Back in the 12th century, construction began on a bell tower for a cathedral on the Arno River in western Italy, 50 miles from Florence, in a town called Pisa. With construction barely underway, the foundation of the tower began to sink into the soft, marshy ground, giving it a rakish tilt to the left (or the right, if you stood on the wrong side). The construction firm tried to compensate for the lean by making the top stories lean in the opposite direction, but that was an exercise in Italian futility. When this architectural wonder was completed in 1360, critics expected it to remain standing for a few days at most.
Six hundred years later, it was one of Italy’s most famous tourist attractions, a dramatic 190-foot high marble masterpiece that listed an amazing 15 feet off the perpendicular, predicted to fall at any second. In 1990, a million people visited the tower, climbing 293 leaning steps to the top for the somewhat unbalanced view before Italian authorities closed shop and brought in a team of archaeologists, architects and soil experts to figure out how to make the thing stand upright.
On December 15, 2001, the Leaning Tower of Pisa reopened to the public after 11 years and $27 million of fortification, and still leaning after all these years.