Bologna is a city to be discovered: magnetic and mysterious at the same time. No one, seeing it today, could imagine that among the plots of its centuries-old buildings there is a hidden underground, a historical heritage that testifies a past buried by time. Seven meters deep, you will find the underground city, with its Aposa stream and its imposing Roman Bridge that can now be visited through two entrances, one of which is located right in Piazza Minghetti, very close to Galleria Cavour.
Bologna has crossed ages and centuries. There is no doubt, however, that its urban planning and splendour are viscerally linked to the Middle Ages.Testimony of this prominence are the numerous towers scattered throughout the historical centre which, as the ancient maps demonstrate, give to the city a skyline that anticipated that of modern New York by eight centuries. Of the more than 100 towers erected in the city, only 28 survived today: some can be visited, others can be seen while walking through the historical center.
Piazza di Porta Ravegnana
The towers had both a military and a noble function as they gave prestige to the families who built them. The Asinelli Tower, built in 1109 in the beating heart of the city, owes its name to the homonymous family. Today by climbing the 498 steps of its internal staircase you can enjoy a breath-taking view over Bologna. The Garisenda Tower, not as tall as its magnificent neighbour, has some troubles regarding the subsidence of its foundations that make it more similar to the more famous Tower of Pisa. For this reason, the Garisenda was mentioned in Dante’s Inferno comparing it to the giant Antaeus.
Who can imagine that next to the glamorous boutiques of Galleria Cavour, in the heart of the city’s that was once the meeting place for intellectuals such as of Giosuè Carducci, there is a hidden amphitheatre-shaped room entirely dedicated to the study of anatomy? The “Anatomical Theatre” is one of the frescoed jewels of the Archiginnasio. Originally home of the oldest Western world university and later a Municipal Library. Today, the Archiginnasio testifies the profound link between beauty and knowledge.
Portico del Pavaglione – Piazza Galvani
Bologna’s beauty is not only in the magnificence of its towers and buildings, but also in its hidden details. Who could imagine that the floor of one of Bologna’s busiest arcades holds, trapped and still visible, fossils and prehistoric shells? They give an original pink shade to the flooring of the nearby Portico del Pavaglione, which is also due to the red colour of the ammonite: a prehistoric rock coming from the Verona area that reached the heart of the city right through its canals.
Piazza del Nettuno
Can a city with a glorious fluvial past not celebrate the God of the Sea? Neptune and its fountain are today one of the symbols of Bologna. Powerful and elegant in its volumes, the statue has always enchanted inhabitants and travelers. Moreover, the logo of the Maserati car manufacturer, born in the heart of Bologna, is inspired by its majestic trident. In 1926, the Tipo 26 was the first Maserati car to present itself to the world with the trident logo.
Palazzo del Podestà – Piazza Maggiore
While admiring the famous unfinished facade of San Petronio in the shade of the Portico del Podestà (Mayor’s Vault), it is not uncommon to observe people speaking at the four corners of the vault. This is due to the fact that the architecture of the pillars creates a very particular acoustic game: with the face against the wall, you can talk to each other from the opposite corners of the vault without being heard by passers. Legend narrates that this effect, in the medieval times, allowed the lepers to confess avoiding to approach the parish priest.
Via Castiglione, 8
Close to Galleria Cavour there are various historical buildings of rare beauty. Among them Palazzo Pepoli, that houses the Museum of Bologna’s History, is a link between the past and the future of the city revealing the history, the culture and the transformation of ancient Felsina (transliteration of the Etruscan name – meaning for some fertile place, for others fortified) in the Bologna of the present times. Traditional and multimedia tours takes people from all ages into an exciting historical journey. An example of this is the “Torre del Tempo”, that the architect Bellini placed in the centre of the courtyard: a glass and steel installation flooded with natural light from above.
Santuario di Santa Maria della Vita – Via Clavature, 8/10
There is more than a reason for which, Gabriele D’Annunzio entered an autumn evening in the Church of Santa Maria della Vita to listen to sacred music, and while facing the group of seven terracotta figures by Niccolò dell’Arca, he was completely petrified, almost struck by “a crash of passion”. This masterpiece of the fifteenth-century sculpture has hardly any equals in the history of art in terms of dramatic strength and intensity.
Piazza S. Domenico
History, art and immortality embrace the Basilica of San Domenico. Located a few steps from the Galleria Cavour, the church dates back to the 1200 and was built by the Dominican friars to preserve the remains of San Domenico di Guzman. Inside it houses works of art by famous authors such as Guercino and Ludovico Carracci. But it is to Michelangelo that the friars entrusted themselves to finish the precious sculptural complex of the Ark of Saint Dominik. Therefore will be able to admire his work of art known as the Angelo Reggicandelabro.
Strada Maggiore, 34
The Music Museum is located in the prestigious Palazzo Sanguinetti. The frescoed halls of the building, which also hosted Gioacchino Rossini, house very precious collections from the 1500s to the 1700s together with manuscripts and opera librettos. In the Museum you can admire the famous portrait of W. Amadeus Mozart. What a thrill for the young Amadeus to leave Vienna in a carriage with his inseparable father to reach the towered city! In fact, the composer, at the age of fourteen, went to Bologna to pass the entrance exam at the Philharmonic Academy under the strict guidance of one of the best teachers in Europe: Father Giambattista Martini.
Via Collegio di Spagna, 4
From the outside it looks like a fortified castle. Being one of the most secret places in the city, the Royal College of Spain opens to the public only for very special occasions. After crossing an enchanting sandstone portal, the courtyard shows itself with a four-sided portico with a double loggia: it is the heart of the college that Cardinal de Albornoz, archbishop of Toledo, built in 1364 to house the young Spaniards who intended to attend the prestigious Bologna University.
Via Piella, 2
Bologna like a little Venice? Just look out from the small but famous window of via Piella which, in the heart of the city, secretly opens on the open-air Moline canal. A hidden glimpse between bridges and colorful buildings, that frames a suggestive postcard about history: the perfect description of how the fluvial Bologna of the past could have appeared.
Via Riva di Reno, 79
Set up in the attic of Palazzo Felicini, the Doll Museum was made from a unique original collection, curated by Marie Paule Vèdrine Andolfatto. Being in a private setting, one gets the impression of visiting an exclusive and secret place. Among the 500 rare pieces and historical specimens, the museum reconstructs the history of the Doll, displaying the changes in the aesthetics and in the materials used, enhancing the fashion evolution along with the changes of the society in the last centuries.
Piazza della Mercanzia
Bologna is the city of precious details, including its gastronomic tradition for which the city is a recognized world ambassador. During the guided visit to Palazzo della Mercanzia, you will notice the presence of a small casket among the many registers. Inside you will discover a golden strip that establishes the precise official width of the tagliatella. According to the gold standard, the real Bolognese tagliatella, cooked and served on the table, must be 8 millimeters wide. For what reason? To claim its origins: it is in fact calculated that 8 millimeters correspond exactly to the 12,270 part of the height of the Asinelli tower.