The Two Towers (Le Due Torri) located in the heart of Bologna have nothing to do with Frodo and the LOTR trilogy as the name might suggest, but they are a treasure at the heart of Bologna and the traditional symbol of the Red City.
Once connected by a small wooden footbridge which was lost to fire some time ago, the Two Towers of Bologna now stand apart but, they are still very much a double act. Located at the convergence of 6 separate and very straight roads the Two Towers were not only built as a symbol of status and wealth, but also for military reasons such as signalling the arrival of potential enemies to the surrounding area. I if am not mistaken, I think their location was rather intentional.
So two the towers, a duo but very different in scale. The tall one goes by the name of the Asinelli Tower, and is named after the family that was responsible for its construction. Built somewhere between 1109 and 1119, in the 14th century its ownership switched hands and became property of the city. Standing some 97+ metres tall, the tower has had a number of occupations over the years. Once a prison and stronghold, it was utilised by the Italian army during WWII and before that it was used as a scientific testing post. Where better to test the effects of gravity I guess?
The smaller tower is called the Garisenda Tower and stands some 50 metres shorter at 40 metres, but once upon a time the difference between the Garisenda and Asinelli was not so vast. From the outside its clear to see that the Garisenda tower is leaning dramatically to one side. Such is the lean that part of the tower had to be severed from the other, reducing its height from approximately 60 meteres down to the current height of 48 metres. Obvious comparisons are can be made between the Garisenda tower and the Tower of Pisa, but in fact both of Bologna’s towers are leaning, its just not so apparent with the Asinelli tower
Once removed in 1871 due to traffic reasons, beneath the two towers now again sits the statue of San Petronio – made by Gabriele Brunelli in 1670.
Before I go any further and tell you all about my venture to the sumit of the Asinelli tower, if you’re just here for the details of what times the tower is open for scaling, look no further …
Summer 9.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m. (last admission 5.40 p.m.)
Winter 9.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. (last admission 4.40 p.m.)
**From 24 June to 19 July the Asinelli Tower will be closed from Monday to Friday. Saturday and Sunday: 9.00am – 6.00pm
Our ascent of the Two Towers
For reasons we cannot explain, our own journey to the top of the Asinelli tower started at the hottest point of the day. When I say ‘our’, I mean Esther and I plus Esther’s sister and her boyfriend who had joined us from their home in Milan for the day.
The entrance is a little tucked away as the base of the Asinelli tower, a darkened doorway looking more like the entrance to a dungeon.
I lead the way and started to climb a tight, spiral staircase of hard stone. It was only a couple of levels before we reached a cosy little admissions desk. The cost of continuing any further a reasonable 3 euro.
From this point the stairs change from stone to wood. Whilst not as claustrophobic, the wooden stairs are maybe not so good for those with an unwanting fear of heights.
From the first set of the wooden stairs you’ll realise that you’ll need to be relatively smart in your ascent. Not in terms of pacing yourself, that is a given, but it letting those on the way down pass you. Get it wrong and you might be getting a bit personal with each other as you squeeze past one another on the incredibly narrow staircases. Even during lunchtime when we thought crowds would be at a minimum there were significant numbers heading up and down the tower, step by step … and there were a lot of steps.
after step …
after step …
after step …
after step …
after step …
You look up -> steps
Look down down -> steps
Until eventually, a break in the stone work and a first peak at what views await for us at the summit. A timely motivator! We press on despite the lactic acid now starting to pool in our muscles. We should have stretched maybe
After what feels like a age (but probably only 10-15 minutes) we making a final sprint for daylight and at last reach the roof and promised land. But has it been worth all this effort?
Was it worth it? Of course it was, I wouldnt have botherd writing such a long post otherwise would I. It was freakin spectacular and worth every bit of muscle burn encured in that step by step journey skywards.
We’d picked an incredible day to venture up the tower, with nothing but blue skys all around we could see for miles. The red of the red city creating a crazy contrast against the green of the surrounding hills and the blue of the summer sky. I’m a sucker for views like this and have been lucky to witness a few in my time. In fact this experience bought back from than a couple of happy memories of panoramic views past. The tower and ascent reminded me of our not so taxing conquering of the Hallgrimskirkja church in Rejkavik only a few months ago (not taxing because it had an elevator to the top floor). The views themselves reminded me of backpacking exploits in Croatia back in 2010, and the view over Dubrovnik and its red roofs from our guesthouse bedroom window. That’s not a bad collection hey?
From our vantage point atop the Asinelli tower we could clearly see the Piazza Maggiore where only the previous night Esther and I had been present at the Inauguration of the Il Cinema Ritrovato, this involved watching a screening of the silent film ‘Carmen’ with a live orchestral accompaniment.
Directly below us we could of course see the Garisenda tower, and in the distance atop the highest hill we could see San Luca, a spot we were to travel to (eventually) that same afternoon.
At the top things were a little cramped. Even during the midday heat, we were not alone in our venture to the heights of Bologna. We had to wait in line to look out of each of the caged windows whilst others took their turn to enjoy the views/take self shots with their smart phone/sit and snog the face off of their respective partner, but the cool breeze at the summit was enjoyed in the mean time.
(The photo below is a widescreen number. I highly suggest you give it a click!)
So that was our journey to the top of Bologna. OK so there are harder climbs in the world, 498 steps just feels like a lot when you’re in an enclosed space. Plus I’m really not that fit at the moment so that didn’t help. You’ll probably find it easy peasy.
In total we spent around an hour climbing the Asinelli tower and then looking out over the city. Not massively time consuming and led us to experience one of two more attractions that day within the Red City. Little did we know that our next destination had just a couple more stairs and steps in store for us, and by a couple I mean bloody hundreds!! (this time I’m not exaggerating)
… to be continued.
My visit to Bologna and venture to the top of the Asinelli tour was supplied by Bologna Welcome as a part of their #SocialMediaFreeTrip initiative to promote tourism in Bologna through social media users like myself. I am under no obligation to write this post or any others that may follow, but have done so purely because I believe the towers to be a significant point of interest in Bologna. As such all opinions are my own. I tell you no lies.