Towers - Torri, Bologna
Torre Asinelli, the largest medieval tower, can be climbed. A perfect way to burn some of the calories that you have assembled sampling the local food specialities. I did that during my first visit so I was too lazy to repeat the climb this time. That was in the era of analogue photography, hence these here are scans of slides. These photos are more than 20 years old, but not much will have changed. Be assured that the view is spectacular and if you feel up to tackling the many stairs, it is worth the effort.
The two towers are Bologna’s iconic landmark. In Pisa they make such a fuss about their leaning tower, while Bologna has two… Their full names are Torre Asinelli (the taller one) and Torre Garisenda, but everyone simply refers to them as I Due Torri. These two towers are the most prominent among the medieval tower houses built by the noble and patrician families in the city. They are leaning towards each other just like an old married couple.
The towers are brick constructions like most buildings in Bologna. Their walls bear the scars of countless damages and repairs through the centuries. The fragile appearance makes one wonder how they withstood that long, but they did.
If you are after a souvenir, miniatures of the pair can be found in any souvenir shop in various sizes and materials.
As I mentioned in my tip about the Due Torri, Bologna has lots of towers. The reason the Due Torri are famous is that they remain pretty much at their Medieval heights; all the other were reduced in height in times past, for structural or financial reasons....but many of them are still visible if you take the time to look.
The tourist Information office has a useful map with a 'Tower Walk' marked out, taking you to 10+ of those earliest tower houses which still exist.
I didn't follow the exact itinerary marked on the map but just spotted the towers as I wandered. Here are a few of them:
1. Torre De Galluzzi (1200s) in Corte Galluzzi. Now with a bookshop on its lower floors.
2. Torre dei Prendiparte (1100s), nicknamed 'crowned' because of its interesting architectural feature (see photo 3) From its structural features it is probable this tower has either been lopped or was never completed to its intended height. You'll find it Piazza Pendiparte and its now a b&b.
3. Close-up of Torre de Prendiparte.
4. Casatorre dei Guidozagni is nearby, at the beginning of Via Albiroli. Its structural features show that it was intended to be used as a house (hence 'casatorre) and there is documentation about the collapse of its upper parts in 1487.
5. Torre degli Azzoguidi (1100s) on Via Altabella. At 61m in height, it is the second tallest tower still standing in Bologna. It was once taller, of course, and has a 'setback' halfway up which makes it look rather elegant
All the towers are quite difficult to photograph from streetlevel because it is hard to get far enough away to include the height without other buildings intruding into the shot.
Bologna's 'Due Torri' have been a symbol of the city for centuries. Torre Asinelli is the taller, originally around 70m but with later additions in the 1300s which took it up to its existing 97m or so. Torre Garisenda is the smaller, originally about 60m but now only around 48m; it was lowered in the 1300s for safety reasons.
Both were first built in the mid-late 1100s, although there is rarely absolute certainty about many European dates from this time as documentation (if any) has usually been lost. Religious buildings can be more accurately dated from documentation than civil buildings, simply because literacy was so much more prevalent within the church and there was more documentation. Both towers lean but the angle of Torre Garisenda is really quite dramatic.
Both towers were owned by the city in the 1300s, with Torre Asinelli used as a prison. The towers were joined by a wooden footbridge at that time (destroyed by a fire in 1398): that must have been a scary walk!
There once were many, many such towers in Bologna and in other northern Italian cities and towns, as well as some in e.g. Bavaria. Pavia has three excellent examples. But many have disappeared altogether, many have been 'lopped' in times past for structural or financial reasons (though they are usually still recognisable even if they now only have two or three floors).
Their purpose? Again, there is no absolute certainty about this but it seems pretty obvious that they acted both as lookout points and as strongholds for the families who owned them (some were attached to houses, some were themselves houses on their lower floors). Inevitably, they also functioned as a symbol of the owner's wealth. The higher the tower, the richer and more powerful you obviously were. Rather like having hugely expensive and powerful cars......
You'll find the Due Torri at the eastern end of Via Rizzoli. They are not particularly easy to photograph in their entirity, and there is a lot of vehicle and pedestrian activity in the area (several roads meet at P Porta Ravegnana) but you might get a decent shot or two from Via San Vitale, Via Rizzoli and the piazza itself. Do try to avoid getting run over by cars or bikes. :-)
Torre Asinelli (its base covered in scaffolding when I visited in October 2014) is accessible to the public. Opening times are roughly 9am - 6pm in the summer months, 9am - 5pm in the winter months. Admission in 2014 was 3 euro.
There is no elevator/lift. Be prepared to climb the steps.
In the 15th century the entire Palace d'Accursio was restored by architect Fioravante Fioravanti, who added the Clock Tower (Torre d'Accursio). At that time the palace was a seat of the local government and the era pf powerful Bentivoglio family who ruled in Bologna.
Besides showing the correct time to the citizens of Bologna, the tower had a defensive function, as evidenced by its characteristic structure. The tower is topped with a dome, on two levels, which served as an observation point.
In addition to the famous leaning Due Torri with their fascinating angles, approximately 20 of Bologna’s once more than 100 towers still exist. One day I might do just a “hunting torri” walk through town, but during my 2 ½ days in mid September I only saw a few of them.
One of them stands out because it houses a B&B today: Torre Prendiparte. Built by the noble family of Prendiparte in 12th century it is located two blocks north of Piazza Maggiore, and advertises with “60 metres of emotions”. This must be a true emotional stay, especially when I look at the video about Torre Prendiparte and its B&B and their dinners and breakfasts and of course the views.
More about Torre Prendiparte on:
Bologna’s tourism website.
More about Bologna’s other towers and bell towers:
Location of Torre Prendiparte on Bing Maps.
© Ingrid D., October 2014 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
It is said that, once upon a time, Bologna had more than between 100 and 180 towers, only a few of these are left today. The most famous and most prominent ones are the twins “Due Torri”, located east of Piazza Maggiore. Oh my and they are indeed something to look at. Both towers are leaning, into different directions, which makes it a real fun to try and find the best perspective to take photos.
The smaller one, Torre Garisenda, is 47 metres tall, with an incline of 3,22 metres. It is also mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy, namely the Inferno, canto 31, according to Bologna’s tourist information. The taller one is Torre Asinelli, with 97,20 metres and an incline of 2,23 metres. Torre Asinelli can be climbed, but this is only something for the adventurous: wooden stairs with almost 500 steps lead to the top, the stairs might still be from its ancient days. I wanted to climb it but by the time I passed it properly I was on my way to the fascinating museum inside Palazzo Poggi and was running out of time. But there will be a next time.
What I find fascinating are the old images of how Bologna might have looked in medieval times, both in English and Italian Wikipedia:
reconstruction of the city and its towers,
image of medieval Bologna and its towers
For those who want to climb Torre Asinelli:
Opening hours in summer: 9:00 to 18:00, in winter 9:00 to 17:00; fee is 3 Euro.
Oh and the names Garisenda and Asinelli derive from wealthy families (approx. 12th century, according to Bologna’s tourist information).
Location of Due Torri on Bing Maps.
© Ingrid D., October 2014 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
The two towers, both of them leaning, are the symbol and the emblems of Bologna and they have a names of course. The taller one is called Torre Asinelli while the smaller but more leaning tower is called Torre Garisenda. The names derive from the noble families which are traditionally credited for their construction between 1109 and 1119. There is scarcity of the written documents from that period and it makes this story rather uncertain. The name of Asinelli Family is documented for the first time only in 1185 and it is almost 70 years after the presumed constraction of the tower which is attributed to them.
The current height of Torre Asinelli is 98 meters. In the 14th century it passes to a property of the city and was used as prisonand and stronghold. At that same period the wooden construction was added around the tower, at the height of 30m above ground, which was connected with an arial footbridge to the Garisenda tower, but later destroyedina fire of 1398.
Torre Garisenda today has a height of 48m, although initially it was approximately 60m high but had to be lowered in the 14th century due to a yielding of the ground which left slanting and dangerous. In the early 15th century the tower was bought by the "Arte dei Drappieri", which remained the sole owner until the Garisenda became municipal property, at the end of the 19th century.
According to the local legend, both towers were constructed as a result of the competition between two Bolognese noble families. Since Torre Garisenda wasn't solidly supported and for fear of the tower collapsing, people decided to reduce its length from 60m to a little more than 48m. As a consequence, Asinelli Family won the competition.
The most notable point of interest about "Le Due Torri" is that they both lean, the Garisenda very noticeably to the point where the building is closed to the public. Torre Asinelli can be climbed via 500 steps to highlight a terracotta red fabric rooftops of Bologna. The top two floors of the tower, as already said, were once a prison, cruelly locked away but with the staggering view of the prisoners home city.
The Torresotto, or "serraglio", di Porta Nuova belongs to the second set (cerchia) of city walls called "Cerchia di torresotti" or improperly, "Cerchia del Mille". The tower is located at the intersection of via Porta Nuova and via M.Finzi,overlooking Piazza Malpighi. It was once a gate-entrance into the city area protected by the 12th century fortified walls. The construction of a "Cerhia del Mille" dates back to the years between 1176 and 1192 (or 1208 according to other sources), corrisponding with the conflict between city of Bologna and Federico Barbarossa. (After conquisting Bologna, in 1163, Barbarossa ordered semi-destruction of the city walls and ditches.) This second wall was 3,5 km long and had 18 gates, from which only four survived incorporated isnide of the inhabited areas.
There excist a fine storry-legend connected to Torresotto di Porta Nuova. In 1233 in Bologna was established the tribunal of the inquisition, at the convent of San Domenico, and was one of the most violent, especially in the witch hunt. The local women convicted of witchcraft were mostly astrologers, herbalists or prostitutes. Most famous witch of Bologna Gentile Budrioli, the so-called "strega enormissima" (the hugest witch), was the wife of an notary and lived in Torresotto Porta Nuova..........to be continued
La Coroncina is small general store in Via dell'Independenza 3, lodged in the base of Torre degli Scappi. There excist two local legends about its name Scappi and both versions are connected with Re Enzo. The tower gets it name from an incident when the imprisoned Re Enzo (King Renzo), son of the Holy Roman Emperor Federico I, tried to escape Bologna in a laundry basket. There was a woman, looking down from the tower, who saw his recognizable blonde hair sticking up and shouted "scappi" (he flees).
For the better understanding of this storry, Re Enzo was imprisoned in the homonymous palace which is located right opposite of Torre degli Scappi.
But this legend has another version which in my opinion is more probable. Local legend talks about Enzo's son he had from a paesant Lucia di Viadagola. (In his will, however, Re Enzo mentioned only three daughters). According to that legend, whenever his son was passing by the palace, Enzo was telling him up from the window "amore mio ben ti voglio" - meaning "my love I love you so very much". The locals gave his son a nickname, after that sentence, calling hom Bentivoglio and he would be the ancestor of the Bentivoglio family, later on the trulers of Bologna.
Torre dei Galluzzi was built in 1257 and therefore considered as modern tower, compering it with other medieval city towers left in town. The tower used to be taller than its current 30 meters height. The original entrance was on a floor about 10 meters above ground level, and the Galluzzi family used to enter it through a window located halfway up the tower using mobile wooden bridges that stuck out from their nearby houses. This type of tower is called consortium tower or "turris maior", and was above all built for military and defense purpose. Actually, the tower was an affirmation of the so-called "consorteria", groups of wealthy families linked by clan ties who built fortified neighbourhoods dominated by a protective tower. The thickness of the tower's walls, sometimes more than three metres, and its remarkable heights served to keep a watchful eye over the surrounding houses.
The doorway in a ground level of the tower, where today is an library, isn't original construction, it was opened only in a later period.
Galluzzo or Galluzzi was important Guelphs supporting family of Bologna, Ronaldino Galluzzi was three times the consul of the city. The family waged a fierce clashes with supporters of Ghibellini party, especially against the hated Carbonesi family.It was, however, twist of faith that Galluzzi girl and Carbonesi boy fell in love with each other and this love crowned in a secret marriage. When her brothers found out about this marriage, they brutaly killed a young couple, and in order to hide the murder they simulated a suicide of a sister who was found hanged.
Torre degli Asinelli (Tower of the Asinelli) and Torre dei Garisenda (Tower of the Garisenda) - Piazza di Porta Ravegnana. The main symbols of Bologna. Torre degli Asinelli (built between 1109 and 1119) is 97.20 metres tall (330 feet), with 498 steps and an incline of 1.3 meters (4 feet). Torre dei Garisenda (closed to the public)is 47 m (162 feet) tall and has a lean of over 3m (10 feet). Both were built in the 12th century. Open: daily, 09:00 to 18:00 €3 to climb Torre degli Asinelli. -- Wikitravel http://wikitravel.org/en/Bologna
The Torre degli Asinelli lay next to the Torre di Gariselda and with its 98 meter height it is the taller of all Bologna towers.
Climbing will be cheap in money (3-4 euros) but expensive in sweat drops. To reach the top you will walk over 498 steps!! The staircase id first stone and circular but, right after the ticket boot became a wooden structure. It is actually amazing to check out how it is put together.
Some section of the stair are quite steep and it is highly recommended to be very careful.
The visit is not advisable to people with limited walking ability and to whom have fear of the height.
The big effort will be rewarded by the wonder of the wooden structure and by the great view over the historical center, dotted by the shorter towers.
“Bologna is a lot of things, my friend. It's always been the center of free thought and intellectual activity in Italy, thus its first nickname la dotta. Then it became the home of the political left and received its second nickname, la rossa, the red.”
— from “The Broker” by John Grisham
From the top of Torre degli Asinelli it is easy to see why Bologna is known as la rossa, the red. It had this nickname of the red long before it became the center of Italian Communism. Bologna has always been a city with a liberal outlook on life.
Its red tiled rooves of the historic center is why it was originally called la rossa. A sea of red terra cotta stretched out before us in all directions. We could see the Basilica of San Petronio (see photo #3).
“Tomorrow I set off for Bologna. I write to you with thunder, lightning, &c., and all the winds of heaven whistling through my hair, and the racket of preparation to boot.”
— from a letter dated 19.August.1819 written by Lord Byron to John Murray
Built in the 12th century by Guelph sympathizers, the Prendiparte family, this was a bastion against enemy attacks. Today, Torre Prendiparte, or the Crowned Tower, measures 197 feet, which make it be second in height only to the Asinelli Tower. Thanks to a recent renovations, its twelve floors are perfectly accessible. The Tower is, together with other surviving towers, among the oldest buildings in the city.
Thanks to the well-laid old stones by skilled craftsmen, the selenite base and the typical “bolognese” bricks, the tower takes on the appearance of an impregnable medieval fort. In 1700, Torre Prendiparte was used by the Church as a prison. Today, it is partly used as bed & breakfast; partly as a venue for chamber music performances; and partly as an event venue.