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

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 – the hotel search engine offering accommodation in over 10,000 cities worldwide including hotels in Bologna available at the best market prices.



12 Responses to The Two Leaning Towers (Bologna, Italy)

  • Anil says:

    Great idea for a series. So much of Europe is neglected as the big cities draw most people and keep them there.

  • Sherry Ott says:

    Wow – I've walked by those towers and never knew they leaned! I love this attention to lesser known towns…great post!

  • travel guieds to bali says:

    I'd love to vacation in Italy, especially to visit all the famous football stadium like the famous San Siro stadium owned by the U.S. and Rome, Naples, etc.

  • Heather on her travels says:

    I'm glad you're singling out some lesser known cities. It does get a bit wearying hearing so much about the magic of Rome & venice when the reality is overcrowded and overpriced. There are some wonderful places that are equally delightful and charming but now so well known.

  • Mark H says:

    @anil: Absolutely correct. I wonder how many great places I've gone past when travelling Europe.


    @travelguidestobali: Ahhh, the passion of football.

    @heather: Thank you. I think we both enjoy discovering those gems that aren't seen as often in blogs and tour books.

  • Susan says:

    Thanks for sharing this post, so lovely! Italy is really such a beauty. Bologna is one of my favorite places because of it's rich simplicity.

  • Mark H says:

    @susan: I love this whole region of Italy too. Nearvy Ravenna is special too.

  • Serban says:

    @Mark H: Ravenna is really interesting for its early medieval art and a combination of influences: the Goths and their Arian culture, the paleoChristian culture in general, some Roman remains and the Byzantines at some point in the 6th and 7th centuries. And certainly, in Ravenna are probably the most wonderful mosaics in the world.

  • Donna Hull says:

    My husband and I will be visiting Italy this fall and are considering a stop in Bologna. Thanks for the information.

  • Mark H says:

    @donna: Do yourself a favour and head for both Bologna and Ravenna as two excellent one day type trips. Great food, interesting sites (mainly churches) and great walking cities.

  • Sridhar says:

    These towers are absolutely wonderful ! Bologna is a wonderful place as well and the University, Great churches and museum are all fabulous !! I always enjoyed my morning and evening walks in the city….

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Welcome to Travel Wonders
My name is Mark and I’m a keen traveller. In fact, over the last 25 years, I’ve travelled to every continent and over 80 countries. This blog is about the most memorable destinations – the places I regard as the travel wonders of the world. I’m also a keen photographer, and have taken nearly all the photos you’ll see. During my travels, I’ve met some incredible people, seen inspiring places, viewed extraordinary wildlife and scenery and had some amazing experiences, and I’m writing these stories not only to entertain but primarily to inspire others to discover their own travel wonders.
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