Widely recognized as a symbol of Bologna, the two towers stand in the heart of the city, at the entrance to the ancient Via Emilia.
They are the only two towers left of Bologna's many-towered medieval cityscape, when they played a military role in warning and defending the populace.
The imposing towers also represented the social prestige of the family that had commissioned them. Of the two, the only one that can be visited is Torre degli Asinelli, commissioned by the Ghibelline nobleman Gherardo Asinelli. It rises 97.20 meters with a lean of 9 meters: over the centuries, it has endured fires and earthquakes and has recently been restored. A staircase of 498 steps leads to its top, where visitors can enjoy a 360-degree view of the city.
Built in the same period by other Ghibelline nobles, Filippo and Oddo Garisendi, the adjacent Torre della Garisenda is mentioned by Dante in Canto XXXI of the Inferno in his Divine Comedy (on the “leaning” side, a plaque recites the poet's verses).
Today it is 48.16 meters tall. In the mid-fourteenth century it lost some height when land sank beneath it. Since then, it has been called torre mozza, the severed tower.