If we say Bologna, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Maybe the university, or tortellini.
Many of you would think about the Two Towers instead, one of the city’s highlights that stands right in the heart of Bologna, on the ancient Via Emilia – called Via Rizzoli in this stretch.
But perhaps not everyone knows that there are more than two towers in Bologna!
In medieval times there were up to 100; just 28 have survived until today, including 4 torresotti, 2 bell towers (San Pietro and Arengo), several tower-houses and 9 real towers, among which the famous Two Towers, called Torre degli Asinelli and Torre Garisenda.
In all likelihood, the construction of this impressive number of towers in the late Middle Ages is linked to the power of wealthy families.
We’re in the period of struggle for pro-imperial and pro-papal investitures and of the resulting opposition between Guelphs and Ghibellines, whose opposite factions – which in Bologna identified with the Geremei and Lambertazzi families – apparently used the towers as an instrument of defense/offense and as a symbol of power and primacy over other families.
If you’re planning a visit to Bologna, here’s a brief guide to the towers of Bologna that you can still visit today.
The Asinelli Tower is closed to the public for works
Known for being the highest authentic medieval tower in Italy (97 meters), the Asinelli Tower has an overhang of 2.23 meters and an internal staircase of 498 steps.
Once you get to the top, your efforts will undoubtedly be rewarded by the wonderful views, a 360-degree panorama over Bologna from the centre to the hills, including the adjacent Garisenda tower which is ‘only’ 47 meters high.
The construction of the Asinelli Tower is shrouded in legend, one of the many little-known stories related to the city.
Located in Piazzetta Prendiparte, the 59,5 metre-high Prendiparte Tower was built around 1150 by the very rich family of the same name.
The tower, from which you can enjoy a spectacular view over the city centre and the Due Torri, is also known as the Coronata (crowned) Tower, due to the “crown” shaped indentation placed near its top, 50 metres from the ground.
The tower also houses a unique B&B that allows you to feel “noble for a day” and spend a night in an ancient tower reserved just for you and your better half!
San Pietro Bell Tower
The 70-metre high bell tower of the Cathedral of San Pietro is the second highest tower in the city.
It is actually composed by two towers built at different times (10th and 13th century), one inside the other.
The belfry houses the largest bell that can be played “alla bolognese” (in a timed manner and with a complete rotation of the bell). This bell alone weighs 33 quintals, while the whole bell complex weighs 65 quintals in total.
From the bell tower you can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the city centre and the surrounding hills.
Clock Tower of Palazzo d'Accursio
Also known as the Accursi tower, the Clock Tower rises to the left of the Palazzo Comunale di Bologna, the medieval and oldest part of Palazzo d’Accursio.
This tower that has marked the time in the city for centuries; despite the many alterations over time to adapt to different architectural styles, the tower is still the same building that used to embellish the house of the Florentine glossator and jurist Accursio da Bagnolo in the 13th century.
The visit starts from the internal courtyard of Palazzo d’Accursio. Following the audioguide directly from your smartphone, you will climb the elegant “staircase of the horses” up to the second floor.
Here, you will reach the beating heart of the tower: the mechanism that makes the clock work. Make sure not to miss the view on Piazza Maggiore as well.
The same ticket also includes the access to the City Art Collections, housed in the rooms that were once used as the residence of the Cardinal Legates.
Social Media Manager for @inEmiliaRomagna and full-time mom.
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