Out of the 100 towers Bologna had in the Middle Ages, only 20 remain today.

The Remarkable Towers of Bologna

“We’re going to see the tallest tower in Bologna,” I told my cousins as we were leaving the hotel on the first day. Bologna is known for many things, the world’s oldest university, the mouthwatering cuisine (all that lasagna and tagliatelle, yum!), but the medieval towers were what stood out for me (pun intended). So naturally, going to the top of the tallest was the first thing we had to do.

Fun fact: A symbol of Bologna, The Two Towers, Asinelli and Garisenda are both leaning, the later being Italy's most leaning tower (forget about Pisa!)
Fun fact: A symbol of Bologna, The Two Towers, Asinelli and Garisenda are both leaning, the later being Italy’s most leaning tower (forget about Pisa!)

To be honest, I was expecting the kids to say they don’t want to go up the 498 stairs (that’s just one way!) of the leaning Asinelli Tower. I was wrong, my 10 year old cousin was always one flight of stairs ahead of me. And that’s why you should do sports (like her) and not work 10 hours a day in front of the computer (like me). But what about me? I was dizzy by the time I reached the ticket booth on the first floor, because there was a very narrow spiral staircase. I know, I know. Shame!

Stairs in Bologna's Asinelli Tower

“Oh for god’s sake,” I would say every time my cousin would inform me that the platform we were seeing wasn’t in fact the top and I would resign myself to more squeaky and creaky wooden stairs, until finally, FINALLY, I saw natural light and felt the cold air on my face. It was so beautiful! Except it wasn’t, because the fog and the clouds had to ruin a perfect view of Bologna. I took my camera out and managed to take a total of two pictures before my cousin came to me and asked if we could go down. Yes, I was still catching my breath, thank you for asking! I told her I wanted to take photos from all the sides of the tower, hiding the fact that the thought of another 498 stairs made me wish I’d stay there until the tower leaned all the way to the ground.

The view from the Asinelli Tower in Bologna

Twenty photos and one selfie later it was finally to get to the ground. Naturally, we celebrated our victory with a large cup of gelato. “Vlad, can we go up another tower?” My cousin asks me as I shove a large spoon of gelato in my mouth, avoiding the answer.

At the top of the Asinelli Tower in Bologna
“This is nice,” he thinks while contemplating a Hunchback of Notre Dame life.

The next day, while wandering on the labyrinth-like streets, we see an advert for a walking tour (The Torri Tour) that included passing by all the towers in Bologna and going up one private tower. There was a very nice photo from its top so naturally, I was sold. In the Middle Ages, there were more than 100 towers in Bologna but nowadays, due to conflicts, lightning and other causes, only 20 remain and as I would later find out, some are well hidden. Because the kids were cold (and needed the loo), I was alone for the tour. I was also the only one who didn’t speak Italian, so it felt a bit awkward waiting to hear the interesting stories in English afterwards. I did manage to understand a few words in Italian and work out the context, as some parts are similar to Romanian and French.

As we were reaching the Asinelli Tower, I was glad it wasn’t included in this tour, until I saw the people in my group going inside. My palms started to sweat and I was asking myself what had I gotten myself into, there was no way I would go up and down almost 1000 steps again, I didn’t need to burn that many calories. Luckily, we only went out on the terrace for a lovely view of the noisy street.

While the stories were interesting, I went on that tour for one reason only: Torre Prendiparte, a private tower turned B&B with a gorgeous view, that you can’t see otherwise. Luckily, being the only non-Italian person in the group paid off, as I had my own private tour in English there. Sadly, that didn’t include jumping on the bed or a glass of the wine in the kitchen – as those were reserved for the lucky guests who rent the tower for special occasions (proposing on the terrace at sunset? wedding anniversaries? survived 1000 stairs?). Going up this tower felt like a walk on the beach after Asinelli but I got to the top and was disappointed once again. The fog just had to cover 50% of the view, ruining my chances of taking a perfect sunset shot.

Resigned, I got down and went to meet my family as it was getting dark. All I had to do was go straight on a street that I walked on a few times before. Of course…..I got lost.

Hidden tower behind Piazza del Nettuno in Bologna
Can you spot the hidden tower in this photo? It’s also the oldest building on that street.

Have you ever been to Bologna? What did you think of its towers?

In the Middle Ages, Bologna had more than 100 towers but today only 20 remain. Find out which ones I've visited and how it went.

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  • Is the construction around the towers over by now? they werent photogenic when I was there, and it was WAY too hot to climb them. Major props!!!

    • Yeah, it was over, the only construction I’ve seen was near Piazza Maggiore, but it didn’t ruin any pics, haha.

  • Lucy Dodsworth

    I’ve got a photo of me on those stairs up the Torre Asinelli too โ€“ it was quite a few years back when I went to Bologna when they had the Italian Grand Prix at Imola but suspect I’d find it a bit more hard going now!

    • I would gladly go up there again if I had a perfect view on a sunny day. It definitely makes the gelato so much more rewarding, haha.

  • Fantastic! I keep reading about Bologna – and everything makes me want to go. Although while I’ve been told how child-friendly it us too, 1000 steps is definitely too much for my three-year-old. And, er, me I suspect! #citytripping

    • My cousins loved Bologna a lot (more than Milan actually), but they are 9 and 14. So maybe it’s best to wait a few years? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Clare Thomson

    Those towers are extraordinary! The last one really looks like a Rapunzel tower. My children (and husband) positively insist on climbing every tower in every bloomin city we visit! It does definitely justify ice-cream or cakes afterwards though.

    • I’m the same, I always like to climb to the highest spots for a bird’s eye view over the city I’m visiting, even though my feet usually hate me for that.

  • I’m such a fan of medieval cities, though I’m not sure I could manage the stairs as well as you did. How did your legs feel the next day?

    Also, I’ve heard that San Gimignano has the distinction of being the Italian city with the most towers … not sure if it’s true. Do you know?

    • Surprisingly, my legs didn’t mind at all the next day, they just hated me for the moment, haha. I didn’t know about San Gimignano, but I’ve googled and it does seem like the city with the most towers.

  • I love Italy – are her cities ooze medieval charm and the remnants the ancient civilizations. Good on you for making the 1000 step round trip – and I’d have been pretty bummed to get to the top to be greeted with fog – but at least you can say you have been to the top of Asinelli!

    • This was my first time in Italy and I loved it a lot, but I’m happy to say I’ll go back in a couple of months ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Bologna is such an underrated city. I am glad to see it receive some attention. The food in Bologna is remarkable. I did not know it had the world’s oldest university. Very cool!

    • I loved the food in Bologna as well, I’d go back for their great pasta and lasagna ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Brianna @ The Casual Travelist

    Bologna is definitely on my list for both the food and architecture.

    • Hope you’ll like it when you visit ๐Ÿ™‚

  • This is cool! I am a fan of taking a view of cities from a high point. But, like you (or worst than you), I struggle to get to the top (unless there is an elevator). I climbed to the top of the tower of the Alcazar de Segovia and that was painful. I felt like throwing myself to the floor when I arrived to the top.

    • My favorite climb was in Seville at The Giralda, because it didn’t have any stairs, but elevated ramps ๐Ÿ˜€

  • What a lovely tour! I am a great fan of Italy (who isn’t?) and especially of medieval cities, but I haven’t seen Bologna yet. Very beautiful pictures, Vlad, like always.

    • Thank you Anda! I’m sure you would love Bologna if you visited.

  • Wander Mum

    This is perfect timing Vlad as I’m planning a trip to Bologna later this year…I am incredibly impressed with your young cousin walking so swiftly up the tower… somehow I don’t think my three year old will be quite so keen! Despite the cloud you got some fantastic photos. Thanks for linking to #citytripping

    • Thank you! Well my cousin does gymnasts so she was already in a great shape (unlike me, haha). I hope you’ll love Bologna, when are you visiting? I heard it gets very hot in the summer.

  • Those stairs are scary but the view from the top is amazing! Thank you for sharing your experience! Bologna looks like a fun place. I bet even getting lost there is not really that bad.

    • Getting lost in Bologna is a wonderful thing, it’s streets are beautiful and you won’t realize when the time flies.

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  • Carol

    Loved the lesson. Don’t climb any towers on a cloudy day! But let me congratulate you for braving the towers of Bologna. Your photos are great, considering!

    • Thank you, Carol! I will definitely try to climb any tower when it’s sunny from now on, haha.

  • Phoebe Thomas

    Yes I’ve been to Bologna and loved it but I didn’t go up the tower as I selflessly offered to look after my son’s scooter while he went up with his brother and dad. Well someone had to after all…! Nothing to do with the level of my fitness and the fear of those steps!!!! #citytripping

    • Haha, that was very kind of you to selflessly miss out on such a wonderful opportunity! Has your son liked going up the tower?

  • hahahaa OMG I laughed so much with this post, especially when you wished the tower would go to the ground!!
    I didn’t know there was a leaning tower worse than Pisa. I went to the Pisa one, and it was really weird to go up the stairs when the building is leaning. I can only imagine how crazy it was to go up Asinelli!
    And then… 1000 stairs again? Oh my, that’s a lot! I don’t think I ever climbed something so high using stairs! I guess no calorie remained of your lasagnas and pastas ๐Ÿ˜€ That was a pretty cool tour though, I would love to do it! Actually, I would love to go to Bologna, it looks exactly the kind of town I would love ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Haha, I’m glad you liked the post! ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m sure you would love Bologna, I’m actually surprised you haven’t visited yet!

  • Sabina Quing

    Went there last year for my birthday ,Its amazing perfect destination for 2/3 days

  • I really like Bologna! I climbed the tower too:)

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