climbing the tower in Modena

I went to Modena for the first time this summer. The main purpose of my visit was to climb the tower, the Torre della Ghirlandina. If you don’t know already, I love climbing towers. I took the one hour train from Bologna on a Sunday morning (the only day of the week that the tower was open for climbing).

I was surprised at how fast I fell in love with Modena. The colors of the buildings were quite similar to the colors of the buildings in Bologna and the architecture styles were also quite similar, but it seemed more open, more peaceful and a lot less crowded than Bologna. I also have to admit that I was a little bit in “city shock” after leaving tiny Acqui Terme and arriving in bustling Bologna. However, after visiting a tourist packed Florence, my opinion of Bologna changed. I guess it is all relative. In the end, I loved all three places and oh would I give anything to be in Modena, Bologna, or Florence right now. Lucky Palma, lucky Sandra, lucky Anne, all who are heading back to Italy and will be in one of these three places very soon.

I took tons of photos and have lots to share of my visit to Modena. I will start with my tower photos since that is what drew me to Modena in the first place.

After leaving the train station and stopping in a bar for an espresso and the toilet, I headed for the centro. My heart skipped a beat as I experienced my first views of the tower. I knew in advance that it was being restored and so I was prepared to see it covered.

This first photo shows what the tower would look like if it was not covered.


I’m not sure who this guy is and what he did to get a statue but I thought it was a cool photo. **Updated by Leslie: Alessandro Tassoni – a noble and a poet, did good works around 1600 in Modena.


Finally, the Torre della Ghirlandina


The ticket to climb the tower cost only 1 euro. What a deal! In the entrance of the tower was a bell. I did not completely understand the woman’s explanation about this bell, but I believe it used to be located up in the belfry area.


At the beginning of the climb, you will find the room where the duplicate of the famous bucket is housed.


According to many sources including Bologna – Modena Footprint Travel guides:

Modena has always been Bologna’s closest and fiercest rival. It all apparently started with a stolen wooden bucket. The Modenese were Ghibelline supporters of the Emperor Frederick II and were furious when their Guelf neighbours kidnapped his son, re Enzo. They raided Bologna and came away with the secchia rapita (stolen bucket) which thereafter became a symbol of the cities’ rivalry, immortalized in a satricial poem by Alessandro Tassoni.

The rest of the climb was not as exciting as I imagined. This is not a very good photo, but it does give you an idea of the climb.


The Torre della Ghirlandina is supposed to be one of the taller towers in Italy which is open for climbing. However, I was only able to climb up to the Stanza dei Torresani (tower keeper’s room). Both the belfry and the spiral staircase were closed off and the views as I suspected were hidden by the covering placed on the tower during the restoration.

The blue arrow (which I drew on this not so great photo) shows where the climb ended. As you can see, only about half of the tower was open for climbing.


After returning to the bottom of the tower, just as I was about to leave, the woman at the desk told me that there was one more little room below. Although there was not much to see (and not really photo worthy), it was nice and cool in this room. I stayed down there for a few minutes cooling off before heading back out to the 95 degree fahrenheit (35 celsius) temperature outside.

Check out this cool plaque. Modena has these on many of the buildings, which provide information about many of the important sights in Modena. This was one of the things I loved about Modena.


9 thoughts on “climbing the tower in Modena

  1. Alessandro Tassoni – a noble and a poet, did good works around 1600 in Modena.
    Love reading about Modena. I haven’t climbed towers for years and years and years – until Alessandro pulled me all the way up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. :)


  2. These are great photos — I also love the very funky cover for the tower during its restoration. As Annie says, much more attractive than advertising. The tower does look a bit scarey from the inside, however. Very steep steps.
    I’m beginning to pay more attention to towers, thanks to you! There’s one in Perugia I want to check out; at the Porta Sant’Angelo. Apparently there is a museum of the ancient walls and doors of Perugia housed in a tower. I’ll get photos!


  3. Thanks Leslie. I updated this post with your info :)
    Annie, I also liked this covering much more than many of the others I have seen.
    María, sorry to hear that you are not able to climb towers due to acrophobia.
    Sandra, unless you looked over the side like I did to take this photo, it was one of the easiest towers to climb. The stairs were pretty wide and uniform and it did not seem that steep when climbing. I missed the tower in Perugia. I am looking forward to reading about it if you get a chance to visit during your trip.


  4. Hi Girasoli, cool photos. I don’t know much about Modena so it is interesting reading your post this evening. I liked the colorful cover of the tower also!
    I always enjoy looking at your photos!


  5. Fantastic photos! I also love climbing towers and this one looks incredible. I wonder when the restoration will be finished? (I say, hoping it might possibly be before October…lol) Modena sounds way cool…I guess it’s likely a bit far for a daytrip from Florence if it’s an hour from Bologna. Maybe I should plan an overnight from Florence and check it out. I’d been thinking hard about splitting my time between Florence and Venice, but there is so much to see within a relatively short radius from Florence that I keep getting drawn back to staying in that area. I may have to save Venice for the 2010 GTG… ;)


  6. Kathy, thanks so much! I think you would really enjoy this town.
    Anne, 1.37 is the shortest train ride. You might be able to find a good deal, but if you want to climb the tower, you have to go on a Sunday. It is the only day the tower is open for climbing. In my opinion, the tower was sadly not worth it – but the town definitely was! I would wait for the tower to be finished first (don’t think it will be done anytime this soon). I am reading about this Venice GTG and am so sad that I would not be able to attend…doesn’t work out with my school schedule unfortunately.
    Jerry, didn’t know you and Paul were tower climbing fans. I still talk about some day doing an entire trip devoted to tower climbing.


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