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Saturday, 15 December, 2001, 13:59 GMT
Pisa's leaning tower reopens
Tourists look at the Pisas Miracle Square panorama from the reopened tower
The first tourists enjoy the view from the top
One of Italy's most famous tourist attractions, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, has reopened for the first time in almost 12 years.

Bells rang out across Pisa to mark the tower's restoration.

One of the first visitors said the experience was "unbelievable". She said that after years of thinking that the tower was going to fall down, "you can't describe the sensation you have when you walk up the steps."

Click here to see how the tower was made safe

It was closed in 1990 because it was in danger of falling over but after construction work costing millions, tourists can once again enter the 800-year-old tower.

To the naked eye, the 56-metre-high tower looks the same as it always has.

The landmark was turned into a building site
An international committee was formed to save the tower
But in fact the lean has been corrected by 45 centimetres.

The leaning tower, begun more than 800 years ago, developed a tilt almost from the start because it was built on sandy foundations.

This lean has intrigued generations of admirers of medieval architecture, but in 1990 engineers said the white marble tower was so far out of perpendicular that it risked toppling over.

The tower was closed and an engineering plan to save it was worked out by an international committee. Work on digging out part of the shifting foundations and placing counterweights ended last summer.

Tourists limited

Previously anyone could climb the 284 steps to the top, to admire a fine view over the city of Pisa and its surrounding countryside.

But now tourists will be limited to guided tours of only 30 people at a time and they will have to book in advance.

Work on straightening the leaning tower cost $25m, but engineers say it should now survive for another 200 years at least.

There is still more to do, however. The next stage will be to clean the tower's facade, removing some eight centuries of grime.



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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jonathan Charles in Pisa
"Pisa's tower has been restored to its former glory"
See also:

16 Jun 00 | Europe
Saving the Leaning Tower
16 Jun 00 | Europe
Leaning tower safe to climb
23 May 99 | Europe
Tower of Pisa leans less
12 Dec 98 | Europe
Leaning Tower to straighten up
11 Dec 98 | Europe
Bid to save Leaning Tower of Pisa
13 Aug 98 | Europe
Eastern promise for leaning tower
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