P.za di Porta Ravegnana, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy
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8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
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What is the Two Towers: Asinelli and Garisenda?
The Two Towers, known as the Asinelli and the Garisenda, are the preeminent symbols of Bologna, a historical city located in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Standing proudly in the city center, they represent the architectural and civic pride of Bologna's past. While the taller Asinelli Tower offers an accessible climb to the public for breathtaking views over the terracotta rooftops of the city, the Garisenda Tower, notable for its significant lean, is admired from below due to its instability.
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The Two Towers were built between the 12th and 13th centuries and are superb examples of medieval architecture. The area surrounding them is bustling with life, filled with local shops, eateries, and a palpable sense of history. Many visitors and locals alike gather around these iconic structures, which also serve as orientation landmarks within the city's intricate network of streets and alleys.
History of the Two Towers: Asinelli and Garisenda
The construction of the Asinelli Tower began in 1109 and was completed in 1119, while the Garisenda Tower dates back to around the same period but was constructed slightly later. They are named after the families who are traditionally believed to have commissioned their construction. Bologna was once dotted with numerous such towers, possibly up to 180, though today only about 20 remain, with the Asinelli and the Garisenda being the most prominent.
The towers were initially built as status symbols by the wealthy families of Bologna, but they also served defensive and offensive purposes. The Asinelli Tower has served various functions over the centuries, including a stronghold, a prison, and a scientific study center from where Giovanni Battista Riccioli and Gian Domenico Cassini conducted astronomic observations in the 17th century. The Garisenda Tower, on the other hand, has always been too inclined to be put to any practical use, except as a benchmark in literary works, like in Dante Alighieri's 'Inferno', part of the 'Divine Comedy'.
Why are the Two Towers: Asinelli and Garisenda Important?
The importance of the Two Towers goes beyond their historical and architectural value. They have become an emblematic image representing Bologna and its rich medieval history. Their very presence speaks to Bologna's past as a thriving urban center during the Middle Ages, reflecting the economic power and social status of the city's aristocratic families.
The towers have withstood wars, natural disasters, and the passage of time, acting as silent witnesses to the evolution of Bologna from a medieval municipality to a modern city. The Asinelli Tower provides tangible links to scientific history, having served as a place for significant astronomical research, which contributes to its importance.
Things to Do & See at the Two Towers: Asinelli and Garisenda
When visiting the Two Towers, the experience is not limited to admiring their external structure. The climb up the Asinelli Tower is a challenge, with nearly 500 steps to conquer, but those who reach the top are rewarded with panoramic views of Bologna's historic center. The sight of the city sprawling towards the green hills surrounding it is both invigorating and awe-inspiring.
Walking around the base of the towers, you can engage with history by observing their construction details, the materials used, and the marks left by centuries. Around the towers, the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana offers a vibrant urban space with cafes and bookshops where you can soak in the atmosphere of Bologna and maybe catch a street music performance.
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For those interested in literature and poetry, finding the Garisenda Tower mentioned in Dante's 'Inferno' can be quite poignant. Close by, you'll also find the beautiful complex of Santo Stefano and the vibrant market area of Quadrilatero. It's essential to remember that the towers are not just historical monuments; they are part of a living, breathing city. While here, I always advise visitors to try the local cuisine, renowned for its rich flavors, especially the tortellini and tagliatelle dishes, gloriously representative of the culinary prowess of Bologna.