Built by patricians in the 12th century, these leaning towers, the virtual symbol of Bologna, keep defying gravity year after year. In the Middle Ages, Bologna contained dozens of these skyscraper towers. The towers were status symbols: The more powerful the family was, the taller its tower was. The smaller one, the Garisenda, is only 49m (162 ft.) tall, but because the Garisendas didn't prepare a solid foundation, it sways tipsily to the south, about 3m (11 ft.) from perpendicular. In 1360, part of the tower was lopped off because it was viewed as a threat to public safety. Access to the Garisenda still isn't allowed. The taller one, the Asinelli (102m/334 ft. tall, a walk-up of nearly 500 steps), inclines almost 2.5m (7 1/2 ft.). The reward for scaling the Asinelli is a panoramic view of the red-tile roofs of Bologna and the green hills beyond.
After visiting the towers, stroll what must be the most architecturally elegant street in Bologna, Via Strada Maggiore, with its colonnades and mansions.
- © Frommer's 2013
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