The portici (porticoes) are the essence of the city of Bologna. The network of 38km of porticoes is found throughout the city centre that shelter the citizens from the elements like the city has been sheltered from the strife affecting the rest of Italy throughout its turbulent history.
Yet Bologna was not always so tranquil. During the Middle Ages hundreds of narrow towers spiked the skyline. The height of each family’s tower was constantly added to as their wealth increased… and constantly truncated by rival families who felt their power was growing too immense. Today just a few towers remain, the most famous being the Due Torri.
Now, Bologna is a student city through and through. The atmosphere of learning, joviality and anarchy is present all over the city but never more so than in Piazza Verdi at the heart of the university quarter.
What to do:
The Due Torri (Two Towers) are the symbol of the city and one of its prime tourist sights. Torre degli Asinelli is 97m tall and can be climbed in 498 steps for only €3 – the stairs are so steep and narrow but it is absolutely worth it for the view and the sheer fun of clambering up and down the restricted interior of a slightly leaning medieval tower! The Torre Garisenda leans even more – 3m to one side! and cannot be climbed…
Piazza Maggiore and Piazza del Nettuno are the centre of the compact city centre.
San Petronio, dominating Piazza Maggiore, is a Gothic church, intended to have been bigger than the Vatican’s St Peter’s. However controversy at the time led to the diversion of money and land to the University before the church could be finished. It is still a very impressive structure.
Also in this square, Palazzo Comunale (closed Monday) now consists of local government offices and galleries – impressive is Bramante’s 16th C staircase which was built to enable horse drawn carriages to go right into the palace!
Giambologna designed the Fontana del Nettuno in the piazza of the same name in 1566. Even at the time it was controversial, and you can see why! …naked women riding on the backs of dolphins with water shooting from their breasts into the fountain below…
San Giacomo Maggiore, Piazza Rossini is a Romanesque, 13th century church – go for the Bentivoglio chapel to see frescoes painted by Lorenzo Costa, especially the ‘Triumph of Death.’
The Abbazia de Santo Stefano is a complex of four medieval churches (though originally there were seven) which is really interesting to explore.
I didn’t have a chance to visit the Pinacoteca Nazionale, MAMBo, Museo delle Cere Anatomiche or the church of San Domenico.
Eat pasta in the home of bolognese! Order tagliatelle al ragù from the menu. I got mine at Mercato di Mezzo and it was divine! Bologna and its region, Emilia-Romagna, are well known for its food. However I was not there long enough to try any more than the sumptuous bolognese…