CBSN

The (Less) Leaning Tower Of Pisa

And here's Hugh Grant and Jemima Khan leaving the party hand in hand July 5, 2006, in London.
GETTY IMAGES/Chris Jackson
While one of the most beautiful structures of its kind, what's always mattered most to tourists is that the Tower of Pisa looks like it's about to fall down. After a repair job now almost complete, it will still look that way, reports CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey—only less so.

The tower is being straightened a mere nineteen inches, just enough to keep it from falling over.

So fear not: those silly photographs of people holding up the whole tower with one hand will still get a laugh—if they ever did.

And the tower built to serve as both a celebration of Pisa's glory and a lookout point against enemies will soon be back in its modern role.

The tower started leaning even before the first stage was completed more than 800 years ago. The vibration and weight of the seven bells that the tower was built to house helped to pull it over.

Ten years ago the tower had to be closed to visitors.

While a number of scientific solutions to the tower's balance problem were proposed, a prime consideration was remaining true to the spirit of what has been called one of the man-made wonders of the world.

"What we wanted to find was a very delicate solution which could be really worthy of the monument," said Professor Salvatore Settis of the Pisa Restoration Committee.

Today that solution is visible in a temporary safety net of massive cables attached to a girdle around a lower section of the tower. The cables allow a thousand tons of lead weights to slowly pull the tower back down.

As it gets pulled back onto its base, the tower will settle into new space in the earth that has been drilled out over the past ten years.

A year from now tourists will be able to walk here again because the tower will have been pulled back to the position it was in more than 250 years ago.

And in theory at least, it's supposed to stay there for the next three centuries.

The tower bells, rung only once in the last decade to mark the start of this Christian jubilee year, were rung again Saturday as the restoration was displayed to the press.