I’m ashamed to call myself a family travel blogger but yes, I’ll admit it, I always thought the leaning tower of Pisa was the tallest and leaniest tower in Italy. Now I know I’m wrong, on both counts! The actual award should go to the two towers – GARISENDA AND ASINELLI in the beautiful city of Bologna. If you're in Bologna sightseeing with or without kids, this one is a must visit!
Both towers were built in the 12th century by the Bolognese nobility along with around 150 others, each trying to be taller and more impressive than the last, presumably for the rich families of Bologna to show off their wealth and power or spy on their wealthy neighbours. Unfortunately most of the other towers have been destroyed, making these two so important to the city.
Standing proud at over 97 metres with a 1.3 degree incline which makes it the TALLEST LEANING TOWER in Italy and we actually climbed it! It’s survived fire, cannonballs and earthquakes, what was I so nervous about?!
You enter the tower through a tiny stone doorway at its base and start your ascent up several stone steps. You’ll soon get to the original ticket office which has a few interesting old images of Bologna and it’s towers.
Then it’s on to the main event. The whopping 498 rickity, wooden steps up to the top. It’s not as physically hard as it sounds, we visited on a mega hot day so our puffing was down to the temperature rather than the exertion. Piper (7) didn’t moan once and seemed to take it easier than her Dad and I.
It’s the mental challenge you’ll have to get over. I don’t think of myself as scared of heights, I’ve happily walked the Grand Canyon Skywalk, loved the steepest cable car up to the peak in Langkawi and spent hours enjoying the views of New York from the Rockefeller centre but for some reason, this one got to me.
Perhaps because it is so leaning, the heat of the day or the fact that the steep wooden staircase feels like it may go at anytime I had to keep my head down and soldier on the whole way up. At one point I nearly gave up and only carried on because my daughter and husband encouraged me on. (thanks guys, don’t tell anyone!)
As you get nearer the top there are platforms every 6 flights or so where you can take a break, let others pass or steal a peek out the windows to check your progress.
When we finally made it to out to the top (in reality only around 15 mins) all my fears melted away and the hammering heart was quickly forgotten. The views are absolutely breathtaking.
Looking across the city you can easily see why Bologna is often nicknamed “the red” and the colour was intensified when viewed from above. Make sure you look out from all four sides, you may have to wait a while to find a space but it’s great to spot all of Bologna’s sights from above. The other tower can also be viewed from above, reminding you just how high up you are.
One of many Italian superstitions is that if you climb to the top of the tower you will never graduate, I really hope we haven’t jepordised Pipers chances of becoming a Vet, only time will tell but I’ll be sure to let you know.
The way down (those 498 steps) was a bit easier, probably as we knew what to expect and of course we rewarded ourselves with a massive gelato at the base of the towers.
The Garisenda Tower is the second tower, faithfully sat below the Asinelli. It is 47m tall with the steepest slope of the two. You can’t go up this one which is probably a good thing!
Unlike Pisa, it’s almost impossible to get a pic of just how sloping these towers are without being run over, getting in the way or having to move a few buildings - they are slap bang in the centre of the city. But don’t worry about that, the memories will last a lifetime and the weird lack of crowds make this, in my opinion a far more enjoyable visit than its more famous neighbor.
The two Towers are set in a delightful piazza right in the heart of Bologna, the two towers are surrounded by historic buildings, covered walkways and pavement cafes, a lovely place to relax after a challenging climb.
Piazza di Porta Ravegnana,
40126 Bologna BO
If you buy your tickets from Bologna Welcome in Piazza Maggiore (another beautiful place to visit) it’s an easy ten minute walk to the towers along some quaint alleyways filled with restaurants and local produce shops, take your time and enjoy a browse.
If you’re looking for things to do in Bologna with kids, you might also like this review of the Gelato museum and our Gelato making experience.
Entrance is by reservation only. You can buy your timed tickets from Bologna Welcome online to save you time and ensure you get the spot you want.
Tickets are just €5 for adults and €3 for under 12s
From 1 March to 5 November
Every day 9:30am – 7:30pm
Last entrance at 6:30pm
From 6 November to 28 February
Every day 9:30am – 5:45pm
Last entrance at 5:00pm
Make sure you pin for later if you’re planning a trip to Bologna with kids.
We were given complimentary tickets for our climb up the Asinelli Tower for the purpose of this review. As always, all opinions are my own.