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Towers of the Asinelli and Garisenda

In 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.

It 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 surrounding panorama.

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.

Address: Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, Bologna, Italy
Cost of Entry: 3
Opening Hours: 9.00am-6.00pm


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