More than 100 towers pierced the sky above Bologna in the Middle Ages, but only 20 still stand today. The most famous are the city center’s Two Towers (Due Torri), which lean at a gravity-defying angle that rivals Pisa’s Leaning Tower. Climb to the top of the taller one for fabulous views over the city and surrounding countryside.
The Two Towers are among the unique sights in Bologna, reminding visitors of the city’s bellicose history and offering the best scenic overlook in the center. The landmark Garisenda and Asinelli towers were constructed to provide defensive protection and to represent the wealth and power of the noble families who commissioned them. You can climb 498 steps to the top of the Asinelli tower, built by the Asinelli family in 1119 and soaring 318 feet (97 meters) above the city’s rooftops; the shorter Garisenda tower leans too steeply to be climbed.
Join a walking tour, or a tour by bike or Segway, to see the Two Towers and other top Bologna attractions like the Basilica of San Petronio, Piazza Maggiore, and the churches of Santo Stefano and San Domenico. Bologna is famous for its wonderful cuisine, so you can also opt for a food tour to combine sightseeing with samples of the city’s traditional food and wine.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Kids love the thrilling climb to the top of the tower, but be sure to keep a close watch over younger children on the steep stairs and rooftop.
- The rooftop platform is outdoors, so dress for the weather and bring your camera.
- The tower is not wheelchair accessible, and the stairs are narrow and steep.
- Tickets must be reserved in advance for a specific day and time; entrance times are scheduled every 45 minutes.
How to Get There
The Two Towers stand over Piazza di Porta Ravegnana in the heart of Bologna’s historic center, just a few minutes’ walk from Piazza Maggiore and the Bologna Centrale train station.
When to Get There
The best light for photography from the top of the Asinelli Tower is during the early morning or late afternoon. The rooftop observation deck is outdoors, so choose to visit on a clear day.
A Romantic Legend
Legend says that a bricklayer’s small donkeys (asinelli) unearthed a buried chest of golden coins with their hooves. Years later, the bricklayer gave the treasure to his son, who was in love with a noble lady. The lady’s father declared that he would let his daughter marry the poor boy only if the boy built the highest tower Bologna. The treasure paid for the tower, and the bricklayer’s son married his true love.