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July 25, 2019

Italy: Bologna, the Two Towers

Filed under: Architecture, Europe, Italy, Photography, Travel, Travel, Writing — Tags: , , , , , , — anotherheader @ 11:37 am

A view from the top of the Asinelli Tower

It is claimed that Medieval Bologna had 180 towers. That must have been an impressive sight in the day. Today fewer than twenty of these towers remain, all of which seem to be leaning one way or the other.

Most famous of Bologna’s remaining towers are Le due torri, the Two Towers that are the symbol of the city. The taller tower is Asinelli while the smaller of the two, the one with more tilt, is Garisenda. Both of the names derive from the families who are traditionally credited constructing the towers between 1109 and 1119.

The Asinelli Tower is 97.2 meters (319 feet) high and tilts 1.3° to the westward direction with a 2.23 meter offset, a little more than seven feet. It is considered to be the highest tilting medieval tower in the world, which depends of course on the definition of “tilting” applied. Undoubtedly the combination of high and tilting does not bode well for the long-term survival of any 900+-year-old structure.

For €5 visitors can climb Asinelli’s 498 steps to reach the top. It’s a bit of work to reach the viewing level. But once the final step has been cleared visitors can see of a panoramic view of Bologna’s red tile roof cityscape.

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On the way to the top I couldn’t help but think about the tilt. I’m OK with the high and medieval part: If a tower lasts this long it must be sturdy. It’s the tilt that was concerning. With 30 odd tourists rhythmically pounding a beat up the stairs it was hard not to think of how much more weight to the west the tower could bear. I couldn’t help but imagine that someday some visitor’s last piece of mortadella consumed at their morning’s breakfast might just be enough to nudge the tower over.


We visited Bologna and climbed the Asinelli Tower in October of 2018.


  1. Interesting! Was there some sort of tower building craze going on?

    Comment by dougstinson — July 26, 2019 @ 5:04 pm

    • Yes, all over this area of Italy…

      Comment by anotherheader — July 26, 2019 @ 5:14 pm

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