Ages that clock towers–as we recognize them today–began to emerge.

One of the earliest known clock towers dates back to ancient China, during the Han Dynasty, around 108 BC. Su Song, a Chinese engineer and astronomer, designed and constructed the “Cosmic Engine,” an intricate water-driven clock that stood within a grand tower. It displayed the time and tracked celestial movements, showcasing the Chinese mastery of timekeeping and engineering.

Gros Horloge, Rouen
Gros Horloge, RouenShutterstock

In Europe, the advent of clock towers occurred during the medieval era, with the development of mechanical clocks driven by weights and gears. The Gros Horloge in Rouen, France, built in the 14th century, stands as one of the earliest surviving examples. These clock towers often served as town centres, providing accurate time to the local populace.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

The request to silence the clock tower came from tourists staying in the many nearby properties. According to reports received by the authorities, tourists felt disturbed by the sounds of the bell and had trouble sleeping because of the same.

Ironically, silencing the bells has received contrary complaints from the locals. Since the bell has been silenced between 10 am and 7 pm, the residents of Pienza find it difficult to sleep since they are so used to its sound.

The story of Pienza's clock tower is an example of the emerging confluence between local culture and rising tourism.

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