The aristocratic tower from the twelfth century, built as a symbol of power and social prestige stood out along the bank of the river Padenna.
It is possible that the tower is the result of two different construction phases: the lower part, datable to the sixth century – as attested by the depth of the original road surface – and the upper part, datable between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
It is thought to have belonged to the Guiccioli family and was also known as “dei beccai” (of the butchers) because of the shops that sold game around the Ponte Marino. As early as 1320, the building became the property of the Municipality and was named Torre Civica (Civic Tower).
From that moment on throughout centuries, its bells have rung out to citizens on religious and civil occasions, as well as in the event of calamity or danger.
A service of great importance since, as is amply documented, the lower part of the tower, between the fifteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, housed the bellringer’s home, at least until the building fell into disuse in 1915.
Over the course of many centuries of activity, the bell tower underwent numerous modifications, partly to address the stability problems that may have been caused by the oscillation of the bells.
In 2000, the highest part of the tower (about 13 metres) was removed to prevent it from collapsing. However, even today, although reduced to a height of 26 metres, the building still suffers from a slow process of subterranean landsliding, which is also responsible for its progressive inclination, earning it the name “Leaning Tower”.
Two very ancient marble reliefs are incorporated in one of the outer sides: a Roman bas-relief of a man on horseback (third century) and a very damaged head, perhaps of a woman, whose features are not exactly recognisable: the figures, close together but facing different directions, inspired the saying “Zarchê Mariola par Ravêna” (“Seeking Mariola for Ravenna”), even quoted in Cervantes’ Don Quixote, which probably means “to seek and not find something that is right in front of your eyes”.
It is an old saying, much used in the city: a way of describing the absurdity of looking for something that is right there. In 1999 the Municipality of Ravenna had Mariola’s head dismounted while the monument underwent safety maintenance, entrusting it to Ugo Cipriani’s Wunderkammer for restoration.