the 12th and 13th centuries, the noble families of Bologna raised
many towers. They were status symbols for the wealthy. Think of them
as the skyscrapers of medieval Bologna.
is estimated that originally there were around 180 towers. Out of
the hundreds that went up, only 20 remain today. The most famous
are the Towers of the Asinelli and Garisenda which stand side by
side at the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana. These two towers, or due
torri as the locals say, have become a favourite symbol of the city,
as they stand seeming to defy gravity and the ages.
Torre degli Asinelli is the tallest medieval tower
in the city. It is 97 meters or 330 feet high. Tourists can take
a walk inside as long as they are willing to climb the 498 steps
to the top. The climb can be tough, but the brave will be rewarded
with an absolutely fantastic view of the city of Bologna and the
There is a romantic legend that the Torre degli
Asinelli was the dowry that was insisted on by a nobleman for his
daughter’s hand. His daughter’s suitor was said to be
a man who transported gravel and sand from the river bank to the
building yards, on the back of his donkey. His bride price was to
have the highest tower in the city.
The Garisenda Tower is about half the height of
the Asinelli tower that it stands beside. It actually used to be
taller than the tower of the Asinelli but its top had to be cut
off for safety reasons. Giovanni Visconti da Oleggio made the request
for the resizing of the tower in the 14th century. It now stands
a mere 49 meters or 167 feet. The tower does not have a very strong
foundation and is still considered unsafe to enter, which is one
of the reasons why it is closed to tourists.
Both towers stand tall but no longer do they stand
straight, just like their compatriot from the 12th century, the
Tower of Pisa (La Torre di Pisa). The Torre degli Asinelli is tilted
by 1.3 meters. The Torre degli Garisenda on the other hand leans
by 3 meters. This is considered very unstable, which is the second
reason why it is not open to the public.
The towers have been standing for centuries, survivors
of war and time. They are much like old friends, leaning toward
each other as they leave their youth behind. Imagine they were built
only twenty feet apart. If the Torre degli Garisenda had not been
shortened, the two towers would be near to kissing each other, if
not gone as the Torre degli Garisenda’s tilt may have knocked
out the Torre degli Asinelli.
It is worth the effort to go up the tower and
see Bologna from up high. The sunset is beautiful from this vantage
point and the view is absolutely beautiful. This is an absolute
sightseeing must for all visitors to Bologna.
Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, Bologna, Italy
Cost of Entry: €3