After two decades of punctilious work and € 30 million in bills, the Leaning Tower of Pisa has finally returned to its original splendour.
The tower spent the last ten years wrapped in plastic and scaffoldings, as centuries of exposure to the elements and pollution had turned its smooth white marble into a grey, porous composite.
But, if smog threatened the tower's beauty, the terrain beneath it worried experts the most.
Built on eight levels and standing 54 meters tall, the tower exerted upon the earth a weight of 14,000 tons that made the soft terrain beneath cave in, determining the world-famous slant.
In1993, scientists measured the tower's northward gradient at 4, 5 meters which meant the 12th century structure was just short of toppling.
Engineers from Italy and abroad applied a number of sensors and instruments to gather as much data as possible, which would allow adopting a series of measures to keep it from collapsing.
Thanks to steel tie rods, 900-ton lead counterweights and micro-landslides, the tower's incline began to reverse. To date, the tower has straightened itself by about 44 cm and it will continue to do so for roughly two or three years when the opposite process will start once again.
Head Engineer, Michele Jamiolkowski from the Polytechnic in Turin, said the current system should keep the monument upright for the next three centuries.
It's a special event we've been waiting for since 1990, said the mayor of Pisa, Marco Filippeschi, to Il Corriere della Sera, Italy's top selling newspaper.
It's like an Easter surprise for Pisa, Italy, and the whole world. The renovation works were excellent, of international value, admired and envied by everybody.
When it came to the exterior's makeover, seven thousand square meters of San Giuliano marble were treated, cleaned from stains, and whole slabs were replaced with white Carrara marble.
Gisella Capponi, in charge of maintenance and renovation of the Cultural Heritage, told Il Corriere della Sera: We decided not to replace all the marble slabs, as done in previous renovations . . . on the contrary we returned to their place some parts that had come off over the years.
Our job was to preserve and strengthen, despite the extension of the marbles we worked inch by inch.
When a part of the tower re-opened to the public in 2001, Italian tourists manifested malcontent as they reckoned a €15 ticket to be too expensive.
The Opera Primaziale Pisana, the institution that controls the monuments in the Piazza dei Miracoli Miracles' Square, replied that the price was only fair and the revenues were vital to maintaining all the monuments in the square to the highest standard.
Italians traditionally don't enjoy paying high prices to visit cultural sites that they would like to access gratis, for free. Two years after the re-opening, in 2003, visitors dropped by a 7 percent from the previous year amounting to 80 thousand in total.
The complex, which attracts about two million people every year, also includes St Mary Cathedral, the Baptistery, the Sinopie Museum and the Cemetery.
Pisa is a must-see art town that has entered the better known triptych Venice-Florence-Rome, of which millions of tourists visit when in Italy.This article is contributed by journalist, Vito Panico, and does not represent the views or opinions of the International Business Times.
Vito Panico holds a Master's degree in journalism from The University of Sheffield. He currently lives in the Apulia region in Southeastern Italy where he writes for local and international publications. To contact Mr. Panico by email, please click here.