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“As when one sees the tower called Garisenda

from underneath its leaning side, and then a cloud

passes over and it seems to lean the more,

thus did Antaeus seem to my fixed gaze

as I watched him bend…”

Divine Comedy, Inferno, XXXI, 136-140

The car stopped at the side of the street and the driver left without locking it. Few meters away the road workers were keeping themselves busy under the shade of two towers. The entrance to the Asinelli Tower was not obvious at first and I managed to circle the tower twice before guessing that this must be it – the shadowed and very narrow entry with an information that the entrance fee is 3 euros. My sister decided to wait for me and observe the street life on the ground while I was preparing myself to climb 498 steps to look at Bologna and the surrounding area from the top.

 

Apparently the owner of the car left it for about 20 minutes, managed to get involved local police (3 officers) and made them to hold a discussion about the unlocked car. It was hot and beautiful. At the top the light breeze was keeping us all feeling relived after extensive sweating during the climb. There is only one quite narrow staircase, few resting platforms along the way and few windows letting the cool air to circulate.

 

I was holding the 3 euros entrance fee in one hand, the bottle of water in the other and as per my camera it was freely hanging on my side. The rest was safely resting near my sister sitting under one of many Bolognas porticos busy with observing a street life and the situation created by a carefree car owner.

 

I almost missed the checkout looking under my feet and concentrating on counting the steps. O yes, I wanted to know how many of them are there before I get to the top, some sort of empirical exercise I wanted to keep myself busy with so I forgot how tiring what I was about to do was. The man sitting in the small room created in one of the walls cleared his throat discreetly and I exchange 3 euros for the ticket to continue. Unfortunately the appearance of the cash counter was so unexpected that I manage to lose my count and decided to continue without it. I guess I decided to believe that there was 498 steps and not one less or more.

 

 The problem with the narrow stairs providing the way up and down at the same time is that you need to carefully calculate who is going first. It was quite tricky on my way down with a school visit not letting me pass for about 5 minutes, as the children were so excited that they simply did not notice they are keeping me in one place for quite a long time. It was nice and cool, compering to the weather outside, and I was going down not up, so I did not mind.

 

I have noticed money lying on the window ledge fitted on the wall opposite to the stairs – I am not sure why that was, but I could imagine it was something like throwing money into the Trevi Fountain in Rome, making a wish and preying to gods. I had no money on me so I could not try to shoot the coin towards the window ledge, hoping for it to reach its destination and stay with other coins. I wondered for a moment what was happening with the once which did not reach the window ledge and simply fell into the abyss… Surly someone must pick them up and put them towards renovation of the tower or something similar.

 

I stopped myself on one of the platforms and decide it was time to catch a breath. I looked through the window to see how high I was and the view made me proud. I always feel a sense of freedom when I climb, my hunger for space is big and this is why I felt in love with climbing and recently sailing. And churches – for some reason they are giving me a sense of freedom too, as they are able to create a space inside, with the high callings in the main nave and side aisles. The way the tower is creating the space is quite different – it narrows it down and pulling it up at the same time to finally open it extensively at the top.

 

Few people were sweating with me on a way up and few were gladly coming down, happy after reaching the top and looking at the town and the surrounding area from the top of Asinelli Tower. I could not spot my sister since she was sitting almost directly under the Asinelli Tower keeping herself amused watching the 3 policeman debate. I leaned my hot and sweaty forehead on the bars of one of the windows in one of the platforms and closed my eyes. I felt I need to prepare myself to be bewitched by the view when I finally managed to reach the top. I was not disappointed. The space opened up massively and I felt almost like flying. My eyes caught the smaller Garisenda Tower below, leaning slightly (hmm about 3.2 m) on a side and I could observe people and cars moving around. The city’s red roofs were spreading around far towards the horizon.

 

I stayed at the top for about ten minutes, taking in the view, putting my camera to the hard work and making sure I will be able to show everything I saw my sister, sitting downstairs. When I finally got back down the abandon car found its owner and the 3 police officers were gone.

Practicalities:

For more information about opening times, accessibility, how to get here and how much the tickets cost – visit here.

Garisenda Tower

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