As was the case in several municipalities in Italy during the Middle Ages, also in Ravenna, starting from the year 1000, the construction of numerous stately towers was undertaken to symbolise the power and social prestige of the families and the city.
Only one tower, the Civic Tower, now owned by the Municipality, remained visible after the end of the thirteenth century, when all the towers and private forts were demolished by the Papal Rector.
Erected in the twelfth century, it was known as the “beccai” (butchers’) tower because of the butchers’ shops all around it. Once about 39 metres high, it was used for a long time as a watchtower not only to signal the approach of enemies but also to warn the townspeople in case of fires or floods, thanks to the sound of the bell.
In 2000, the top part of the tower was removed, as it was in danger of collapsing due to its position. Rising near the ancient course of the river Padenna, it has undergone a slow process of subterranean subsidence that has caused a progressive inclination.
As one approaches the base of the tower, one can still see two curious stone fragments depicting a head, possibly a woman’s, inserted into a niche and, next to it, a horseman turning his back to her.
Tradition says that from this particular positioning, the citizens of Ravenna invented the saying “cercar Mariola per Ravenna” (looking for Mariola in Ravenna), which means looking for something very close, but not being able to find it, just as the knight does.