This is the first in a series of three European travel wonders, focussing on less popular travel cities. The series is written by Travel Wonders and kindly sponsored by HotelCalculator.com.
When even a whisper of a leaning tower is mentioned, people immediately think of Pisa’s grand bell tower and the major medieval engineering error. However, central to one of Italy’s liveliest and most dynamic cities are not one, but two leaning towers. The travel wonder of Bologna is home to Europe’s oldest university (over 900 years old and producing students including Thomas à Becket, Copernicus and Dante), one of the world’s largest churches and stands resplendent in the rich red hue of its buildings, kilometres of covered walkways and famous meat and tomato-based pasta sauce. People joke that the rich red is also an indicator of their ties to socialism and communism that is widely known throughout the country.
In the middle ages equivalent of today’s battle to construct the world’s tallest buildings, wealthy families developed a habit of building tall towers in their cities for a combination of pride and defensive reasons. In Bologna, most have disappeared over the centuries but two most famous ones remain in the centre of the city credited to the families who built them. Asinelli Tower stands over 97 metres while the Garisenda Tower stands to around half that height.
The most notable point of interest about le Due Torri is that they both lean, the shorter tower very noticeably to the point where the building is closed to the public. Documents show that the Garisenda Tower had over ten metres removed off its top in the 14th century to prevent it from falling over, though it continues to lean at a precarious three degrees.
Asinelli Tower can be climbed via 500 steps to highlight a terracotta-red fabric of roofs across the historic centre with occasional spikes from the numerous church spires and a number of the remaining twenty towers. The arrow-straight streets laid out in Roman times continue to radiate across the city. The top few floors of the tower were once a prison, cruelly locked away but with a staggering view of the prisoner’s home city. Much like its famous cousin in Pisa, the tower has been used for scientific experiments, the tilt making it possible to drop objects from a great height directly to the ground.
Bologna is a wonderful city rich in history, culture, cuisine and knowledge marked by a pair of towers both leaning from poor foundations. It makes for an excellent day visit and a culture-rich weekend when paired with the mosaic travel wonders of Ravenna around 50 kilometres to the east.
Aerial Photo: Google
This series of hidden European gems (written by Travel Wonders) is sponsored by HotelCalculator.com – the hotel search engine offering accommodation in over 10,000 cities worldwide including hotels in Bologna available at the best market prices.