January 17, 2011

Struth - On the level, the leaning tower cleans its act


IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says that Swiss-born building restorer, Anton Sutter is going to have to level-up with his next employer after eight years of a somewhat warped approach to his last job.

Mr Suttor and his team of ten Italians finally finished that last job just a week before Christmas – having meticulously used hand-brushes, scrubbers, chisels and even syringes to remove centuries of sea-salt, pigeon droppings, graffiti and decaying cement from the 24,424 blocks of stone and marble that make up the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Plus the ingrained sweaty hand prints of tourists trying to keep their balance as they struggled up and down the 296 sloping steps of the Tower.

Throughout it all the restorers, too, had to contend with all those uneven steps, and learn to work on a constant angle while being buffeted with salt-laden winds and freezing gales in winter (even though the Tower is 12km away from the sea) – and in summer searing near-40 degree days and steamy nights.

And making it all the more difficult they had to contend with a million or more visitors a year traipsing around and gawking at them, as the custodians of the Tower decided to keep it open throughout the eight years and $10m of restoration work.

And could it all be a waste of time and the Tower one day fall over anyway? "Not likely," says Mr Suttor. "It was stabilised in 2001 and there's no risk of it falling in the next 200 years."

Now the only thing that remains is to remove the scaffolding used in the restoration job – and who better than a group of young mountaineers not afraid to hang out over the giddying 56-metre drop from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

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