Veduta dalla Torre Prendiparte, Bologna / View of Tower Prendiparte, Bologna

Home / Blog /

Legends and Myths about the Towers

Posted on 04 May 2022 From Bologna Welcome

Built during the Middle Ages, the hundreds of towers that populated Bologna Turrita (The towered) have long inspired a host of stories, mysteries and legends handed down through the ages.

First stop is the Asinelli Tower , believed to owe its name to two donkeys (asinelli) and a trunk full of gold they came across in the fields, which enabled the economic empowerment of their indigent owner. Shortly afterwards, the son of the lucky farmer fell in love with a young aristocratic girl and proposed to her by introducing himself to her father. The marriage would take place on condition that the young man were able to raise a massive tower. The challenge, set by the girl's father, put the young man to the test in terms of strength and money. However, the result was successfully achieved also thanks to the trunk full of gold found by the two donkeys. 

It should also be noted that the Garisenda Tower, the city's leaning tower, was mentioned by Dante Alighieri in the Inferno of the Divine Comedy as a reminder of his passage through Bologna, and that the Torre dalle Perle (Pearl Tower), whose name origin is still unknown, is the only tower not visible from below. It consists of a 25-metre-high tower house at the back of the Palazzo della Mercanzia, which can only be spotted by climbing up to the terrace of the Basilica of San Petronio or the Asinelli Tower. 

Under the large vault of the Palazzo del Podestà, just below the Arengo Tower, Bolognese and visitors are fond of playing chinese whispers. Sure enough, you can easily find two people with their backs to each other at opposite corners, talking through the vaults without being overheard by prying ears.

An ingenious way to confess one's secrets!

The Arengo Tower, in turn, has served as the town's belfry over the centuries. Standing 47 metres high, it features an old bronze bell, also known as the Campanazzo, manufactured in 1453 by Aristotele Fioravanti. The bell last rang on 25 July 1943 to celebrate the fall of Fascism and on 21 April 1945 to mark the liberation of the city and the end of the war. 

Since then, every 21 April, the sound of the campanazzo still echoes through the city's red roofs. 

Finally, the name Torre degli Scappi, one of the still existing noble towers in Bologna's historic centre on Via Indipendenza, is said to stem from an unlikely past occurrence. 

Legend has it that a commoner witnessed King Enzo's attempt to escape from his imprisonment in the nearby Palazzo Re Enzo. By shouting "Scappa! Scappa!"( "Run, run"!), she eventually contributed to capturing the escapee; as a reward, she was endowed with the surname Scappi, hence, according to legend, the lineage of the family who founded the tower.

©2023 Bologna Welcome - All rights reserved


Sign up for our newsletter and stay updated on events and offers. Receive a 10% discount code to use on selected experiences