Official Tourist Information Site
of Ravenna

Aristocratic tower of the 12th century, built as a symbol of power and social prestige, the MUNICIPAL TOWER stood along the course of river Padenna.

It may be the result of two different building phases: the lower part, dating back to the 6th century — as proved by the depth of the original street level — and the upper one, dating back between the 12th and the 13th century.

A tower and many changes

It is believed that the tower was once owned by the Guiccioli family, and was known as “dei beccai” (lit. of the butchers’), due to the many shops that sold game around Ponte Marino.

Given its 39-metre height, it served as a watchtower for centuries, while its bells were used to call citizens in religious or civil occasions, in case of calamity or danger. A service of great importance, as between the 15th and the beginning of the 20th century the lower part of the tower was home to the bell ringer, at least until 1915, when the building fell into disuse.

Over many centuries of activity, the bell tower has undergone many changes, in order to face stability problems caused maybe by the swinging of the bells.

In 2000, the upper part of the tower (about 13 meters) was removed, in order to prevent its collapse. Today, even if it is reduced to 26 meters, the building suffers from a slow process of underground landslide that also causes its gradual incline, earning it the title of “Leaning Tower“.

Looking for Mariola in Ravenna

The lower part of the tower is currently covered by scaffoldings ensuring its stability. They unfortunately cover also two very ancient marble reliefs embedded in one of the external sides of the tower: a Roman bas relief of a man on horseback (3rd century) and a very damaged head, maybe of a woman, whose features are not precisely recognizable.

The two figures, next to each other but facing different directions, have inspired the saying “Zarchê Mariola par Ravêna” (Romagna dialect for “looking for Mariola in Ravenna”) — which was also quoted by Cervantes in his Don Quixote — probably meaning “looking for and not finding something that is under your eyes”.

In 1999, during the works for the securing of the building, the Municipality of Ravenna had Mariola’s head removed and entrusted it to Ugo Cipriani’s Wunderkammer for its restauration. It is currently safeguarded by the Superintendence in its warehouses.


Towers in history

The construction of vertically developed buildings expresses the human aspiration to the sky, associated to a sense of spirituality, but also to the visual possibilities that this entails, allowing a domination on a whole city, a defense system and also a symbol of power.

Between the 10th and 11th century, following the Italian economic recovery thanks to commercial exchanges, begins a first phase of development of the cities. It was characterized by the rise of various social classes — the one of the merchants in particular — which officialized their power through the construction of tower houses.

The construction of a urban tower house ensured — other than to dominate the area from above to spot dangers and respond to attacks — a temporary residence in case of danger. The height of the towers showed the prestige of the families that owned it and, in case of strong rivalry and fights among families at power, it could happen that the highest towers were beheaded by rival families.

The Municipal Tower of Ravenna stood out among the many other ones that were built in the city from the year 1000 by the aristocratic class, as a symbol of power and social prestige. At the end of the 3rd century, the papal rector had all private towers and fortalices demolished, to establish the control of the Roman Papal Authority over Ravenna.

This tower was the only one to survive the demolitions, as it was already owned by the Municipality and had assumed the function of municipal tower. A round of guards was present by day and at night on top of the tower, to spot the possible arrival of Turkish pirates overrunning the Adriatic at the time.

With its tolls, the bell called councilors to municipal meetings, marked the curfew, signaled fires and announced capital executions.

Further information

Opening times

The tower is always visible from outside.

Closing time

The tower is not visible on the inside.

How to get there

The tower is located in the historical centre of the city, a few steps away from Piazza del Popolo.

By car: around the tower are various parking areas. See map.

On foot / by bike: it is easily reachable on foot from the railway station (about 15 min.)

By bus: all bus routes stop in Piazzale Farini (800 meters away). For more information:

A cura della Redazione Locale

Last edit:8 January 2024

You may also like: