Your journey of discovery around Bologna starts at the Fountain of Neptune, one of the symbols of the city and the work of the Flemish sculptor Giambologna.
Before visiting the splendid setting of Piazza Maggiore, take a step back into the history of ancient Bononia and enter Salaborsa. In the 19th century, this was the city’s economic centre and today it is a place of culture. With its rich, multi-media library, it has become one of the favourite meeting places for the people of Bologna. At the centre of the building is a covered square, where you will meet the first unexpected side of Bologna. Below your feet, a glass floor will offer you a view of the original city. Here, you will be able to drink a coffee spanning two thousand years, while admiring the art nouveau ceilings and seeing close up the archaeological remains on which our city stands today.
Piazza Maggiore e Bologna “The Learned”
After observing the beginning of Bologna’s history, you are now ready to continue your journey, entering Piazza Maggiore, known simply as the “piazza” by the locals. Let yourself be seduced by the wide spaces, the great area surrounded by some of the buildings that can tell the story of the city: Palazzo D’Accursio (headquarter of Bologna Town Hall) that houses the City Art Collection and the Basilica of San Petronio, housing the largest sundial in the world. Before leaving Piazza Maggiore, play a little game. Below the open arcade of the so-called Voltone del Podestà, between Palazzo di Podestà and Palazzo Re Enzo, there is a kind of whispering gallery. If you whisper, facing one of the four corners of the arch, you will be heard by anyone who is at the opposite corner.
From the piazza, walk along Via dell’Archiginnasio, with its beautiful Portico del Pavaglione and some of the most desirable shops in Bologna. Following the road that runs alongside the Basilica San Petronio, you will reach the Museo Civico Archeologico (Archaeological Museum) and here, if you like, you can find out more about Etruscan and Roman Bologna through the archaeological exhibits. You can also visit the museum’s superb Egyptian collection. Next you will see Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio, the first unified seat of the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the western hemisphere, founded in 1088. The Teatro Anatomico (Anatomical Theatre), where anatomy lessons were once held, is well-worth visiting. Nearby is the Basilica of San Domenico, a true treasure chest of Italian art. You can admire the marble shrine with the remains of this saint, decorated with precious statues by Nicolò Pisano, Nicolò dell’Arca and the young Michelangelo.
Bologna “The Fat”
After discovering Bologna “The Learned”, spend time exploring Bologna “The Fat”, the Bologna of good food and excellent cooking. Go back behind Piazza Maggiore, and enjoy wondering through the narrow streets of the old city market, the Quadrilatero. During the day, you will come across many stalls filled with all kinds of food products, from seasonal fruit to fresh fish from the nearby Adriatic Sea, from tortellini and that speciality of Bologna, mortadella, to various sweets. In the evening, just before dinner, these streets are transformed and shops give way to bars and drinking places, where people of Bologna can enjoy an aperitif at the end of the day.
Passing through this historical Food Market we can also visit the famous “Compianto sul Cristo Morto” in the beautiful Church of Santa Maria della Vita, a masterpiece of fifteenth century sculpture bsp;
Piazza Santo Stefano and Two Towers
After this pleasant break, cross Via Castiglione and be astonished by the wonderful Piazza Santo Stefano. Your eyes will alight on the church at other side of the square. If you have time, you will discover that is it not one church but seven. This is not all illusion, but the consequence of the historical events that took place in this corner of the city. From Piazza Santo Stefano, go along the covered passageway of Corte Isolani and soon you will be in Strada Maggiore. From this point, at last you can see the Asinelli and the Garisenda Towers, side by side at the centre of a circle from where all our city’s main streets radiate. Continue along Strada Maggiore to the Two Towers, the tallest of the twenty still standing in this city of towers, which in mediaeval time boasted over one hundred turrets.
If you find this hard to believe, climb the 498 steps up to the top of the Asinelli Tower and look out over the city. You will discover that, even today, there are many more towers than you had imagined.
From the Two Towers, walk along Via Zamboni, the main university street, with its various departments, the historical Teatro Comunale (City Theatre) and the famous university museums.
To get back to Piazza Maggiore, walk along Via Indipendenza, the main shopping street. If you do have time for a bit more culture, a tiny detour will allow you to visit one of the most delightful museums in the city, the Museo Medievale.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE GUIDED TOUR
The guided tour does not include:
rental of headphones to visit the churches (mandatory for groups of more than 7 people)
cost euro 1,50 per person
entrance fee to The Anatomical Theatre: Euro 3 per person – free entrance for students