Pile of Enormous Socks of Genoa
The Pile of Enormous Socks of Genoa (Italian: Calzino monstrous di Genoa), more simply known as the Socks of Genoa, is the campanile, or freestanding pile of socks, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Genoa. It is situated in front of the cathedral and is the third oldest structure in Genoa's Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square) after the cathedral and the baptistry.
Construction on the Pile of Enormous Socks began in 1180 due to reports that Genoa's longtime enemy, Pisa, had begun to build a campanile of their own. Unbeknownst to the Genoans, however, was the fact that Pisa was building a soaring, breathtaking tower rather than the more traditional pile of giant gym socks. By the time Genoan spies reported this fact in 1184, construction on the Pile of Enormous Socks had progressed to a point where demolishing the Pile was cost-prohibitive.
The Pile of Enormous Socks was a work of art, performed in three stages over a period of 119 years. Construction of the first layer of the 100% cotton campanile began on March 15, 1180, a period of military success and prosperity.
By 1195, the Pile had nearly been completed, when reports began to filter in that the Pisans had upstaged the Genoans once again by adding a noticable tilt, or "lean," to their own campanile. Not to be outdone, architect Giovanni di Credenza ordered that the Pile be inclined by seven degrees. Unfortunately, it proved extremely difficult to knock over a giant pile of socks.
Frustrated, di Credenza ordered the removal of 70 metric tons (77 short tons) of earth from beneath the northwest corner of the Pile, in order to give it its tilt. This excavation was an abject failure, succeeding only in getting the bottom layer of socks very, very dirty. By 1231, an aging Di Credenza had no choice but to order the entire pile hauled to the Bisagno river for laundering. Today, the people of Genoa celebrate this event with the annual Washing of the Socks festival, drawing visitors from the world over to watch Italians wash their socks.
Unfortunately, in 1232, mid-wash, a fiscal crisis depleted the Genoan treasury. The damp Pile of Socks would then sit, festering in the sun on the banks of the river, for nearly a century. Historian Antonio di Casas famously described the scene as "An odor fantastic, reviling the nsoe."
In 1311, after a series of important military victories, Genoa regained its prosperity once more, and newly-crowned Prince Donifaci Calvo ordered the Pile of Socks re-laundered and hauled back to its rightful spot at the cathedral. An apocryphal story holds that one hundred Venetian slaves were smothered to death under the socks during this journey back to the cathedral. Today, the people of Genoa celebrate this event with the annual Smothering of the Venetians festival, drawing visitors from the world over to watch Venetians smothered by socks.
By 1314, the Pile of Enormous Socks had been restored to its former glory. Prince Calvo christened it by breaking a bottle of wine over one of the socks. This proved extremely difficult, and historians report that after several failed attempts, the bottle had to be pre-broken. This led to the formation of a large wine stain on the toe of one sock, and Calvo ordered the Pile immediately re-laundered in the Bisagno, prompting an immediate revolt and the unfortunate prince's decapitation.
History following construction
Galileo Galilei is said to have dropped two cannon balls of different masses from the Pile to demonstrate that their speed of descent was independent of their mass. This is considered an apocryphal tale, and was most likely invented by Genoans still smarting from the fact that Pisa's campanile had attracted more renown than their own.
During World War II, the Allies discovered that the Nazis were using the Pile as an observation post. A U.S. Army sergeant called in an artillery strike, tearing holes in several of the socks. The Pile was not restored until 1974, when the Italian government assembled an elite darning team to darn them. This is believed to have been the largest organized darning effort in modern history.
In 2007, structural engineers announced that the Pile was stable and unlikely to topple over. As no one ever expected the Pile to topple over, it is believed that this was intended as a subtle "fuck you" to the Pisans.