During Medieval times, the Italian city of Bologna boasted many tall towers, built by wealthy residents to advertise their status to the entire city, and for use as a place of protection during times of war. The towers we see today have what appear to be windows, but are which in actual fact are doors. At one time, the upper doors led out to balconies, giving the buildings an entirely different look. Families lived together; each with their own private apartments built on the ground around the towers but connected to the interior. Some even had apartments they could rent out. When there was a danger, family members had quick access to the stairways to reach safety at the top. The civil war between the Ghibellines and the Gelphs in the 13th century, culminating in the Ghibellines being run out of town, most likely contributed to the architectural design of the towers. Over the years, most of the towers have either fallen into disrepair or have been demolished in favor of more modern buildings. Some just collapsed.
Fortunately, the magnificent Torre Prendiparte, built nine hundred years ago by the Prendiparte family, survives. Over the years it has been used as a sanctuary for Monks as well as a prison for those convicted of crimes against religion. It is believed that the tower was originally intended to be higher, but was either damaged during a battle, or the builder simply had the construction stopped for unknown reasons. It has changed hands more than ten times over the years and still retains a bit of the personality of each owner. After having been lovingly restored and furnished with exquisite antique furniture, Torre Prendiparte, now owned by Matteo Giovanardi, a graduate of the prestigious University of Bologna, serves as a museum, meeting place, and special event venue with twelve floors full of ancient artifacts – but only during the day.
At night Torre Prendiparte magically transforms into a Bed and Breakfast with a three-floor luxurious private suite at the very top of the tower. For four hundred euros (around $450 in American dollars or 289 pounds British Sterling dependent upon current exchange rates) one can spend the night in the tower surrounded by medieval history. Weekend packages are also available.
The evening can start with dinner on the roof top with a view from two hundred feet above the city with a personal chef attending to every need.
For the comfort of the guests the suite has a bedroom, a kitchen, and a sitting room in which one can be immersed in medieval history. Guests have access to the entire tower from the private suite and are encouraged to explore all twelve floors.
The areas that were once used as a prison still have drawings, poems, stories, and carvings placed there by the prisoners over the years. Mr. Giovanardi employed experts in restoration to carefully clean the walls to expose these ancient messages.
For four hundred euros one can imagine that they are the royalty in charge of the castle. “I don’t just sell a room, a place to sleep – I sell an emotion,” remarked Giovanardi in a recent interview. “You touch the wall and think of the laborer who, perched on a wood scaffolding, lay those bricks in the Middle Ages.”
Needless to say, the Torre Prendiparte has become a popular tourist destination and an ideal place for locals to celebrate a special occasion. One can attend a musical event, a play, a birthday party, or a wedding. The tower also conducts guided tours.