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The Leaning Tower - wonder of the world

  • The Leaning Tower – wonder of the world

    Pisa’s landmark really does lean to a frightening degree, though less than it used to. The Tower now slopes at an angle of 5° from the vertical and remains standing because its centre of gravity is inside the perimeter of its base. The unstable subsoil that underlies the Piazza dei Miracoli has caused all the buildings to tilt and subside to dizzying effect. Just to the right of the entrance to the Tower is a date stone standing for AD 1173, when building work started on the Campanile. But work stopped at the third stage because the building was already collapsing. A century later, three more stages were added, deliberately constructed to tilt in the opposite direction, so the Tower has a decided kink as well as a tilt. By 1989 the Tower was leaning to such a perilous degree that it was in danger of collapse. It was promptly closed, and an international team of engineers spent the next two decades in a battle to save it. During the first phase, completed in 2001, the tower was straightened by 40cms to avoid imminent collapse. In 1992 it was given a girdle of steel braces which were attached to a cunning counterweight system. A year later, the bells were silenced because of the damaging effect of vibration on the edifice. In 2011, the Leaning Tower was reopened but, given the complex challenges, it would be tempting fate to say that the Tower was safe forever. The best place to catch your first sight of the 12th-century Tower is through the archway of the Porta Santa Maria, also known as the Porta Nuova. When the sun is shining, the whiteness dazzles; when raining, it glistens.

    Practicalities: visits are restricted to only 45 people at a time – children under eight are not allowed in while under-eighteens must be accompanied by an adult. Book in advance online or head straight to a ticket office when you arrive to book a 35-minute slot. It’s a steep climb of 251 steps. You can take up a camera but all bags must be left in the free left-luggage desk next to the main ticket office.

    Address: Torre Pendente (Leaning Tower), Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa
    Web: www.opapisa.it

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