Bologna Things to Do Tips by aliante1981
Bologna Things to Do: 533 reviews and 1,293 photos
Built during the years 1109 and 1119 by Gherardo degli Asinelli, it – just like Garisenda Tower – survived numerous fires and earthquakes. Of military scope at first, it then fulfilled numerous functions, like those of a prison.
Now nothing in Bologna beats it for views of the city. Which is not surprising, because it is more than 97 meters high, leaning by some 2 meters. It’s also the thinner of the two towers, and the one better decorated. There’s even something looking like a small arched fort at the base, dating back to year 1488.
Climbing 498 steps of the staircase inside the tower should get you to the top of it to enjoy the views :)))
Built in the 12th century by Addo and Filippo Garisenda, it managed to survive many things, including earthquakes. Earning itself a mention in Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ – see ‘Hell’, part XXXI lines 136 - 138.
48 meters high (it is the lower of the two towers), the Garisenda Tower is leaning just a bit more than 3 meters, because the terrain could not hold it upright.
It is also the more austere of the two towers, without any exterior decorations, save the lowest window (looking like what will in future evolve into a Gothic arch) and the brick laying in the lower part.
A warning: This has nothing to do with the namesake film about hobbits :)))
These towers – called Garisenda e degli Asinelli – are now the landmarks of Bologna. Like Eiffel Tower is for Paris and Basilica of San Marco for Venice. And they are also the most famous and the best preserved of more than one hundred towers that graced the city of Bologna with their presence in the Middle Ages. Besides, the towers are both leaning, though not like the one in Pisa.
First they were mostly of military use, serving as perfect spots to view the opposing forces, but later the towers also became status symbols for Bologna’s richest families. Hence a huge numbers of them…
Palazzo Communale also houses the most complete collection of the works of painter Giorgio Morandi, with pencil drawings, watercolours, and paintings. Mostly, these are landscape works and the numerous variations of the famous still nature paintings created by the artist since year 1940. Among them ‘Times of Year: Summer’, of 1949, and many others.
Besides Morandi’s works, you can also see a reconstruction of the studio where he worked, and his own collection of ancient art (a noble hobby!), including a 15th century table by Colantonio, a painting by Pietro Longhi and works by Rembrandt. Wish I had such a collection :)))
Piazza Maggiore is the focal point of sightseeing in Bologna, hence I was pretty confident that was the spot I wanted to see first. So I headed there from the train station along Via dell’Indipendenza. Here’s a short list of things to see/do around the square, with details which will be added later:
- Il Palazzo del Podesta’;
- Santa Maria della Vita church;
- San Petronio church;
- Civic Archaeological museum;
- Il Palazzo dei Notai;
- Palazzo Communale;
- The Neptune Fountain;
- Palazzo dei Banchi
You can easily spend loads of time here, and a couple of hours will not be enough in case you want to explore everything in detail!
Palazzo Poggi, or Poggi Palace, on the Via Belmeloro, has been the central administrative seat of the University of Bologna (one of the most important in Italy) since year 1803, though the building itself is several centuries older.
The construction of the palace was ordered by the Cardinal Giovanni Poggi (hence the name) and completed during the 1549 – 1556 time span. Quite a short one, I thought, by the building standards of the Middle Ages.
Inside, there are interesting (though not most colourful) frescoes by Pellegrino Tibaldi, depicting the series of ancient legends about Ulysses. Strange, because during those years most frescoes were not secular, but religious in nature & subject…
The Poggi palace also houses several of the University museums, but I guess that is the topic of other tips…
Dedicated to Zamboni, a young fighter against the rule of the Papal State, this street was important long before, though with a different name – that of San Donato street. Today it is the heart of the University quarter of Bologna. Besides this, the street features numerous churches and historical buildings of interest to us, tourists. Here’s just a brief list of things to see (I hope to cover the sights in detail later):
- Asinelli & Garisenda towers;
- Magnani palace;
- San Giorgio Maggiore church;
- Specola tower;
- University library;
- National Picture Gallery;
- Poggi palace;
- Malvezzi palace;
- Malvezzi Campeggi palace.
The walk along the street is not long by any means and I highly recommend it to anyone.
The centre (or, at least, one of the centers) of Bologna’s social life. The place to go for top quality shopping (with most international brand names and labels present), people watching (dresses, styles, etc.), sitting in an elegant restaurant sipping wine, or just staying in some of Bologna’s best hotels (like Gran Hotel Baglioni and Regina for example).
This is also the route one takes – provided he/she is in need of the shortest and the most attractive one – to get from the railway station, called Bologna Centrale, to the Piazza del Nettuno and Piazza Maggiore – two of the most beautiful of Bologna’s squares.
The fact that the church was never finished does not make it uninteresting. On the contrary, there are plenty of the things one should not miss during one’s visit. Here’s what seemed to me of particular note on the outside:
- Statues of Madonna with Jesus Christ as a Child and of San Petronio, both by Jacopo della Quercia.
- Sant’Ambrogio, added some time later by Domenico da Varignana, and added quite harmoniously.
- The unfinished façade, where the colours of the marbles should be noted in particular. This is the only case I can remember where the colours of a church’s façade are determined by the social colours of the city. Red and white, in this case.
- Miscellaneous sculptures by Jacopo della Quercia, depicting this time the Old and the New Testaments. Prophets, miracles, and not-so-famous scenes are represented.
Though not the most magnificent (in my humble opinion), the one dedicated to San Petronio is certainly the most photographed church of the city of Bologna – Emilia Romagna’s capital. The San Petronio in question is the canonized bishop of Bologna who lived in the 5th century and is now considered to be the city’s patron saint and ultimate protector.
Started in year 1390, the church was planned to be bigger than St. Peter’s in Rome, but the project was stalled by the most common and earthly of reasons – the lack of funds necessary to proceed with the works. In fact, I immediately noticed (I read this story on my way back from Italy!) that the church had something of an unfinished look – especially in the façade.
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