In the center of Bologna, a few steps from Piazza Maggiore, there are the so-called two towers: the Asinelli Tower and the Garisenda Tower. With more than 97 meters, the Asinelli Tower is the tallest and most imposing of the two.
History and legend
The construction of the tower appears to have occurred around the beginning of the 12th century by order of the knight Gherardo Asinelli, to have a better control over Bologna’s surrounding countryside. At the end of the 14th century, the Asinelli Tower was purchased by the City of Bologna and used as a prison and fortress. The adjacent Torre Garisenda was also built during the same period. There is also a legend that attributes to some donkeys (“Asinelli” in Italian) the merit of a treasure discovery, then used by a young man to build the famous tower. He thus succeeded in convincing the father of the beloved woman to consent to their wedding.
Scientific role of the Asinelli Tower
The Asinelli Tower also played an important scientific role in the late 18th century. The scientist Giovanni Battista Guglielmini used it to let some lead balls fall from the top and then calculate their deviation in the air. In this way he managed to get one of the first empirical tests of the earth’s rotation around its axis.
The highest leaning tower in Italy
The strength of the Asinelli Tower was put to the test over the centuries. Despite being erroneously hit by a cannonball during some celebrations in 1513 and being set on fire several times, the greatest danger to the structure of the tower were the lightning that affected it for over seven centuries, until the installation of a lightning rod in 1824. Maybe because of such solicitations the tower is now tilted by 1.3 degrees, therefore it is the highest leaning tower in Italy.
Breathtaking view from the top
You can understand the height of the Asinelli Tower by climbing the 498 steps of the internal stairs that lead up to the top terrace. From here you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city of Bologna and the Apennine Mountains.
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