Sunday, February 11, 2007

January 2007 - Bologna, Italy - The Tower & its Panoramic Views

Today, we woke up to perfectly clear blue skies so we decided to climb Torre Asinelli, the taller of the "Two Towers" and the tallest tower in Bologna. We heard the panoramic views of the city and surrounding areas were spectacular.

Behind Casandra, in the distance, are the Two Towers. Here, you see how much taller Torre Asinelli is.

Here's a close-up of the towers that distorts the difference in height. The Asinelli on the right is more than twice as tall, standing 97 meters high (319 ft), while the Garisenda is just over 48 meters high (158 ft). But the top half of the Garisenda was removed as a precautionary measure - it leans 3.2 meters (10.5 ft) from the center. The Asinelli leans out 2.2 meters (7.3 ft). Both towers have withstood many fires and earthquakes over the centuries.

It's just 498 steps to the top of the Asinelli. Undeterred by the crooked, worn, seemingly unstable wooden stairs, we climbed for a good 20 minutes, anxious to see Bologna from high above.
Along the way, we caught a few glimpses of the city through holes in the tower walls.
From this "window" you could actually see the shadow of the tower we were climbing cast upon the neighboring buildings' rooftops.
When we reached the top, we were rewarded with these amazing views of Bologna and its surrounding landscape. This view (above) faces southwest. In the center of the picture is Piazza Maggiore - the heart and soul of the medieval city.
Here's a southeast view. The Apennine mountain range (visible in the above 2 pictures), which runs up the center of Italy, shifts to the west just before reaching Bologna.
And here's proof that we actually made it to the top.
This is a close up of the Jewish Ghetto where our apartment was located. Notice the density of buildings, their irregular placement, and the maze of streets threaded through them.

Here's a great shot of the shadows of the Asinelli and 3 other towers cast over some of the University buildings along Via Zamboni. Bologna's University - Alma Mater Studiorum, founded in 1088, is the oldest in the world.
This shot looks down at many of the medieval and Renaissance buildings adjacent to the tower. A sea of vermilion and sienna-colored buildings, terracotta-tiled rooftops, marbled sidewalks, and arched porticos, Bologna is considered one of the most architecturally unified cities in Europe. One of our favorite features of the city's architecture are the porticos - almost 38 km in all (more than any other city) - which provide shelter from the elements while you stroll through the city. Most of them were built in the Middle Ages to allow for enlargement of the residences above - new rooms could be added over the porticos without extending into the streets. Though considered private property, the porticos were open to the public and occupied during the day by artisans' and merchant stalls.

This shot shows some of the other medieval towers in the city that we didn't bother to climb.

And here's the Asinelli's vertically and horizontally challenged next door neighbor, the Garisenda.

Above is a close-up of Piazza Maggiore.

With its unfinished facade facing Piazza Maggiore, Basilica di San Petronio (Bologna's patron saint) is the largest and most impressive place of worship in the city.

Right next door to the Asinelli tower is the Basilica di San Bartolomeo. It's copper dome, graceful bell tower, and exquisite gilt gold columns, moldings and ceiling make it one of the prettiest churches in the city.
I wish I could blame the wind but really it's just time for a haircut. It seems that my big New York hair has returned.

This is Bologna's holiest site - San Luca - built atop Monte della Guardia, a couple of miles southwest of the city center. The circular, domed sanctuary was designed by Carlo Francesco Dotti (1723-57) to house the "Madonna and Child," a Byzantine icon considered the work of St. Luke the Evangelist, which is carried through the city in procession every year.

After soaking up the views for a while, we headed down the daunting staircase and walked up Via Zamboni, through the University district, to the Pinacoteca Nazionale - one of Italy's leading painting galleries. Our legs were shaking pretty badly but we forged ahead, anxious to see some old art.

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