Officials Plan a Dubious Debut

Pisa's landmark campanile is finally on solid ground. On June 17, a preview and gala is set to mark the rechristening of the 180-foot tower that, since its construction, has seemed ready to topple.

The 750-year-old Leaning Tower of Pisa was closed in 1990, when it was deemed too dangerous for visitors to tread on. Since then, some $25 million has been spent to support it with steel cables, by siphoning sandy soil from its base and then anchoring the tower with lead counterweights. Engineers have reduced its southerly tilt by 15 inches, returning it to the same position as in 1810. The correction, barely noticeable to the naked eye, makes the tower safe to climb.

Despite next month's celebration, tourists will not be clambering up the tower's 293 spiral steps quite as soon as officials had expected — the project has fallen behind schedule. "It doesn't matter if visitors are fat or thin," says site manager Paolo Heiniger. "There will be no travelers going to the top until the work is done."

Not On Your Standard City Tour

While New Yorkers debate the merits of their Museum of Sex — scheduled to open on Fifth Avenue in 2004 — China's most famous sexologist has already inaugurated his Museum of Ancient Sex Culture on Nanjing Road, Shanghai's equivalent of Fifth Avenue.

The 1,200 pieces of erotic art and devices for sexual enhancement in Professor Liu Dalin's museum provide an overview of China's changing attitudes toward sexuality. Even though today's China is more liberated than it has been for centuries, Liu is meeting with some resistance. Shanghai authorities won't let him post signs outside his museum (next to the Sincere department store) because of government regulations that prohibit using the word sex in advertising.

By Monica Larner and Sheila Melvin