The Two Towers – Garisenda and Asinelli

torri di bologna, torre degli asinelli e torre garisenda
Le due torri di Bologna- Asinelli e Garisenda ©

The Asinelli and the Garisenda towers are considered the symbol of the medieval city and they are among the 10 things to see if you want to visit Bologna.

As silent giants, these two towers have seen the city change and expand from above. Their stones have been worn out for years, but still today they stay impressive rulling the metropolitan landscape. Their charm is ancient and many events involved their history, Bologna Guide will help you to discover all of them.

Garisenda and Asinelli, the towers of Bologna, are among the best attractions to see

Whether you are in Bologna for a business trip or simply as a tourist you can not say that you have visited the city if you have not seen the two towers that stand in Porta Ravegnana square. The Asinelli and Garisenda towers stand in the heart of the old town and are an important medieval heritage.

Both were built in the twelfth century by families of the Bolognese nobility. Over the years they have taken on many functions, the fortifications and the rope of the Asinelli Tower attest to the past military function. Yet they also hosted shops and guilds of merchants. But the real reason of their construction was the image, the houses of the nobility in this way showed their power and giving their name to one tower they got undying fame.

Bologna was called the “Turrita”

There was a real race to the sky and at the time of the peak, there were about 200 towers. The urban landscape was certainly different from the present one, in fact, Bologna was known as the Turrita (full of towers). Of this multitude of towers only twenty have come to our time, just think that originally the Asinelli and Garisenda were joined by three other towers: the Riccadonna, the Guidozagni and the Artenisi.

two towers of Blogna, Garisenda, Asinelli

@ Davide D’amico

The Asinelli tower

The Asinelli tower stands in the city center and is always watching the other of the Bolognese citizens. Its height is 97.20 meters and is characterized by a slope of 1.3 degrees. This makes it the tallest leaning tower in Italy, this is just one of the Primacies of Bologna.

The origin of the tower of the Asinelli is uncertain and there are several legends about it, but it seems to have been built by the will of Matilde of Canossa. The only sure thing is that after nine hundred years after its construction is still in place in spite of earthquakes, lightning, fire and even cannonballs.

Exactly, cannonballs. Our old friend was hit by an accidental shot in 1513. The eight-libra ball was fired from Piazza Maggiore during the festivities and fortunately did not cause serious damage.

Despite some cannonballs thrown by mistake the Bolognesi really love the tower of the Asinelli. It even influenced the cusine, in fact it was used as a paragon for the preparation of the Tagliatelle. To make the real Tagliatelle Bolognese is not enough to work the pasta by hand but you have to remember that the thickness of the Tagliatelle is 8 cm, the 12270 part of the height of the tower.

Climb the Asinelli tower ad see the the landscape from his top

During the opening hours you can visit it from the inside until you reach his top. Entering you can walk through the wooden staircase with 496 steps, a tiring but rewarding experience as you have a great view on the top. No wonder if from the terrace you can admire the landscape of Bologna at 360 degrees. In fact, it was used as a point of observation from which to control the Quadrilatero district.

But beware! It is said that if you climb the tower of the Asinelli you will no longer be able to graduate. So if you are superstitious and want to complete your studies is perhaps appropriate to wait, it will remain steadfast in its place as it did in the last centuries.

landscape Bologna, Asinelli tower

The legend tells us where the name “Asinelli” comes from

Someone said it is named after Gherardo Asinelli and was raised by the devil in one night. Yet there is a fascinating legend that tells from where the name comes from.

Once there was a man of humble origins who spent his days working on the earth. The peasant had no ambitions except to feed his wife and son. The work was hard and to help him there were only two small donkeys that he considered almost family members.
One day, the two donkeys refused to follow their master and began digging uninterruptedly at a point in the field until a buried treasure was brought to light. The farmer decided wisely to keep the treasure without revealing to anyone of his wealth.

Years after the farmer’s son had grown up, he fell in love with a young woman. The girl felt her feelings, and yet the lovers could not get married because she belonged to a noble family. Nevertheless, the young man asked the nobleman for the daughter’s hand. These, making fun of him, told him that he would marry his daughter only after building the highest tower of Bologna.

When the farmer learned of these words he laughed and gave his son the “treasure of the Asinelli (little donkeys)” he had kept up to that day. Ten years passed, but finally the tower was completed and the young man could marry his beloved woman.

The Guglielmini experiment

Bologna is an italian city famous for its culture and sciences so its leaning friend was a stage of a revolutionary experiment. In fact, Giovanni Battista Guglielmini used it as an integral part of his experiment which in 1790 demonstrated the rotation of the earth. It consisted in dropping down iron balls from the top. Measuring the deviation of the trajectory during the fall of nearly one hundred meters in height, the experiment demonstrated that the earth rotates on itself.

The Garisenda tower

towers of bologna, Garisenda, Asinelli

@Davide D’amico

Garisenda is the faithful companion of the Asinelli Tower and has been close to her since her erection. The lowest of the two towers is nearly 48 meters high and is characterized by a strong slope that made it unusable for military purposes.

“Qual pare a riguardar la Garisenda
sotto il chinato quando un nuvol vada
sovr’essa sì ch’ella in contrario penda,
tal parve Anteo a me, che stava a bada
di vederlo chinare…”

Dante Alighieri

In the 14th century, the slope of Garisenda force a structural intervention that make it shortened by almost 20 meters. For her “Chinato” appearance Dante Alighieri quoted the Garisenda in the Divine Comedy by comparing it to Anteo.
In the fifteenth century, Garisenda was bought by the Arte dei Drappieri, which made it a commercial place. It was their property until the nineteenth century when it was donated to the town.

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