The Majestic Towers of Bologna: Exploring the City’s Medieval Skyline
The two towers of Bologna are the most well-known towers of the remaining twenty towers or so left in the city. The two towers represent the landmark image of Bologna of which over 180 towers were built during the 12th to 13th century to mark the wealth and prestige of significant families along with fortifying the city’s military defenses. Many of the towers came into disrepair or were re-utilized for other purposes and their materials repurposed. The main tower is the Asinelli Tower and it is over 97 meters in height. The lower tower is the Garisenda Tower at over 48 meters. Similar to Pisa’s leaning tower both lean precariously and the shorter tower, is off-limits due to its extreme climbing angle.
A brief history of the towers of Bologna
The towers of Bologna, Italy, hold a fascinating history that dates back to the Middle Ages. Between the 12th and 13th centuries, Bologna was a thriving medieval city, and its prominent families sought to demonstrate their wealth and power by constructing tall and imposing towers.
Originally, there were around 180 towers scattered throughout the city, but only a few remain today. The most iconic of these surviving towers are the Asinelli Tower and the Garisenda Tower. The Asinelli Tower, standing at approximately 97 meters (318 feet), is the tallest and most recognizable, offering panoramic views of Bologna’s historic center.
The Garisenda Tower, standing at around 48 meters (157 feet), was once taller but was partially dismantled in the 14th century due to concerns about its stability. Despite its shortened height, it remains a symbol of the city’s medieval past.
During medieval times, the towers served various purposes, such as defensive structures, symbols of prestige, and lookout points. Some wealthy families built towers close to each other, forming fortified complexes, while others constructed them individually as status symbols.
Throughout the centuries, many of the towers were damaged, destroyed, or reduced in height due to fires, battles, and urban development. Today, the Asinelli and Garisenda Towers stand as iconic landmarks, representing Bologna’s medieval heritage and captivating visitors with their enduring historical significance.
Visitors to Bologna can climb the Asinelli Tower for a memorable experience and a glimpse into the city’s rich architectural and cultural past. The towers of Bologna remain a testament to the city’s medieval legacy and a reminder of the prosperous families that once shaped its skyline.
How to get to the two towers of Bologna
Getting to the Two Towers of Bologna is relatively straightforward. Here’s a guide on how to reach them. You can easily use a map and walk to them in the historic district of Bologna
By Foot: The Two Towers, known as “Due Torri,” are located in the historic center of Bologna. If you’re already in the city center, it’s easy to reach them on foot. Simply navigate towards Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, where you’ll find the towers standing tall.
By Public Transportation: Bologna has an efficient public transportation system. If you’re staying outside the city center, you can take a bus to Piazza Maggiore, which is a short walk away from the Two Towers. Check the local bus routes and schedules to plan your journey accordingly.
By Bike: Bologna is a bike-friendly city, and cycling is a popular mode of transportation. Consider renting a bike and pedaling your way to the Two Towers. There are various bike rental shops available in the city center.
Once you arrive at the Two Towers:
- Enjoy the View: While climbing the towers is not currently permitted for visitors, you can still appreciate their magnificent presence and snap photos of these iconic landmarks. Admire the architectural beauty and soak in the historical atmosphere.
- Explore the Surroundings: The Two Towers are located in the heart of the city, close to other notable attractions such as Piazza Maggiore, Basilica di San Petronio, and the historic porticoes. Take the opportunity to explore the charming streets, visit nearby sights, and experience the lively atmosphere of Bologna’s historic center.
Why Climb these historic towers of Bologna?
Without too many vantage points to see the views of Bologna from above, you can actually climb some of the ancient towers to see the magnificent landscape below. The experience alone of visiting some of these historic towers still being utilized for observing the views of the city below make this a fun and one of a kind experience while visiting medieval Bologna. With over 100 towers built around Bologna during the Middle Ages for defense, only 22 towers survive today. The most prominent towers today are called the Two towers, the Asinelli Tower (97 m) and the Garisenda Tower (48 m) in height. The Asinelli tower is still open for the public to climb and check out the views from the top of the tower.
Climbing the Asinelli tower to the top observation area
Climbing up the claustrophobic interiors of the Asinelli tower really gives you the feeling of how old and almost precarious the towers are let alone the rickety staircases, dark interiors and musty masonry walls are with little windows that breath in small wisps of fresh air from the outside. The interior is dark with old wooden staircases that go up in a square pattern and some small windows for checking out the views and taking a break along the way until you reach the top observation area. The views from above are quite spectacular seeing all the monuments and other landmarks of Bologna below. It’s fascinating to know that many of these towers dotted the landscape in historic Bologna and a few are still around the historic district marketing the wealthy families that owned and operated these towers.
Here’s an interior view of the tower and those scary stairs
Once you are closer to the upper levels, small peek-a-boo views to the city’s historic center below affords a quick view to the terracotta and red-tiled roofs of the mostly ochre city far below and some of the iconic symbols of the city: the Piazza Maggiore and the basilica San Petronio, the Piazza del Nettunno and the fountain of Neptune below.
Here’s a broader view of the main piazza from the Asinelli tower
Finally, when you get to the top and make it outside to see the view – it really is spectacular and worth the effort climbing all those incredible stairs – all 498 steps to the top. The panoramic views are so splendid – you can see 360 degrees all around the city and beyond the historic district area and into the surrounding countryside of Emilia Romagna. It’s a sea of terracotta and ochre with red-tiled roofs throughout.
Looking straight below the Asinelli tower is interesting when you check out the surrounding buildings and streets below. The shot below shows a very cool angle with the lower Garisenda tower below and St Bartolomeo church.
You can get such amazing views from the Asinelli tower to the entire city and the countryside throughout the entire region. It is definitely worth the climb (498 steps) to the top for these magnificent views and the wonderful photo opportunities from above.
What else can you visit close to the twin towers?
When visiting the Twin Towers (Due Torri) in Bologna, there are several other notable attractions nearby that you can explore:
Piazza Maggiore: Located just a short walk from the Twin Towers, Piazza Maggiore is the main square of Bologna and a hub of activity. Admire the grandeur of the Basilica di San Petronio, one of the world’s largest churches, and visit the medieval Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall). The square is also lined with elegant arcades and charming cafes where you can relax and soak in the atmosphere.
Basilica di San Domenico: Head southeast from the Twin Towers, and you’ll find the Basilica di San Domenico. This magnificent church houses the tomb of Saint Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order. The interior features stunning frescoes, intricate sculptures, and a peaceful atmosphere. Don’t miss the chance to explore the adjacent cloister as well.
Archiginnasio of Bologna: Situated near the Twin Towers, the Archiginnasio is a historic building that once served as the main building of the University of Bologna. It now houses the Anatomical Theatre and the impressive Sala dello Stabat Mater, adorned with coats of arms and busts of famous scholars. The building’s courtyards and corridors are adorned with fascinating historical artifacts.
University Quarter: Bologna is known for its prestigious university, and the area surrounding the Twin Towers is filled with a lively student atmosphere. Explore the narrow streets of the University Quarter (Quadrilatero) lined with shops, bars, and restaurants. It’s a great place to grab a bite to eat, sample local delicacies, or enjoy the bustling ambiance.
Santo Stefano Basilica: Walk southwest from the Twin Towers, and you’ll come across the unique Santo Stefano Basilica, also known as the Seven Churches. This complex comprises a group of interconnected churches, each with its own distinct architectural style and history. Explore the tranquil courtyards, chapels, and crypts, and learn about the fascinating legends associated with this religious site.
Weather and best time to visit Bologna
Bologna experiences a moderate climate with four distinct seasons. The best time to visit Bologna is during the spring (April to June) and fall (September to October) when the weather is pleasant, and the city is bustling with activities. However, each season has its own unique charm:
Spring (April to June): Springtime in Bologna is delightful, with mild temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F). The city comes alive with blooming flowers, and outdoor cafes and restaurants offer pleasant al fresco dining experiences. It’s a great time to explore the city’s attractions and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.
Summer (July to August): Summers in Bologna can be hot, with temperatures ranging from 25°C to 35°C (77°F to 95°F). While it can be a bit crowded with tourists, you can still enjoy the city by seeking shade in its beautiful porticoes or visiting museums and galleries. If you don’t mind the heat, summer is also a great time to experience local events and festivals.
Fall (September to October): Fall is another fantastic time to visit Bologna. The weather remains pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F). The city’s parks and gardens display stunning autumn foliage, creating a picturesque setting. It’s an ideal time for food lovers to indulge in local seasonal dishes and participate in events like the Bologna Fiera and various food festivals.
Winter (November to February): Winters in Bologna are generally chilly, with temperatures averaging between 0°C and 10°C (32°F to 50°F). While it may not be the peak tourist season, winter offers a quieter and more intimate experience of the city. You can enjoy exploring the historical sites, visit museums, and savor hearty Italian cuisine.
It’s worth noting that Bologna can experience occasional rainfall throughout the year, so it’s advisable to carry an umbrella or rain jacket regardless of the season.
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Conclusion to visiting the Towers of Bologna
A visit to the Two Towers of Bologna is a must for anyone exploring the city’s rich history and architectural wonders. These iconic structures stand as a symbol of Bologna’s medieval past and offer a glimpse into its storied heritage.
While climbing the towers may not be possible at the moment, their majestic presence and historical significance still make them a captivating sight to behold. Take a leisurely stroll to the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, where the towers proudly rise, and marvel at their grandeur.
Nearby, you’ll find an array of attractions that further enhance your experience. From the bustling Piazza Maggiore with its stunning basilica and town hall to the splendid Basilica di San Domenico and the fascinating Archiginnasio, there is no shortage of architectural wonders and cultural landmarks to explore.
Thanks for visiting us today to see the Towers of Bologna and the panoramic views for Travel Photo Mondays, hope you enjoyed the visit – if so, please do share it with the social media buttons located around the post.