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the towers tour

Loop trail to walk in the medieval heart of Bologna.

Journey time of approximately 2 hours.


The towers are the architectural element which, together with cloisters, characterizes the city of Bologna. They represent the city's soul and the Two Towers, Asinelli and Garisenda, are the principal image of Bologna in the world; in fact, the recent architectural choices have given life to the new exhibition center (the towers of Kenzo Tange). These are explicitly referred to the vertical profile of the two towers already rooted and present in the ancient urban fabric.


There were more than one hundred towers built between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; nowadays the towers left are just a few more than twenty. The noble families in medieval Bologna, were building towers around their buildings and used them as a defense structures and as political-economic assertion. The towers were connected to the buildings and were used only during strifes as shelters, never as a dwelling. The door, whose opening was several feet above the ground, was accessible by stairs or by external walkways, which were removable in case of attack. In many cases, earthquakes, fires and sudden collapse have caused the towers to partially or completely fall down. over time most of  the towers have been destroyed , transformed or incorporated into other buildings.


Starting from the corner between Via D'Azeglio and Piazza Maggiore, you can go ahead passing through Via IV Novembre, heading towards Piazza Galileo where you will come across Agresti's Tower, which dates back to the end of the XIII century. Due to a huge fire in 1641 and to guarantee its stability, the tower was rebuilt shorter than in the past. Not too far, you can observe Lapi's Tower, council property, built-in in Palazzo D'Accursio walls. From Piazza Galileo, turn onto Via Battibecco to reach Via dei Fusari where, turning right you will arrive in Piazza dei Celestini. Here cross Via D'Azeglio and go into Corte Galluzzi, where you can admire the Tower which takes the name from Galluzzi's family. Built in the 1257, originally it was 30 meters higher compared to the current height. This tower is a "consortile" type; its functions were for defense and to establish the so-called "consorteria", that is to say groups of wealthy families connected by relations, which formed out-and-out fortified hamlets dominated by the tower. The walls are massive in thickness, some over 3 meters. Moreover, the remarkable height was used to keep control of the surrounding houses.   Leaving Corte Galluzzi crossing Piazza Galvani, on the left pass through Via Dell'Archiginnasio until Via Clavature; enter it and proceed until Via Marchesana. Here is located the Carrari's Tower, which is 22 meters tall. The tower has become a private residence. Going back on Via Clavature, you will turn right continuing until Via Castiglione; cross it and pass through the narrow Via Sampieri. You will come out in Via Santo Stefano, where you will turn left and reach Alberici's Tower. At the base of this tower is located the most ancient shop present in the city. Proceed until Piazza della Mercanzia and then on the right until piazza di Porta Ravegnana where you can admire the "Due Torri", Bologna medieval emblem. Asinelli and Garisenda are strategically located where the ancient Via Emilia enters in the city and exactly from here the most ancient streets of the city begin radially. The current isolation in which they look like today, is not correspond to the original placement; in fact, originally, they were surrounded by many others towers, which were equipped by wooden structures and connected by suspended passages. The names Asinelli and Garisenda, derive from families who built them between the 1109 and the 1119. Asinelli tower is 97 meters tall and to reach its peak there are 498 steps to climb. It was always used for defense but also as a prison. Throughout the centuries, the tower has resisted earthquakes and fires and has undergone various renovations. Moreover, every year it is checked. The Garisenda Tower, 47 metres tall, was shortened about 20 metre in 1300 due to a soil slant. Dante Alighieri mentions it in a famous similitude of canto XXXI dell’inferno.

the Jewish ghetto

From Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, take Via dei Giudei, which takes you in a zone known as "Ghetto Ebraico" (Jewish Ghetto); now turn in Via dei Giudei until Vicolo San Giobbe, where you will turn in Vicolo Mandria. Here you will find the Uguzzoni's Tower, built in the 13th century. Unlike the towers built in the 11th and 12th centuries, the Uguzzoni tower has an elegant door at almost ground level that has been there since it was build. Continue until Via Oberdan, turn right and then immediately left onto Via San Nicolò. After that turn right onto Via degli Albari and left again onto Via degli Albaroli, where the Guidozagni Tower-House stands. After the original structure collapsed in 1487, it was turned into a tower-house. Tower-houses were different from consortial towers since they were shorter; the walls were usually thinner and the base was rectangular and not squared. Finally, the entry usually was on the ground-level. Now turning right onto Via Sant’Alò, and  you will find yourself into Piazzetta Prendiparte in front of the namesake Prendiparte Tower, also known as the Coronata “the crowned one” since its four spires per side resemble a crown. With its almost 60 meters of height, it is the second tallest tower in Bologna. The thickness of its walls is 2.80 metres at the base, which gradually becomes thinner as it goes up. At its peak the walls are 1.35 metres thick. Like all medieval towers in Bologna, it shows evidence of ‘sack’ style masonry; the two parallel brick walls which form the structure, are filled-in with a mixture of river pebbles reinforced by white mortar. It is likely that the tower was supposed to be taller. In the 18th century the tower was set up as a prison and during the first years of the last century it became a private residence. Today it hosts a refined Bed & Breakfast. 


From Via Sant’Alò go back until Via Altabella, where the Azzoguidi Tower, called "Altabella", stands. The tower is 55 metres tall, but initially it was taller. A shop is located in a space carved out from the selenite-block base of the tower. From here you can see the Bell tower of San Pietro’s Cathedral, erected around a pre-existing cylindrical tower, dating back to the Byzantine times. From Via Altabella continue towards Piazza del Nettuno and pass under the Voltone del Podestà up to Piazza Re Enzo. Here you can see the Lambertini Tower built inside Palazzo Re Enzo. This tower takes its name from the family who built it in the 12th century. The tower, which afterwards became a possession of the council, is also called the “The Women's Tower”, because it was used as a women’s jail. Come out on Piazza Maggiore where you can see the Arengo's or Podesta's tower. Rising 47 metres up into the sky it seems to sit on the porticos of the Voltone del Palazzo del Podestà. In the mid-1400s the housing of a huge bell was installed, and the bell itself was hung there using a daring system of capstans. Turning now towards Palazzo D'Accursio, you can admire the last itinerary tower: the Clock's tower. Built at the beginning of the 13th century, this tower is located in the corner between Piazza Maggiore and Via IV Novembre. Accursio, who was the owner of it, arrived from Florence to study law in Bologna, and became a famous jurist. He built a big house in which there was also a school with the portico facing the piazza and a tower in the corner. The tower was enclosed in Accursio's residence, which, after his death, was bought by the new council when it was in an expansion phase. Through the sale of the residence, the Accursi are remembered just because their name is currently connected to the municipal building, which takes its name from the Accursio family. What still nowadays leaps out, is the massive mechanic clock, which was placed on the front of the tower in the 1444. The duty of the meridian placed on the Arango's tower, was to mark daily hours and especially the midday, because it was the master from which all the others clocks (slaves) were calibrated. From the 1451 a new mechanism started was added to enable to time to be kept even at night. To house the new clock, the tower was lifted a bit, completed by a modest little tower. After the huge refurbishing intervention of the whole building, made between 1885 and 1887 by Raffaele Faccioli, the parapet of the Renaissance made by little pillars was removed from the tower. It was substituted by a brick wall strip, considered more appropriate to the new look of the building. In fact, the portico, now visible underneath Palazzo D'Accursio, is relatively recent. In the XV century the tower was elevated and the public clock was placed in it. Now you are at the starting point. 

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