The Leaning Tower of Pisa Just Got a Little Bit Straighter

Flickr/Neil Howard

Pisa’s famous bell tower has just lost a little bit of its lean, according to a new report by researchers. The Italian tower, which has been tilting perilously for more than 800 years, has straightened by 2.5cm (1 inch) since 2001 thanks to a massive restoration project.

The Tower of Pisa has been leaning to one side pretty much from the beginning-the tower took nearly two centuries to build and it was obvious from the start that things were a little off kilter.

By the early 1990s, the tower was leaning nearly 18 feet, and each year, the tower was tilting more and more, with the incline increasing by more than a millimeter (0.04 inches) a year. That might not sound like much, but experts feared the building could collapse all together.It has taken engineers years to stabilize the tower, which included digging tunnels under one side of the structure to give its foundation room to shift, and attaching steel cables to the tower to keep it upright. It worked, and the tower has been straightening as predicted. In fact, engineers say that theoretically, they could straighten the tower completely. That, however, is unlikely to happen. More than 6 million people visit Pisa each year lured by the sight of the leaning tower, so while locals are happy to see the building restored, they’re not eager to see it straightened anytime soon.

High-Five Prank In Pisa, Italy (VIDEO)

Every tourist who visits Pisa, Italy, returns with a photo pretending to hold up the city’s famous bell tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Creating the photo illusion is so popular, that hoards of tourists flock to the town for the sole purpose of snapping the picture. One visitor, however, took it upon himself to walk around the square surrounding the tower and prank unsuspecting tourists. While they stood with arms outstretched, he snuck in, doling out one high-five after another. Watch above to see their surprised reactions.

When in Pisa, do as the Asians do

When in PisaWe stopped in Pisa, Italy this week on a tour of the Mediterranean to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. In contrast to lots of other landmarks and places of interest that we had seen in Italy, the tower and surrounding attractions were surprisingly well kept. Beautiful actually. I guess I had expected it to look like other things we had seen on our journey, which, over time, had become respectfully known, to us as “more old stuff”. Apparently we were not alone.

I saw this coming early on in our 9-day tour on Carnival Cruise Line’s new Carnival Magic and thought “I wonder how long it will be until we start saying dismissively: “Oh, more old stuff” but continued shooting photos, more than 1200 so far, to record what we had seen.

Recording our time at major landmarks with historical significance required that we be in the shot. Otherwise we could simply Google it and choose from a number of other photos, most of which would be better than mine. So off to what I thought was the good side of the tower, the one professional photographers would have chosen, to take our personalized photo we went. The plan was to be really inventive and use trick photography to make it look like I was holding up the tower. It’s really technical, I came to find out.

Before I had visited the tower I thought getting a shot like this would be relatively easy. The tower is not going anywhere so that leaves the subject (me) and the photographer (my wife Lisa) as the variables that can move to make it all work. Visualizing what this would look like through the lens, I positioned myself at an optimal place and instructed Lisa where to go. I figured a few tweaks here and there and this should be a wrap quickly then When in Pisawe would go find a nice wine bar to park at for the rest of the day.

Today I learned that it is difficult to tell “the photographer” what to do as they are the ones that are actually looking through the camera lens. When that photographer is your wife who has a new, well-deserved camera and takes some fabulous shots without your input, the moon and the stars align to make for a situation that can go sour really fast.

Such was the case as I tried to direct this scene with the sun at my back.

All I got out of that was the looming meltdown that has to happen on every journey, just to get over the regular life vs. travel life tension in the air. One blow-up and we are propelled into the next dimension, the one that allows us to move along and enjoy traveling.

Suddenly I found myself wishing I had paid more attention/tattooed on my body the helpful photo tips of Gadling’s Dana Murph which I had read but was having difficulty recalling right now in the heat of battle.

Moving to the other side of the tower, the side where the light was good, it was obvious that this was where we needed to be to take this photo.

I wanted one of the photos you may have seen before. One with the tower being held up, pushed over, or coming out of the pants or heart of somebody.

I was not alone.

When in PisaApparently the desire to be attached to the Leaning Tower Of Pisa is a universal one that transcends all ages, races, colors or creeds.

It did look like Asians are big on showing themselves pushing the tower over while other peoples of the world seem to want to hold it up and/or have expressions of horror on their faces as they attempt to make it look like the tower is falling on them.

I’m not sure if that means anything. If I had more time I might have polled these people with a battery of qualifying questions but we had just one day here.

I settled for a photo of my open hand holding up/stroking the tower, the open hand being universally accepted as a non-threatening symbol of friendship.

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Photo of the Day (09.20.10)

There’s nothing wrong, per se, with taking cheesie vacation photos. They make you laugh, they help you remember trips and they became cliche only because so many people enjoyed taking them. We stick our heads through wooden cutouts so that we have cartoon bodies. We pretend to hold the Taj Mahal in the palms of our hands. What we all probably fail to realize is how we look to everyone else while we’re taking those pictures.

This fantastic shot by Flickr user Flavio@Flickr shows what a gaggle of people pretending to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa look like to the rest of us. Without the tower in proper context, it looks like a bunch of tourists doing the Thriller dance in an arbitrarily chosen location. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. They all took home photos that made them laugh. And we can all laugh at them. It’s a win-win, really.

Have a picture of tourists taking pictures? Or just some great travel photos? Submit your images to Gadling’s Flickr group and we might use one for a future Photo of the Day.