PIAZZA DEI MIRACOLI, LEANING TOWER

Audio File length: 2.42
Author: STEFANO ZUFFI E DAVIDE TORTORELLA
English / USA Language: English / USA

54 meters tall, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is undoubtedly one of the most famous monuments on the planet, and a true icon of Western architecture.

As you can imagine, part of its fame naturally comes from the fact that it's leaning, which certainly wasn't planned in its original design!

But you should know that the leaning issue had already emerged in the earliest stages of construction, which began in the second half of the 1100s. Documents about the tower mention a first soil collapse when the first floor had just been finished, which at that point didn't stop the works. They managed to complete two more floors before a new collapse of the soil forced the tower's construction to be interrupted, and it was only resumed at the end of the 1200s. The new architects of the 1200s also tried to solve the leaning problem: if you look carefully at the three top floors, you'll notice that they're slightly curved in the opposite direction, giving the building the characteristic profile that we could call "banana-shaped". The tower's construction was finally completed in the mid-1300s with the addition of the belfry. The interior, which you can access, has a spiral staircase with 294 steps.

The tower leans thanks to the characteristics of the soil, which is crossed by underground waters and is composed of layers of clay and deposit materials. Even though a famous song from the 1930s repeated "Long live the tower of Pisa that leans that leans that never falls down," over 8,000 projects have been proposed over time to ward off its collapse, which range from the most concrete to the most imaginative and unrealistic. Over the last two centuries, some of these projects have also been put into practice: from the aspiration of large quantities of debris with the aid of powerful pumps, all the way up to the application of steel rods and lead counterweights, but the results were often unsatisfactory and sometimes even counterproductive.

Only in the last few decades, thanks to an ambitious plan of action, the experts have been able to bring the tower back to the slope it had about 200 years ago, which guarantees its stability for at least another three centuries.

Nevertheless, take a picture as you hold it up: you never know!

FUN FACT: the Leaning Tower's belfry has 7 bells: the largest weighs three and a half tons, making it just one more problem for this poor, crooked tower!

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