Le due Torri.
The two towers, Bologna's commonly recognised symbol, are strategically placed at the entry point in the city of the ancient Via Emilia (Aemilian Way). The seclusion in which they appear to us now, at the centre of Piazza di Porta Ravegnana does not correspond to the original layout with wooden buildings surround their base and hanging passageways.
Made of masonry, similar to few other buildings, they carried out important military functions (signalling and defence) as well as representing, with their grandeur, the social prestige of families of nobility. In the late 12th century, at least one hundred towers punctuated the city’s skyline, only twenty of which survived the ravages of fires, wars and lightning strikes, and are still visible today. Rather recently, the statue of San Petronio, sculpted by Gabriele Brunelli in 1670, was positioned in front of the towers, which had formerly been removed in 1871 "for reasons of traffic safety".
Asinelli Tower, the taller of the two sisters: 97.2m high, leaning a noticeable 1.3° off-centre.
It was built between 1109 and 1119 as a symbol of grandeur for the family by the same name. It then passed into the hands of the municipality the following century. The tower was a lookout and defensive stronghold. Its military purpose is evidenced by the lower loggia, also called rocchetta or mini fortress, that was built around the square base in 1488 as headquarters for the tower’s sentinels.
Bologna is an extraordinary city and the Tower is its beating heart. The view from atop the Torre Asinelli is breathtaking, and the journey upwards is unique and unforgettable.
The nearby Torre Garisenda, contemporaneous with the previous one, is visually different due to its lower stature of only 47 metres and the steep overhang (3,22 metres) due to an early and greater subsidence of the land and the foundations. Dante, who once saw it still intact, compared it to the stooped over Anteo in the XXXI Canto dell'Inferno (31st Song of Hell). During the middle of the 14th century, it became necessary to lower it. The ashlar covering in selenite stone at the base dates back to the late 19th century.