The Mysteries and Secrets of the Asinelli Tower: A Comprehensive Guide to Planning Your Visit

The Asinelli Tower, one of the most iconic symbols of Bologna, Italy, holds a fascinating history marked by legends, architectural feats, and mysteries. In this article, we delve into the secrets of the Asinelli Tower and provide a detailed guide on how to plan your visit.

The Asinelli Tower in Bologna, Italy, boasts 498 steps, making it a true test of endurance and determination. This climb is not for the faint-hearted, as the steep and narrow wooden staircases present a considerable challenge. Each step requires careful navigation, adding to the strenuous nature of the ascent. However, those who brave the climb are rewarded with a spectacular panoramic view of Bologna from the top. The sight of the city’s terracotta rooftops, historic architecture, and surrounding hills is a breathtaking reward for the effort. The Asinelli Tower, a symbol of Bologna, offers both a physical challenge and an unforgettable experience.

From the top of the Asinelli Tower, you are greeted with a stunning bird’s-eye view of Bologna’s charming landscape. The vast expanse of red-tiled rooftops stretches out below, interspersed with the spires of ancient churches and the winding streets of the historic city center. The majestic Basilica of San Petronio stands out prominently. In the distance, the rolling hills of the Emilia-Romagna countryside create a picturesque backdrop. The view also captures the blend of medieval and Renaissance architecture, providing a vivid reminder of Bologna’s rich cultural heritage. The breathtaking panorama is a photographer’s dream and a sight to behold.

The Enigmatic History of the Asinelli Tower

The Asinelli Tower, together with the Garisenda Tower, forms the famous “Two Towers” of Bologna. Erected in the early 12th century, it was initially built as a status symbol by the Asinelli family, showcasing their wealth and influence. Over the centuries, the tower has withstood earthquakes, fires, and even cannonballs—testament to its robust construction and the city’s turbulent past.

Secrets and Legends

One of the most enchanting stories about the tower is its connection to a local legend that involves the devil. It is said that the tower was constructed overnight by demonic forces, a myth that adds to the mysterious aura surrounding this medieval structure. Additionally, the tower is named after the noble Gherardo Asinelli, although various tales suggest different origins for this naming.

Another intriguing aspect of the Asinelli Tower is its lean. At 97.2 meters tall and tilting about 1.3 degrees, it is the tallest leaning medieval tower in Italy. This architectural feature not only defines the skyline of Bologna but also contributes to the numerous myths about the tower.

The Asinelli Tower in Bologna, Italy, is steeped in mystery and rich history. According to a cherished local legend, a farmer who discovered a hidden treasure with the help of his two donkeys used this newfound wealth to build the tower. This tale is woven into the fabric of Bologna’s cultural heritage, symbolizing fortune and transformation.

Further enhancing the tower’s mystical allure are the stories and uses it has accumulated over the centuries. The tower has served various strategic purposes, from military lookout in medieval times to a scientific laboratory in the 18th century, where experiments proving Earth’s rotation were conducted. This blend of practical utility and mythical origins gives the Asinelli Tower a unique place in both the skyline and the hearts of Bologna’s residents.

Visitors and students are often told to refrain from climbing the tower before their graduation, fearing it may curse their academic success. This superstition highlights the cultural depth and the playful nature of local traditions surrounding the historic site.

The Asinelli Tower is not just a structure but a gateway to the past, offering a panoramic view not only of the city but also of the layers of stories and secrets that have built up around it over nearly a millennium. As such, it remains a must-visit for those who travel to Bologna, promising a direct connection to the city’s ancient heart and vibrant history.

Scientific Revelations

The tower also played a crucial role in scientific history. In 1790, the physicist Giovanni Battista Guglielmini conducted experiments from the top of the tower to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth, marking a significant advancement in the understanding of our planet.

Planning Your Visit to the Asinelli Tower

How to Get There

Located in the heart of Bologna’s historic center, at Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, the tower is easily accessible on foot from any part of the city center. It’s a must-visit destination for its panoramic views and the unique experience of climbing its 498 wooden steps.

Tickets and Timing

Visiting the Asinelli Tower requires a bit of planning. The entrance fee is generally around 5 euros, with concessions available. It is advisable to book your tickets in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, to avoid long waiting times.

Check this site for more info about booking and pricing.

Best Times to Visit

The best time to climb the tower is early in the morning or later in the evening to catch the sunrise or sunset. This not only helps avoid the crowds but also provides the most spectacular views of the city bathed in natural light.

Local Tips

A peculiar superstition associated with the tower suggests that students should avoid climbing to the top before graduating, as it is believed to bring bad luck in their academic endeavors. Whether you believe in superstitions or not, this adds an element of fun to the visit.

Nearby Attractions

After visiting the tower, explore other nearby historical sites such as Piazza Maggiore, the Basilica di San Petronio, and the numerous medieval streets that offer a glimpse into Bologna’s rich past. Also, consider taking a guided tour to learn more about the city’s secrets and culinary delights.


The Asinelli Tower is not just an architectural marvel but a keeper of history, myths, and a window to medieval Bologna. A visit here is a step back in time and an opportunity to experience the city from a unique perspective. With careful planning, your visit to the Asinelli Tower can be a highlight of your journey through Italy, blending historical exploration with breathtaking views.

History and Food walking tour in Bologna with Pasta Making Demonstration, and Gourmet Tasting.

Departure point: Your hotel in central Bologna or train station

Duration : the tour lasts 2/3 hours.

Start time: Suggested start time is 9.30 am. However it can be flexible.

What is included: A Professional English speaking guide will lead your tour for the duration.

What is not included: Entrance tickets to monuments and attractions.

Bologna, in the Emilia Romagna region of North-Eastern Italy is a charming town dating from medieval times and home to one of the world’s oldest universities. Whether you are in the town for business or pleasure, be sure to take some time to see a few of the many really interesting attractions. The town centre is fairly compact, and it is quite easy to see at least three of the most interesting sights in an afternoon – just pick up your free map at the Tourist Information Centre in Piazza Maggiore are start your tour.

Explore the Foods of Bologna.

We have exclusive access to the behind the scene of certain local food shops, so if you explore Bologna with us you will be taken to see how fresh egg pasta is made with a pasta making demonstration and tasting.

Paolo Atti shop – pasta making demonstration

San Petronio Basilica: Start your walking tour at Piazza Maggiore, the main square of the town, to visit this enormous example of the Gothic style of architecture, the 6th largest cathedral in Europe. It is named after Bologna’s patron saint, and has an interesting history. At one point during the construction process, the original design was changed and a Latin Cross design was suggested, with the aim of building a church which would surpass the grandeur of St Peters in Rome. Legend has it that the Pope of the day, Pious IV, was not about to see the Vatican cathedral eclipsed and promptly put paid to that idea! Nevertheless, San Petronio is still very large – over 132 metres long and 66 metres wide – and it is a great shame that the red marble façade was never completed. Be sure to visit a few of the 22 side chapels, the bell tower, see the two very old organs and have a look at the largest sundial in the world, inlaid into the paving of the left aisle.

Torre degli Asinelli: After your visit to the cathedral, it is an easy walk to the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, to see the Two Towers, symbol of the city. Many centuries ago there were over one hundred defensive towers of various heights and grandeur piercing the Bologna skyline; sadly, today there are less than 20 remaining. The Asinelli Tower is the tallest, climbing a staggering 97.2 metres into the sky, and leaning slightly as becomes a very old matriarch! You can visit the tower and climb the nearly 500 worn wooden steps to the very top for the best view you will ever get of the city of Bologna. Take your time and rest occasionally, and it is not too difficult!! The smaller of the two towers, the Garisenda was originally about 60 metres high but had to be lowered in the 14th century when it became too unstable due to earth settlement; today it is 48 metres tall and leans significantly; it is not open to the public. Now continue your walk to the University district to visit a rather macabre attraction:

Twin towers, Bologna
Asinelli and Garisenda towers in Bologna – source

The Anatomy Room at the old University of Bologna

This room is known as the Anatomy Theatre due to its’ amphitheatre-like form, and dates from the sixteen hundreds. It was built almost entirely out of wood (spruce) and was used as a lecture theatre for students of anatomy – you can still see the marble table at the centre where dissections were performed. Some of the most famous Physicians from ancient times, such as Hippocrates, are represented by wooden statues around the walls of the room. Sadly, the original theatre was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War by an air raid in 1944. It was most realistically reconstructed from photos, using as much as possible of the original structure recovered from the rubble. This is a fascinating attraction and should not be missed, even if you have no interest in medical history.