If you’re exploring Bologna, Italy, you definitely don’t want to miss out on the famous Two Towers or Le due Torri in Italian. These iconic medieval structures are symbols of the city, standing tall and proud with a bit of a lean.
The Two Towers, also known as Torri di Bologna, are none other than the Asinelli Tower (Torre degli Asinelli) and the Garisenda Tower (Torre Garisenda). These historic gems are located right in the heart of Bologna, where the ancient Via Emilia entered the city.
Now, let’s talk more about these beauties:
- Asinelli Tower: Standing at a whopping 320 feet, this bad boy is the taller of the two towers. But it’s not just for show – you can climb up the 498 steps to its top and take in some breathtaking panoramic views of Bologna. Trust us; it’s worth the climb. Just make sure to book your tickets online or at the Bologna Welcome Information Office.
- Garisenda Tower: Don’t let its shorter stature fool you. While Garisenda Tower doesn’t reach the heights of its sibling, it’s got its own unique charm. Standing next to the Asinelli Tower, this truncated tower is an ideal spot for some cool photos with a picturesque backdrop.
Fun fact: the Two Towers were part of a larger group of medieval structures in Bologna, known as the Towers of Bologna. Back in the day, Bologna was full of towers, but most of them have been lost over time. Lucky for us, we still have the most prominent pair to admire and enjoy.
So, when you’re wandering around Bologna, make sure to swing by and check out the famous Two Towers. They truly are the heart and soul of this lovely Italian city.
History of the Towers
Back in the day, around the 12th and 13th centuries, Bologna was a city full of towers – kind of like a medieval Manhattan! These towers were built by noble families trying to flex their power by building taller towers than their neighbors. Not only were they a status symbol, but they also served military and defensive purposes.
The two most famous towers, known as the Two Towers, still stand today and have become an iconic landmark of Bologna. These were constructed in the early 12th century by two different noble families, who each wanted to outdo the other by building the taller tower. These towers even had residential spaces, which is pretty dope for a medieval skyscraper.
If you’re a literature and history buff, you’ll find it interesting that the great poet Dante Alighieri referenced Bologna’s towers in his epic work, the Divine Comedy. In Inferno, Dante mentions the city’s Guelphs and Ghibellines, two families with a longstanding rivalry, much like the families who constructed the Two Towers. Dante also mentions the giant Antaeus, who, according to legend, helped build some of these towers, which implies that he might have visited Bologna during his time.
The Towers of Bologna are remarkable medieval structures that display impressive architectural details. These towers were built with various purposes, like serving as strongholds, watchtowers, and status symbols. Sadly, many of them have been demolished, collapsed, or ruined by fires over the centuries.
The most iconic and well-preserved towers in Bologna are the Two Towers: Asinelli and Garisenda. They stand at the heart of the city and are beloved symbols of Bologna. You can’t miss their eye-catching leaning posture!
The Asinelli Tower stands tall at a whopping 97.2 meters (318.9 feet). Despite its leaning angle, this tower has survived earthquakes and fires throughout the centuries. It’s an amazing feat of medieval engineering! The tower’s structure features a squared base and wooden stairs that you can climb to the top for an amazing view of the city.
On the other hand, the Garisenda Tower is shorter at 48 meters (157.5 feet) but has a more pronounced lean. Due to its precarious leaning angle, part of the tower was even demolished back in the 14th century to prevent it from collapsing. Nevertheless, it remains an impressive sight with its characteristic red brick exterior.
It’s worth mentioning that, at one point, Bologna was home to over 100 towers during the Middle Ages. But, today, only 22 of them have survived into the 20th century and beyond. As you explore the city, you’ll come across a few more towers you can check out, such as:
- Prendiparte Tower: A 60-meter (196.9 feet) tower that once served as a defensive stronghold. It’s also known as the “Coronata” due to the unique crown-shaped structure on its top.
- Azzoguidi Tower: A 61-meter (200 feet) tower with distinctive white and red stripes, reminiscent of the architectural style of the time.
The Towers of Bologna are tangible proof of the city’s medieval history and brilliant architectural innovations.
Visiting the Towers
You’ll find these bad boys at Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, not far from Piazza Maggiore and near the heart of the city. They’re super easy to get to – just take Via Rizzoli or Via Emilia and you’re there.
Now, lemme tell ya, the view from up there is killer! But climbing the Asinelli Tower isn’t for the faint-hearted. Keep in mind, there’s no lift and you’ll have to tackle 498 steps to reach the top. So if you have heart issues, asthma, or claustrophobia, this might not be your jam. Minors also need to have an adult with them, and unfortunately, animals, bulky bags, backpacks, high-heeled shoes, slippers, and barefoot visitors ain’t allowed. Suitcases and luggage can be left behind at the meeting point, so don’t worry about that.
The price of the visit is decent, but university students can score a discount, which is cool! To book your visit, you can make reservations online or purchase tickets at the spot. If you’re planning on visiting other attractions while you’re in town, your best bet is to get the Card Cultura or the Card Easy, because it can save you some dough. The Mercato di Mezzo is also nearby, so after visiting the towers, you can grab a bite to eat and continue exploring this amazing city.
The Towers in Literature
You might be surprised to learn that Bologna’s towers have captured the imaginations of many literary greats throughout history. From Dante to Goethe, these impressive structures have made their mark on the written word. Here are a few examples of how these towering architectural marvels feature in literature.
Dante, one of Italy’s most famous poets, made mention of Bologna’s famous Two Towers – Asinelli and Garisenda – in his legendary work, the Divine Comedy. In the Inferno section, he compares the steep incline of the Malebolge to the leaning of the Garisenda Tower. This reference not only highlights the tower’s prominence in Bologna’s cityscape but also serves as a powerful metaphor for the treacherous terrain Dante envisions in Hell.
Meanwhile, German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was so enchanted by the towers that he included them in his acclaimed travel memoir, Italian Journey. Goethe climbed the Asinelli Tower and marveled at the experience of ascending the narrow, ancient staircase to reach the top. The stunning views he witnessed of Bologna’s skyline and the surrounding countryside made a lasting impression and are described in detail in his account.
English novelist Charles Dickens also fell under the spell of Bologna’s towers during his visit to the city. In his travelogue, Pictures from Italy, Dickens fondly describes the picturesque beauty of the Two Towers and the enchanting feeling of walking through the city’s winding streets. He also notes the sight of these leaning accomplishments in the distance, which seemed to beckon him towards Bologna.
These are just a few examples of the way Bologna’s towers have left their mark in literature. So, when you stroll through the streets of this historic city, let yourself be inspired by the same architectural marvels that fueled the creative fires of Dante, Goethe, and Dickens. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your own references to Bologna’s striking towers in the books you read, or perhaps they’ll inspire you to weave a tale of your own.
The Towers During War
During World War II, Bologna faced its fair share of destruction and turmoil. However, the city’s famous towers stood strong, serving unique purposes during these tough times. It’s fascinating how these towers were utilized, so let’s explore their roles during the war.
The Asinelli Tower, Bologna’s tallest at 97 meters, was used as an observation point by the Italian military to spot enemy bombings. From this vantage point, they could get a clear view of the city and even the surrounding areas, allowing for an efficient early warning system.
As for the Garisenda Tower, it had a darker history during the war. It was repurposed to house a makeshift prison for those deemed to be enemies of the state. This tower already had a reputation for its leaning structure, but during the war, it became known for something much grimmer. The prisoners suffered through harsh conditions, cramped spaces, and constant fear of their uncertain futures.
Interestingly, fires played a significant role in shaping the towers during wartime. Throughout the city, several towers actually suffered severe damage due to fires caused by bombings. But, against all odds, the Two Towers remained largely unharmed, saved by the determination and quick thinking of the locals.
Bologna’s towers have seen it all – from glorious medieval times to devastating wars. As you discover their stories, you can’t help but feel the weight of history that lies within these landmarks.