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Fears mount that Italy's other leaning tower may fall

By EARLE GALE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-12-05 09:36
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A tourist photographs the medieval Garisenda Tower, also known as the "leaning tower", surrounded by a containment structure as it is in danger of collapsing due to excessive tilting in Bologna, Italy, Dec 3, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

While Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa has grabbed everyone's attention ever since it was built in the 12th century, its less famous sibling, the similarly tilting Garisenda Tower in Bologna is attracting lots of interest this week — over fears it could fall down.

The tower, which was also built in the 12th century and that is leaning at a 4 degree angle, which is almost as severe at the 5 degree tilt of the tower in Pisa, has been closed to the public and is being surrounded by a 2.6-meter-thick barrier over concerns it could tumble.

The 47-meter-tall medieval tower that has loomed over the northern city for 900 years will soon be entirely surrounded by a 5-meter-tall barrier, to ensure people do not get too close, and to stop debris traveling too far in the event that it falls.

The tower's sudden closure followed monitors detecting it had leaned over a little more recently, which the municipal government said was a "highly critical" situation.

The municipality said the evacuation and cordon are the initial phase of a project to make the structure safe. The tower and the plaza below it are likely to stay closed for years while the building's foundations are strengthened. Work will also be carried out to repair disintegrating stonework and cracks in brickwork.

Mayor Matteo Lepore told the Associated Press that the Garisenda Tower has leaned ever since it was built "and has been a concern ever since".

The Garisenda Tower, which was built between 1109 and 1119, is mentioned in Dante's 1321 poem The Divine Comedy, and, while not as famous as Pisa's tower, is a major tourist attraction and cultural icon in Bologna, a city of 400,000 inhabitants.

The local government said the work to save it presents an "extraordinary challenge" that will need "commitment from the entire city and from those all over the world who love Bologna and one of its most important symbols", the BBC reported. The government has set up a crowdfunding page, so people can contribute to the cost of the work.

Theories as to why the tower moved recently include a flood earlier this year and vibrations from especially heavy traffic.

The Garisenda Tower is one of two towers that dominate Bologna's skyline. The other, Asinelli Tower, is twice as tall and also leans, although not as much and remains open to tourists.

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