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Leaning Tower of Pisa Reopens After Decade of Stabilization Work - 2001-12-15

The Leaning Tower of Pisa was officially reopened to the public Saturday, after more than a decade of stabilization work to reduce its famous tilt.

Now the 12th Century tower can be visited once again, but the number of people climbing at any one time has been limited.

The famed landmark was shut down in 1990, because, experts said, it had become unsafe for tourists, and stabilization work was necessary to reduce its tilt.

A team of international experts started work on the tower of Pisa not long after its closure, and successfully managed to reduce the tilt by around 40 centimeters, close to what it was at the start of the 19th century.

There had been fears that if nothing were done, the monument could have toppled over. The tower had begun to lean shortly after it was built in 1173 on sandy and shifting soil.

To reduce the tower's lean, hundreds of tons of lead counterweights were placed at its base, and soil was siphoned from under its foundation. When the work was completed, experts said the marble tower had been made safe for the next 300 years.

Saturday's ceremony was low key, out of respect for the tragedy of the September 11 attacks on the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center. The Pisa tower's seven bells peeled, and guards dressed in medieval clothes ushered in the randomly chosen visitors.

Two Spanish tourists were among the first group to enter the tower, expressing "indescribable emotion." Pisa's mayor, Paolo Fontanelli, called it "an extraordinary moment for Pisa and Italy, and all of humanity."

But with the reopening of the medieval tower, some things have changed. Only a maximum of 30 visitors at a time are now allowed to climb the tower's 284 steps to the top. They will have 40 minutes to enjoy a beautiful view of the city of Pisa. Two guides will always accompany the visitors.

There has also been a significant hike in the price of a ticket, which will now cost 15 euros, seven times what it was before the Leaning Tower of Pisa was closed down. Visitors will be able to book their visit and purchase their tickets for the tower on the Internet by January.