The lean at Pisa is a little less

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The Independent Online
THE LEANING Tower of Pisa is setting a timely example to Italian politicians - after 800 years, it is beginning to straighten itself up, writes John Shirley.

The fractional shift of two millimetres is invisible to the naked eye and only puts the tower back where it was two years ago. But experts yesterday hailed it as a success for the first phase of a delicate programme designed to stop the tower collapsing.

Under the plan, 670 tons of lead ingots are being buried in the base of the tower to stabilise the subsoil - described by experts as 'bendy as an old mattress' - and act as a counterweight to the lean, which is five metres off the perpendicular.

The marble tower, 187 feet high, was completed in 1350. It has been closed to the public since 1990. The rescue programme has been dogged by financial difficulties and only survived at the end of last year when the restoration committee threatened to resign unless the Italian government approved new funding.