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Two Towers

The Laurel and Hardy of Leaning Towers

I Due Torri

Beautiful Piazza Porta Ravegnana was the site of the main gate in Bologna's original, Roman-era walls, and since the Middle Ages it has been the home of the city’s most familiar landmark, a pair of lurching towers that, despite their venerable age and great height, never fail to raise a smile.

Rival families often contended to see which could build the tallest tower, and according to local legend the Due Torri were built in just such a competition, occurring c. 1109-1119 at the height of the city's tower-building frenzy. The winner, the svelte 97m (318ft) Torre degli Asinelli, is still the tallest building in Bologna.

The comune, struggling to establish some kind of law and order among the battling nobles, knocked down these towers whenever they were strong enough to get away with it. With the Asinelli the city fathers took a different approach: they simply purchased it, and turned it into a combination fortress and prison, a role it would play for centuries. The tower stood at the heart of what was then Bologna's market area, the place where riots and insurrections were most likely to break out—it was a handy reminder to the people to behave themselves. The crenellated base was added in 1480 as a guardhouse.

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Medieval Art and Architecture

Towers and Gates

Top Sights

Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Images by Karl, ZeWrestler, Public Domain