Posted by: debrakolkka | February 20, 2011

498 steps to the top

I have just spent a few days in  Bologna, one of my favourite cities in Italy.  While I was there I climbed to the top of the tall tower in the centre of town. There are 2 towers, the tall one, and beside it, a leaning tower.   They make for a very dramatic skyline.

The taller tower, Asinelli is 98 metres.  Garisenda, the leaning one, is 48metres.  It started leaning during construction, so it didn’t reach its intended height of 61 metres.  The lean is just 4 degrees short of the tower in Pisa.

Bologna’s 2 towers

this is the one I climbed

I think you get the idea that it is tall

the entrance to the tower

heading for the steps

looking down from a few flights up

the wooden steps are very old and worn – and scary

and they seem to go on forever

finally at the top

There really are a lot of stairs to climb. Every time you see a ceiling above you think you are there, but no, it’s just another platform and there are more stairs above it. There are a few windows and tiny viewing holes along the way to keep you interested, and give an excuse to stop and have a breather. When you finally arrive at the top, the view makes it all worthwhile.

looking accross to Piazza Maggiore and beyond

looking down Via Rizzoli

Piazza Mercanzia

Basilica di San Bartolomeo and Gaetano

and then it is all the way back down 498 steps

Despite the fact that it is a long way up – and back – and the steps don’t look all that safe, it is a fun thing to do if you are in Bologna. It costs a mere 3 euro. I think it would be a bit hot in summer, it could get a bit stuffy in there, but in winter it is OK.

It is easy to see why Bologna is called “La Rossa”, The Red, because of the colour of the buildings. ( It also has communist leanings, but that is another story.)

Click here to see the fabulous fish market in Bologna.


  1. Bologna is truly beautiful but don’t climb with vertigo. Thanks for a great post.

    • I agree, i have a touch of vertigo and just looking at the images makes me a little fuzzy! great post though, it does look beautiful. Its nice to explore the world through other eyes.

    • agreed, beautiful pictures thanks for a great post

  2. I think I’ve been up there once upon a time, how strange to see those photos… my sister and I once flew to Bologna when we were in our teens, and then went to Florence, Siena and Venice too I think. I don’t have any photos at all from that trip, and it is a bit like a dream now…

    • Perhaps it is time to return.

  3. I have climbed these steps, and Yes it is a long way up. Thanks for rekindling the memory.

    • It is a long way, but worth the bother.

  4. Bologna is also famous for hosting the world’s most important Children’s Book Fair every April. I’d love to get there some day.

    • April is a good time to be in Italy.

  5. I adore Bologna especially the food. Good exercise Deb!

    • I love the market streets in Bologna.

  6. Little wonder people stayed slim in those days! I love the green foliage on some of the roof tops. Bologna as ‘La Rosa’ would be an apt contrast to Paris as ‘the white city’. Thanks, Deb, for showing us the wonderful view of Bologna from the top – such a neat-looking, well-preserved city.

  7. What an intriguing tower. When I was younger, I remember reading a short story (Edgar Allen Poe?) about a woman who climbed a tower, counting the steps on the way up and getting to a certain number (say 498). She was so frightened, and counted on the way down again..the books ends with..499..500..501..implication being that she never gets out. I was scared for weeks by that story as a small child! And these photos are exactly how I imagined the tower would look! 🙂

    • I thought I would never get to the top. The stairs just kept on being there.

    • Gosh, I read this story too!!! I thought it was a man who was climbing the tower, but it’s been a long long time since I read it :o) Do you or anybody have any idea what the Edgar Allan Poe story was called??

      • I don’t know of E.A. Poe’s story about steps. Perhaps you are thinking of The 39 steps by John Buchan, made into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock.

      • Did you ever find that story?

  8. Brilliant views Deb, what an amazing city. It begs you to know more about its history.

    • Bologna is a fascinating city. I love going there.

  9. Great pictures. I love the look of the worn wooden stairs.

    • They look great, but don’t inspire confidence.

  10. Laurie Nick & I climbed the tower one January & I agree a must do – Laurie & I also walked & climbed the longest portico which was just outside Bologna which was spectacular – keep having fun – I’m pea green –

  11. Wow… that is alot of stairs…I bet climbing them is a bit difficult for a claustrophobic person. But the view from above is great.

    • Fortunately I am not claustrophobic

  12. That is a great view – worth the climb! (Of course, it’s easy for me to say that when I’m not the person doing the climbing…)

    • I took it very slowly.

  13. CIAO; I HAVE BEEN LOOKING at your site now from the beginning of 2009 to now and i really enjoy the informational factor about the cities you enjoy and what there is to see there that you have so enjoyed.
    thanks so much for bringing me closer to my heritage also so i can see what the area looks like where my grandparents were born and what there childhood might have been like. it a very good source iof quality information. thanks to all of you for your help.
    George Miori

    • Thanks George, I’m glad you are enjoying the places I visit.

  14. So much character!

    Thank you for sharing…

    • Bologna is a fabulous city. You should visit.

  15. Did bologna originate in Bologna? No matter–after seeing your photos, I’m going there.

    • If you mean the sausage, yes it did. It is called mortadella and is delicious.

  16. Bologna is definitely on my list of Top 5 cities to visit in the next year! Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos!

    • You have to go, it is an amazing city.

  17. Hey Ladies! You always have great posts! And it’s not just because you talk about my country!!!
    Well done!

    • Thank you.

  18. wow that is a CRAZY tower. what’s your recommended season for visiting bologna?

    • I loved your photos of Torre Asinelli! You really captured what it feels like on the inside! I climbed that tower with my kids in August – and yes, it is a lot harder when it’s hot! The wooden stairs are patched in places, and my confidence in the architecture grew weaker as the stairs climbed ever higher….but oh, the view from the tower!

      Bologna was once full of towers just like that. They were built by individual families as a place to retreat during frequent clashes between powerful families. Over time, the family towers grew taller and taller – the tallest towers were marks of status. But over the centuries, they became safety hazards, so all but a few were taken down.

      I lived in Modena, and spent a lot of time in Bologna – very close to the towers, just off Piazza Grande,is a street with the most amazing produce stands – the fruits and vegetables glitter like gems, and there’s a meat shop hung with cuts of meat, gorgeous cheese – a fascinating tableau of food and fantasy.

      That is where you should take your next photos. I’d love to see them!

      If you’d like to read funny stories about living in Modena (Pavarotti’s birthplace) check out 4initalia.

      • I have taken photos in the market streets. Look in the Bologna category and you will find them.

      • I did look – there’s a photo of the meat market, but there’s no fruit. Another excuse to go back to Piazza Maggiore!

      • I had forgotten to put 3 other Bologna stories in the category. They are there now, so if you want you can take a look at the food, other than fish. There will be more photos of Bologna soon. If you look at the post called Campo de’ Fiori – markets in Rome, there are some good fruit and vegetable photos.

    • Spring and autumn are the best months to visit Italy, when it is not too hot or cold and there are fewer tourists.

  19. Looks like a great place to check out – thank you for sharing that.

    • Bologna is a lot of fun – great food.

  20. These buildings are beautiful!

    • Bologna has wonderful buildings and there is lots to see and do.

  21. Congrats on FP

    • Thank you. It was a big surprise.

  22. Love the city, but I’m afraid the tower is out of the question for me. I have a fear of heights. I can hardly bear just looking at some of the photos. Good fun anyway.

    • You could look up from the bottom. The towers look good from there.

  23. So lovely…thanks for sharing…the architecture is wonderful!

    • Bologna has lots of amazing buildings. You should go there.

  24. That looks absolutely incredible!! I have been inside a few towers when I was in Germany and Spain – seems like Europe really has a thing for towers with incredible views and long LONG LOOOOONG flights of stairs!! My concern has been much less how high you get (I’ve never been afraid of heights) but the claustrophobia. It’s easy to get to the top, but terrifying when there are a bunch of people doing it at once inside the very narrow passage ways. I can always hear my mothers voice in my head saying “What if there was a fire right now? or an earthquake? This is a hazard!” – but with that said, I can’t wait to tackle a tower in Italy, I have yet to make it to the beautiful country despite my great-grandparents being born there, but will hopefully make it soon. 🙂

    • I did it a week ago, in mid winter. There were very few people climbing the stairs. I imagine it would be a bit hot and crowded in summer.

  25. Wow!
    Forget the steps, with a climb like that I’d want a fireman’s pole to get back down. Also, they really should shoot off some fireworks, or pop a bottle of champagns once you reach the apex of that behemoth — that’s a lot of steps!

    • A fireman’s pole sounds like a fun way to get down.

  26. Great architecture from the wonderful Italy, Photos are amazing so is the description too. 498 steps, looks a massive task for climbing up and then down and those steps looks scary to place a foot on…
    Great experience and thank you for sharing it.


    • It was fun, I’m glad you looked and commented. Thank you.

  27. Nice pictures. I wonder if I will ever be in that part of the world to admire the beauty you’ve shown us.

    • You should come to Italy. It is a beautiful country.

  28. Thanks for sharing another wunderful place on earth that I have to put on my To-Do-List! Great photos, great story and loooots of stairs 🙂

    • Italy is here waiting for you to visit, and so are the stairs.

  29. 498 steps? OMG! But the Pics are beautiful!

    • Thank you. I took my time climbing all those stairs.

  30. I am sitting in LA, my home now, but Bologna is where I come from. Thank you for sharing the photos – climbing that tower was one of my favourite things to do as a kid, it helped that I lived only a few doors down. The photos made me feel as if I were home again!

    • Lucky you, growing up in Bologna. It is a great city.

  31. Love the pictures, but don’t think I would love that walk….it looks so scarry. 🙂
    -Thank you!

    • If you take it slowly it is not too bad.

  32. I’m living in Bologna right now and have been debating whether or not to climb the towers. Thank you for answering this question!!!!!!!!

    • I hope you will do it soon.

  33. You have some great photos here! Italy is such an amazing place. Can you climb the leaning tower like you can Pisa?
    Thanks for a great post!

    • I don’t think you can climb the leaning one. It is not very high anyway, you wouldn’t get much of a view. I have climbed the tower in Pisa and done a post on that as well.

  34. In the ancient days they really wanted to build higher and higher with stone.
    I’ll mark Bologna as “want to go” in my map.

    BTW, here in Porto we also have a stone tower with 75m. I did a post about it in 2009:

    • Thank you for that link. We are going to Spain soon and Portugal is on our list of places to go.

      • hope you enjoy both 🙂 and looking forward for your next posts then

  35. the pictures are really interesting and view is amazing!

    • You should visit Bologna.

  36. India had a trade route with Greece and Italy and these kind of ancient high rises are found among the stone relics from centuries ago in various parts of India. Thank you for the great photos!

    • I have been to India and loved it. We did see quite a few towers there.

  37. Very beautiful town. Exellent photos. Congrats!

    • Thank you for your comments.

  38. ah well, we eat too much during holidays anyway, the climb is always a good exercise! haha.. and then the view is nottoo shabby either!

    • Perhaps I should have done it everyday while I was in Bologna.

  39. Beautiful photos! One day… My best to you!

    • Thank you very much.

  40. wow thats super tall! considering how old the building is. those old steps look dangerous!

    • They looked very dangerous to me as well, but they were quite sturdy.

  41. Wow- what a beautiful city, and lovely pictures! I want very much to go to Italy one day soon, thank you for whetting my appetite for Bologna!

    • Bologna is a wonderful city. It is not really on the tourist trail, and it should be.

  42. This is so amazing! I would NEVER attempt to climb that tower! The thought of climbing that high and at the same time being trapped within those walls, gives me a slight tummy ache! Haha! But the photos are awesome! What an experience!

    • I didn’t feel trapped, just tired.

  43. I wonder how many people get claustrophobic in there?

    • I can imagine that is could become very closed in with a lot of people in it. The stairs are very narrow.

  44. Came from the WP main page. Looks great, I’ve been myself in nearly a dozen towers of castles, Irish monasteries, cathedrals and some city halls or such “civic” buildings. I’ll add this one to my “to climb up” list!

    • You won’t be disappointed, it is quite an experience.

  45. Beautiful photographs! I love how your imagery takes us through the entire experience!

    • Thank you for visiting.

  46. Beautiful~I’ve always dreamt to travel somewhere in Europe.
    The stairs are intimidating but they have a certain charm with their age.
    Keep up the good work!

    • Thank you for your comments. Italy would be a good place to start your European experience.

  47. Great Pictures! Congrats on being freshly pressed!

    • Thank you. It was a very nice surprise to be freshly pressed.

  48. Absolutely one of my fave cities in Italy too! I taught English at a summer camp in Bologna back in 2006 and your shots from Piazza Maggiore are extremely homesick-making! Can’t believe I walked past the towers everyday but never climbed them, but maybe I can use the sticky, parma-ham-curing heat of mid summer as an excuse. Love your pics, especially looking down the stairs from above. Nice work!

    • Thank you. I wouldn’t do it in summer either – much too hot.

  49. Bologna is absolutely incredible. I was there in ’99, and can only think of 3 or 4 cities that can match its atmosphere. I particularly love the University. Ate an an interesting restaurant. You had to enter the back door, and it was only inhabited by a few mafioso types.

    • Bologna is a fascinating city, and not a lot of tourists go there. They should.

  50. No, I could not do it. The stairs alone, from the top looking down, make me nauseous just looking at the pic. You are one brave soul! My fear of heights would take over and wouldn’t let me climb it, no matter how much I wanted to see the view from the top.

    So, I thank you very much for sharing the wonderful images. They are beautiful and amazing!

    • I don’t have a fear of heights and I don’t suffer from claustrophobia, but I can imagine it would be difficult for some.

  51. I love Italy, I’m jealous! I really hope I can go back again some time.

    • Lovely Italy is here waiting for you.

  52. So do the worn-out stairs actually add to the enjoyment? Sort of like riding really old roller coasters when you realize there is a chance you could eat it?

    • I wouldn’t say they add to the enjoyment – perhaps to the sense of achievement – and delight when you get to the bottom intact.

  53. looks like a great city~
    love your photos!

    • Bologna is indeed a great city – and thank you.

  54. Rise to the top must be very tired. But if strong intentions may not feel tired. I saw also the building foundation is very strong although, as seen fragile

    • I’m sure we would not be allowed to climb if the building was not secure. It was tiring, but for somebody more fit than I am it would be OK.

  55. I like your photos!

    • Thank you for visiting my site – I hope you come back.

  56. How wonderful! I’ve never been to Bologna though I’ve been to Italy twice. I’ve always thought it must be amazing to live in Europe so you can visit so many amazing monuments and surrounding cities with such ease. I enjoy looking at your photos because they remind me that such beautiful places exist right here and now even though I’m not there.

    • I am very lucky that I can be in Italy for several months each year and visit all these amazing places.

  57. nice

    • Thank you for looking at my site. Please come back for another look.

  58. Now those are some beautiful shots. It almost makes me want to go to Italy, but Ireland is still going to be my first stop on a world tour. 😉

    I cant imagine all those steps must take awhile, though. How long /did/ it take to walk up to the top?

    • I haven’t been to Ireland, but I want to go. It took me quite a while to get to the top, because I stopped a few times along the way.

  59. Amazing. I would love to visit.

    • Bologna is an excellent city to visit. There is lots to see and do and the food is great.

  60. Awesome. The best I’ve done is the 463 steps of the Duomo in Florence. The photos are amazing. Great work.

    • I’ve been to Florence lots of times, but I have not climbed to the top of the Duomo. I will do it next time I go – maybe next week. Thank you for your comments.

  61. That’s some beautiful architecture. Some notable steps I have climbed include those for the Batu Caves. That’s only 272 concrete steps though. I recently did a climb up to Cradle Mountain in Tasmania though which is 1535 metres tall! Besides the rough wide rocky steps were not as evenly placed as those in Bologna. Beautiful architecture in Italy is showed to advantage in your photo essay.

    • My husband has just done a 6 day walk at Cradle Mountain. We were there several years ago and thought it beautiful. We did some walking back then, but did not climb it. Thank you for your comments.

  62. wow… such a beautiful architecture and scene
    This remind me about the pole in washington DC, but that one has elevator…
    I would prefer to climb it, rather that using elevator. That’s make the trip more memorable!

    • I will certainly remember the climb.

  63. Awesome pics! What an experience!

    • Thank you. I was a lot of fun – so is reading all the comments.

  64. Nice Photographs.

    • Thank you for visiting my site. I’m glad you like the photos.

  65. I went to Bologna long time ago, it left an impression of a very industrial city…. but I guess I was wrong and it seems to be a very charming place…

    • You should give Bologna another try. There are so many interesting things there.

  66. Great post. Wonderful photos

    • Thank you for your comments and for visiting my site.

  67. This gives me another reason to put Italy to the top of my shortlist for my next vacation. It’s been a decade since I was last there, in Firenze and Genoa. I’m very tempted to go back to Firenze now, and add Pisa, Bologna and Siena to the itinerary.

    • You have just named some of my favourite places in Italy. Our little village of Bagni di Lucca is quiet central to all of these, and I visit them regularly.

  68. wow… this is great one post which i found today..
    I like this post…

    • Thank you, I’m glad you found us. I hope you come back.

  69. Beautiful photographs!

    • Thank you for your comments. and visiting our site.

  70. Will forward to John,he would love to climb that tower, love that you got so many comments

    • Climbing the tower takes a bit of effort, but it is a fun thing to do. Being freshly pressed for 24 hours certainly attracts lots of viewers.

  71. Thanks for bringing back memories of the time I went in 1988. I thought the story was that 2 families were in a “race” to see who could build a bigger better tower… am I correct?
    Congrats on being freshly pressed btw..

    • I think you could be right, but one tower started to lean immediately and it didn’t make it to the full height. Thank you for your comments.

  72. Wow Very Eye Catching Photos

    Thanks 🙂

    • Thank you for visiting. I hope you return.

  73. I am actually headed to Bologna tomorrow and I just saw this post. I will have to give those steps a climb. Thank you for the post 🙂 I like how you do the photos too!

    • If you go to Bologna do the walking tour, it is a great way to see the city with somebody who knows it. I did a post on it a while ago. It starts at the information centre in Piazza Maggiore, but the office has moved – follow the arrows.

      • Thank you for the suggestion! I appreciate it. I missed climbing the tower, because I got there right when it was closing. Got to at least have a peek at the steps! 🙂

      • Next time.

  74. A few years ago I spent 5 days in Rome, 5 days in Chianti, Tuscany and 5 days in magnificent Positano. What a beautiful country!

    • We did exactly the same combination several years ago. You should come back and do it again.

  75. Does steps look really SCARY!

    • They were a bit scary. Lucky I am tough.

  76. That’s look very old, I would be scared it would fall over. But at least you get your exercise by the time you get to the top. I was never in Italy and would love to go it looks pretty interesting there. Great pictures!

  77. […] Click here to see the climb to the top of the tower in Bologna. […]

  78. […] was easy. 498 steps to the top was Freshly Pressed for 24 hours and got 4,000 hits. (Thank you very much to the Freshly Pressed […]

  79. Wow! That staircase would make me pause for thought.. so shiny, so potentially slippery! I’m not bothered by heights, I’m bothered about falls 😉

    • I really don’t like walking up stairs. It took me a very long time time to get to the top.

  80. Yes, these are the towers that I saw on a magazine years ago when I was a little kid. The stairs do look a bit unsafe though, but with 498 steps? wow, that’s a very long way up, and down, indeed.

    • It took me a long time to get to the top, I went very slowly. I am going to climb the campanile in Florence when I go back in October.

  81. What a great view from the top! I’m a little afraid of heights so getting down might have been a challenge. Great that you did it!

    • Going up was the problem for me.

  82. […] Pressed for my post about the climb. the view from the top of the tower in Bologna    Click here to see the full story and here to see a very ugly fish in Bologna.   The Carnevale in Viareggio was […]

  83. Fabulous photos. I was ready to climb the tower last month but it is closed for renovation – from your pictures I can see the view that I would have got – stunning!

    • What a pity it is closed….but it was an awfully long, hard climb.

  84. […] didn’t make the trek. You’ll have to take my word for it or stop by Debra’s blog-Bagni di Lucca and Beyond-she actually made it all the way to the […]

  85. […] here, here, and here to see more on Bologna, or look on the Bologna […]

  86. […] Bologna is another place I like to stay overnight. It is a university city and has a vibrant atmosphere and a wonderful food culture. The street food markets here are my favourite in Italy. I really need to stay long enough to do some serious food shopping and cook at home. On a previous visit I climbed to the top of the very high tower in the centre of town for an excellent view. […]

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