Bologna, Italy – the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region

Bologna, Italy – the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region

Bologna has less than 400,000 inhabitants and is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. The city was founded by the Etruscans in the 6th century, during the Middle Ages. It was an important trading center thanks to its network of canals that allowed the transport of goods. But Bologna was, among other things, an important center of education in medieval Europe. In 1088 the oldest university in Europe was founded here, where Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarch and Erasmus of Rotterdam also studied.

Piazza Maggiore

Bologna is not one of Italy’s most popular tourist cities, but the historic center of the city is a must-see with its beautiful churches and palaces. Most of the buildings are built of red or orange bricks, which sometimes gives Bologna its nickname “red”. Start your tour of Bologna in the center of the city in the main square of Piazza Maggiore .

Bologna, Italy - the capital of Emilia-Romagna

Piazza Maggiore

Here you can find the town hall of Palazzo Comunale as well as one of the biggest churches in the world, the 14th century Basilica of San Petronio, which is dedicated to the patron of the city. At more than 200 meters long, it is one of the largest and most important churches in Italy. From here you can walk to one of the surrounding medieval streets and arcades to explore other places in this charming historic city.

San Domenico

The Basilica of San Domenico was founded after the death of Domenicus, founder of the Order of Beggars, in the first half of the 13th century. The purpose was to build a tabernacle to house his tomb. His tomb is in the chapel of St. Dominic, a fine example of Italian sculpture from the late Middle Ages to the Renaissance.

Bologna, Italy - the capital of Emilia-Romagna

San Domenico

We can also see the Church of San Giacomo Maggiore, reminiscent of the famous Bentivoglia family and the tombs of its members. A complex of four small churches, chapels and a monastery called Santo Stefano aims to perpetuate the Holy Jerusalem. In the church of San Sepolcro rests the patron saint of the city, St. Petronius. Palazzo del Arquiginnasio was built in the 16th century as an academy of art and law. Locals have long wanted to link it directly to Santo Stefano so that it would be the largest temple in Italy, that is, larger than St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. Today it is home to a famous university.

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Architecture of Bologna

Other monuments include the beautiful Neptune Fountain, which features a statue of a naked Neptune, the lord of the seas. It was made by the Flemish sculptor Jean de Boulogne for Pope Julius II in the second half of the 16th century.

Bologna, Italy - the capital of Emilia-Romagna

Bologna architecture

Bologna’s dominant feature are the two local leaning towers, the Asinelli and the Garizenda, which stand on the Piazza Porta Raveniana. These towers offer a beautiful view of the city. The streets around the towers, popular shopping areas of Bologna.

The Archaeological Museum specializes mainly in the history of the local Etruscans, the Museum of the Middle Ages, on the medieval art of Bologna . The most famous gallery in Bologna is the Pinacoteca, which represents the art of the Bolognese art school.

San Marino Grand Prix

In the picturesque village of Dozza, artists paint the walls of houses every two years, and it looks really interesting. The city of Imola is famous, among other things, for the fact that the plan of the city was drawn up for it by the great Leonardo da Vinci himself as the only plan of the city. The historic center of Imola is indeed beautiful, hiding an impressive Renaissance fortress. However, Imola is best known for one of the Formula 1 races, the San Marino Grand Prix . The race is held at the Enzo and Dino Ferrari circuit, but sometimes also at the Imola circuit.

Bologna, Italy - the capital of Emilia-Romagna

Not far from Bologna there is also a church, the Madonna di San Luca, which you have to walk to. From the port of Saragozzo to the church leads an arched corridor 3.5 kilometers long, which is the longest corridor in the world. The last place around Bologna, is an important archaeological site of Etruscan times, Marzabotto . Unfortunately, this Italian city also became famous during World War II, when the Germans killed more than 700 inhabitants of the city.

Bologna

Bologna

Bologna is located in the heart of Italy in the Padana Plain, the ancient city is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region. Bologna was founded by the Etruscans in the first century BC, it played an important role in those days and later, under the Romans and in the Middle Ages, as a free commune. Bologna is famous primarily for its two towers, which have become a symbol of the city. In 1088 the first university in Europe was founded here, Bologna still retains the fame of a student city full of life and movement. During World War II, Bologna was bombed and many historic buildings were destroyed. August 2, 1980 was a black day, when a bomb exploded at Bologna Central Station, killing 85 people and injuring over two hundred. The tragic event was the largest terrorist attack in Italy since World War II. The bombing was carried out by the Red Brigades.

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From the train station we turn left and after a few meters we see the Parco della Montagnolla with a wide white stone staircase. On weekends, there is a flea market and events in the park.

Entrance to Montagnola Park. Bologna

After stepping through the Galliera gate, we find ourselves in the historical center of Bologna.

Bologna, Galliera Gate

Our attention is immediately drawn to the long street covered with porticoes. Bologna is famous for its porticos galleries, whose total length in the historic center is about 38 km: ancient wooden porticos in the houses of the Roman period, Gothic arcades, Renaissance and Baroque arcades. Almost all central streets are covered with porticoes. Handy if you forgot your umbrella at home on a rainy day!

Porticoes of Bologna.

Portico galleries came into being because house owners wanted to make more profit from renting out their homes. They expanded the upper floors, thereby increasing the area of the house by propping up the excess with columns. At first the construction of galleries was forbidden by the authorities, but then they changed their anger for mercy and introduced a minimum span height of 2 m 66 cm so that riders could pass under the porticoes without problems. Homeowners had to keep order behind the passage under the galleries and leave it free for human traffic. This law still exists today.

Porticoes of Bologna.

We go on along the central Via dell’Indipendenza (Independence Street), completely covered with galleries. On the left is the monument to Garibaldi, who unified Italy in 1860. On the right is the city’s theater.

Garibaldi Monument and the city theater. Bologna

We turn left into Via Augusto Righi and take the first right turn. This is where the canal is hidden among the houses.

Canal. Bologna

There is only one natural channel of the Aposa River running through the city. And already in the Middle Ages this was not enough for life and industry. While not far from Bologna were two other rivers, the Reno and the Savena. “It’s a shame that all these waters don’t flow through our city”. thought the townspeople. And this was the beginning of the unusual history of waterborne Bologna . In 1191, a group of determined Bolognese decided to build the city’s first lock, the Casalecchio di Reno. A canal was dug from the Reno River to bring water to Bologna. This gave the medieval city an abundance of water. In later years a vast network of canals was dug that supplied Bologna with water, used for industry and for laundry. Now many canals are rolled up in asphalt, locks are closed and only in some places you can find the remnants of the old canals.

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We return to via dell’Indipendenza and continue towards the center. After a bit, you can take a left in via Marsala. Here is the best wine shop of Bologna – Enoteca Italiana, where you can find wines from all regions of Italy. We will stop for a while to have a glass of wine and continue our way.

A little further along via dell’Indipendenza, we’ll find on the left the Cathedral of St. Peter (Cattedrale di S.Pietro).

Bologna, Church of San Pietro.

This cathedral houses the seat of the Archbishop of Bologna. In 1028 there was already a church and a bell tower on this site, but a fire in 1141 destroyed them. In 1184 the church was rebuilt. In the fifteenth century, famous artists from Ferrara worked in the cathedral: Francesco del Cossa and Ercole de Roberti. They decorated with their works the Gardanelli Chapel, which was destroyed during the restoration works in 1605 (today you can see some fragments of the frescoes in the Pinacoteca in Bologna). In the XVIII century the cathedral acquired a new façade designed by Alfonso Torreggiani. The church features works by Ludovico Caracci and Cesare Mauro Trebbi. The new bell tower was built in the 13th century, but inside the cathedral you can find traces of the ancient bell tower. Opening hours of the cathedral: 8-12; 16-18.15

Continue on to Piazza Maggiore, the central and most beautiful square in the city. There is the Basilica of San Petronio, surrounded by ancient palaces. Piazza Maggiore has been a meeting place and trading place throughout the centuries. Until 1877 there was a market for fruit and vegetables.

Piazza Maggiore. Bologna

The west side of the square is dominated by the Chiesa di San Petronio, the most famous church in Bologna and one of the biggest churches in Italy (132 meters long and 66 meters wide, it is the fourth biggest church in Italy).

Bologna, Church of San Petronio

The church is dedicated to St. Petronius, the patron saint of Bologna, whose relics are kept in the cathedral. The foundation of the church was laid in 1390 under the direction of Antonio di Vincenzo. Originally the intention was to build the largest Christian basilica, but after Vincenzo’s death in 1401, the Pope decided to leave first place to the new Vatican Basilica. Work on the cathedral slowed for a hundred years. To this day, the facade of the church remains unfinished to this day. The main portal of the church is decorated with works by the Sienese sculptor Jacopo della Quercia (1425-1434). On the floor of the left aisle of the basilica is the meridian drawn in 1655 by the astronomer Jean Domenico Cassini. In fact, the first meridian in the cathedral appeared in 1575. The Dominican monk Ignazio Danti, who was a professor at the University of Bologna in 1575-76, implemented the meridian to determine the length of the year with adjustments for the Julian calendar. The pope at the time was Gregory XIII (a native of Bologna), who introduced the Gregorian calendar in all Catholic countries; he invited Danti to the Vatican and named him his cosmographer. A bronze statue of Pope Gregory XIII adorns the facade of Palazzo Comunale, next to the temple. In 1653, the Cathedral of St. Petronius was enlarged by tearing down the wall where the meridian of Danti had been laid out. The new meridian was executed by Gian Domenico Cassini. He was notable for his more accurate results. Its length is 27.07 meters, the meridian runs from north to south, in the center there is a colored sun with rays.

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The Palazzo del Podesta is to the right of the cathedral, it was built in 1200 and was the seat of the head of administration. Palazzo dei Notari, palazzo dei Notari with Renaissance façade, Palazzo di Re Enzo of King Sardinia, built in 1245, Prison for the son of Federico II, captured in 1249 by the Bolognese troops at the Battle of Fossalta and who died in prison in 1272, Palazzo Comunale is the Municipal Palace, the seat of government of the city. It now houses the historic-political museum and the Morandi Museum (http://www.mambo-bologna.org/museomorandi/) .

Bologna

Nearby is the fountain of Neptune by Giambologna (XVI century), considered one of the masterpieces of the Renaissance.

Bologna, Fountain of Neptune

There is a legend that Giambologna wanted to depict Neptune with a more prominent manhood, but the church did not approve the project. The sculptor did not give up and depicted Neptune in a pose with the thumb of his left hand pointing upward from the lower abdomen, symbolizing erotic arousal. Women of the time were embarrassed by this spectacle, and the statue was told to wear bronze pants. In any case, the whole fountain is filled with eroticism and sensuality.

Bologna, Fountain of Neptune

Another tradition associated with the fountain is that students before an important exam should go around the fountain counterclockwise twice for good luck.

From Piazza Maggiore, the narrow streets that make up the historic center of Bologna run away. We turn off in via Archiginnasio and after a few steps we turn into the courtyard of the city library, located in the Archiginnasio Palace, where in the Middle Ages the University of Bologna was located, as its name suggests, “the first university”. The palazzo was built in 1562-63 by Pope Pius IV. Two wide staircases lead to the second floor, where there are ten study halls and special rooms. It is possible to go up to the second floor, see the magnificent interiors and visit the anatomical theater. The ancient walls preserve the memory of famous professors and students of the university.

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Bologna, City Library

The narrow streets that run off from Piazza Maggiore bear in their names the memory of ancient crafts, workshops along the cobbled streets. In via Clavature, locks and clasps were made, there were also famous glassworks and herbalist stores. The Via Pescherie Vecchie sold fish, the nearby Via degli Orefici sold jewelry and ornaments and the Via Drapperie was famous for its woolen clothing. Today these streets have small colorful stores selling cheese, ham, wine and fruit, next to boutiques, jewelry stores, numerous cafes and osterias.

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