“Don’t do anything dangerous” echoed Simo’s voice in my head “we cannot risk anymore injuries before Ravenna”. He then went on to elaborate that climbing ladders should be avoided yet here I am like the local idiot climbing up 498 steps!
I have no head for heights BUT yesterday, without giving it a second thought, there I was gaily handing over my E3 to climb to the top of Torri degli Asinelli. I wasn’t part of a group, I wasn’t travelling with anyone else so no one was egging me on. This aberration was purely my own decision. It was only once I started the climb that the little voices started in my head. I hushed them with the thought this was after all great exercise (great leg work!) whilst simultaneously dismissing that there was a very close resemblance to a ladder!
So why was I doing this? Because I was fascinated by history of this most interesting city and the 180 towers that originally stood was so much a part of it. The Asinelli is the tallest of the 20 that remain standing to the present day and was built between 1109 and 1119 by one of the wealth Bolognese families to protect themselves from attackers by providing an early warning of their approach. I simply had to see the vista from the top myself to complete my morning meandering down history lane.
As I climbed higher and higher and higher – did I mention it stands 97.6 metres high – I thought of Aunty Nellie who climbed York Minister with Yvonne all those years ago. I remember her looking white as a sheet when she got to the top, I don’t recall how old she was but I am sure older that I am – so yes, I could do this!
The stair case is wooden and some considerate soul made sure there are lots of wider spaces which are convenient passing spots on little landings. I stand politely and indicate those who are ‘veloce’ (quicker) should go ahead. It gives me time to rest a little and get my nerves under control for the next bit! I hear the word ‘piano’ uttered frequently by several of the Italians – means slowly – and I agree that slowly is the only way to get down safely.
The tower itself has good ventilation so there is not the old musty smell and claustrophobic atmosphere that permeates many ancient buildings which is thanks to the openings dotted through the tower through which a very pleasant breeze flows at times. I guess they were to shoot arrows through in days gone by.
Finally rounding the last bend and climbing the narrowest and shiniest wooden stairs I find myself at the top. What a relief! The tower is situated at the intersection of the roads that led to the five gates of the old ring wall. The view is amazing and I can see for miles and miles – 360 degrees – the new Bologna is in the distance outside of the original city walls.
Hardly anyone is up here so I settle myself on a little perch on the ledge which runs around the top of the tower and look down on city life below. It is calm and peaceful, not teaming with tourists but Bolognese going about their daily business.
I’m so glad I made the climb – now for the descent – piano, piano!