Published on : Monday, April 18, 2016
The journey of discovery around Bologna starts at the Fountain of Neptune, one of the symbols of our city and the work of the Flemish sculptor know as Giambologna. Before visiting the splendid setting of Piazza Maggiore, take a step back into the history of ancient Bononia and enter Sala Borsa. 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 sip 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.
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 its story, Palazzo D’Accursio, the city’s Town Hall and home to the Morandi Museum and 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 are so inclined, 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.
Now 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.
2 – The Top Museums in Bologna
The first on our list is Palazzo Pepoli, the Museum of the History of Bologna, it has recently undergone an incredible renovation courtesy of the Genus Bononiae Foundation with the architect Mario Bellini. The Museum is dedicated to the history, culture and the transformation Bologna has undergone through the ages. Unlike in many Italian museums Palazzo Pepoli has given way to new media and uses it to educate and inform the visitors. It is the only Italian museum with a “virtual theatre” that allows visitors to view movies in 3D. Not any movies however, a special movie was made for the museum which features an animated character named APA, voiced by the great late bolognese Lucio Dalla, who guides you through the history of Bologna.
The second museum we would like to include in our Top 6 list of museums to visit in Bologna is Palazzo Poggi. Palazzo Poggi is the headquarters of the University of Bologna and also hosts a very interesting museum. It also hosts possibly the most shocking exhibition: “the Anatomical Waxworks of Ercole Lelli” and “The School of Obstetrics”. The Anatomical Waxworks features 8 life-size statues which include a male and female nude and six flayed men showing different muscle layers all the way down to the bone. The school of Obstetrics is equal shocking due to some models on display there. This exhibition remembers the work of Giovanni Antonio Galli who helped turn the art of childbirth from midwife magic to science in the 18th century.
The third museum is the San Colombano – Collezione Tagliavini museum which is part of the Genus Bononiae Foundation. The museum is inside a church complex in Via Parigi dating as far back as the VII century, recent restorations have discovered a medieval crypt and a mural crucifixion dating back to the XIII century. However the main attractions of this museum are not the Paintings but the beautiful musical instruments on display. The collection has 70 pieces including some of the oldest harpsichords, spinets, pianos, clavichords in Europe. Make sure you ask for information at the desk for when the next concert is because the beauty of these instruments is that they are still in perfect working order.
Number four is MAMBO; or Modern Art Museum of Bologna. The museum has a permanent collection which traces the history of Italian art from the second World War to present day. The museum also cooperates with academic and cultural institutions inviting scholars to its 9,500 square metre space to stimulate debate on contemporary culture. The museum also has a wonderful “aperitivo” where one can meet like-minded and interesting people willing to discuss art and modern culture.
Number five is Palazzo Fava, another creation of the Genus Bononiae Foundation. The first floor was frescoed by the Caracci brothers in their beginnings of their career. The frescoes depict the story of Jason and the Argonauts and is one of the main attractions of Bologna. Palazzo Fava is a large space, over 2,600 square metres and is often used as an exhibition space to display many private an public works. It also recently opened a “literary caffè” with many books at the disposal of the curious art connoisseur.
And the last museum on this list is the Museo Civico & Archeologico. This is a museum that houses over 200,000 works of art many from various excavations that have taken place around Bologna through the years. It houses many Etruscan and Roman findings as well as a large Egyptian and Numismatic collection. It also host many interesting exhibits dedicated to interesting subjects such as “2500 years of false notes and coins” which is cured by the Finance department of Italy.
3 – The Two Towers
The Two Towers the traditional symbol of Bologna, stand at the strategic point where the old Aemilian way entered the town. Today they stand right at the middle of the opening of Porta Ravegnana square, but this does not correspond to their original layout, which comprised wooden constructions all around their base and hanging passageways.
Made in masonry work, as very few other buildings at that time, they had very important military functions (signalling and defence), beside representing with their imposing heights the social prestige of noble families.
In the late 12th century, at least one hundred towers dotted the town’ s skyline, but today only twenty have survived the ravages of fire, warfare and lightning. Quite recently the statue of San Petronio made by Gabriele Brunelli in 1670 was again placed under the towers, after being removed in 1871 for “traffic reasons”.
The Asinelli Tower was built in 1109 – 19 by the Asinelli family, but by the following century it had already passed under the control of the Commune. It is 97.20 m-high with a drop of 2.23 metres and an inner staircase of 498 steps completed in 1684. The plinth is surrounded by a small ‘stronghold’ built in 1488 to house the soldiers of the watch. Today, its arcade is occupied by a few craft shops and ateliers, as a memento of the merchants’ trade of the Medieval ‘mercato di mezzo’.
The Garisenda Tower, built around the same time , is much smaller (47 metres) with a steeper drop (3.22 m) due to an early and more marked subsidence of soil and foundation. Dante, who saw the tower before the process had started, compared it to a leaning Anteo in the 31st Canto of his Inferno. In mid 14th century the tower had to be lowered. The ashlar covering in selenite stone of the base dates back to the late 19th century.
4 – The Portici
Over 40 km of arched walkways spread throughout the city in the most incredible way. By law they were ordered to be made 7 “Bolognese feet” high (2.66 metres), in other words high enough for a man on horseback to pass comfortably, a decree that was respected in most of the 40 kilometres of portici apart from in the poorer areas of Bologna. Most of the portici were originally constructed in wood around 1288 and in 1568 came the order to convert them into stone. It is still possible to see some of the original wood structures from 1250 in Strada Maggiore. Often decorated with wonderful frescos and family crests of influential families the portici of Bologna offer the most glamorous protection from rain and snow and too much sun, making them loved by art lovers and simple citizens who never have to buy an umbrella as well.
Bologna is known for its miles of portici, or covered terracotta arcades, and the 666 arches that lead to the Santuario della Madonna di San Luca, a basilica that sits perched above the metropolis, are a great introduction to a city icon. Start at the Meloncello gateway and wind up the hill — the half-hour trek is like a StairMaster session (a good activity before a weekend of eating) with views of the rolling countryside as well as the sprawling new part of the city with its office towers and burgeoning suburbs. At the top the payoff is the Unesco-heritage designated basilica with its painting of St. Mary, allegedly by Luke the Evangelist and, said by some to have been brought to Bologna from the Middle East in the 12th century.
5 – The Food
The food is perhaps the most internationally recognized aspect of Emilia-Romagna. The region has made so many contributions to the international food scene and is considered by many italians (if you are not italian you probably know that it is difficult for italians to agree on anything) the food capital of Italy. In Bologna we have tortellini, tagliatelle alla bolognese (Spag Bol), lasagna and Mortadella (Bologna). There are many other regional specialities but these are the ones most likely to be recognized abroad. This abundance of quality food has probably had an effect on the way of life of the people in the region. The University of the cuisine, generous and friendly city: Bologna is this for the Italian and international gastronomic culture, with its rich tradition and life style typical of the people of Emilia. The Myth of the “Fat Bologna”, the city’s most opulent, queen of a land fertile and hospitable.
Tagliatelle alla Bolognese – The original Spag Bol. However ask for Spag Bol in Bologna and you should prepare yourself for exile! This dish is a combination of two Bolognese traditions coming together in perfect harmony: The ragu, which can also be found inside Lasagna, and the fresh egg pasta cut, strictly by hand, in varying lengths and widths. The main reason why the Bolognese do not make it with spaghetti is that spaghetti is originally from the south where durum wheat is the traditional flour used in the creation of pasta. In Bologna, where white flour grows, the traditional pasta is the combination of white flour with egg.
Tortellini – The second dish which features the amazingly delicious fresh egg pasta typical of Bologna. This one has a very interesting story with regards to how it came to be: Legend has it that when the Pope’s daughter, Lucrezia Borgia, visited the small town of Castelfranco Emilia, near Modena, the innkeeper was so captivated by her beauty that one night he peaked through the keyhole and all he saw was her navel. With time he would turn her navel into Tortellini. Having heard this go and look at an image of a (bolognese) tortellini and you will notice it does look somewhat like a navel. Wether this is true or not is unimportant as they are delicious and can be found in any restaurant in Bologna. Traditionally served in a meat broth, the parcels can contain either cheese or meat.
Mortadella (otherwise known as Bologna) – Mortadella is very different from the Bologna sold in supermarkets around the world. This is a a prized meat that has been recognized by the EU and given a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) rating. The first written evidence of something similar to Mortadella dates back to the 14th century much to the delight of the University of Bologna students who had been there since 1088! There is a big culture of cured meats in the region of Emilia Romagna however the bolognese are very proud of their Mortadella. Many times you will see them served alongside other regional favorites such as Parma’s Prosciutto Crudo di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano.
Lasagna – Almost the same ingredients as in Tagliatelle al Ragu, however a whole new world of pleasure. Lasagna has many cities and towns claiming to be the inventors of this dish that has been loved the World over. Bologna has established itself as the leaders in fresh pasta and bolognese sauce, both key ingredients in lasagna. Perhaps the inspiration for this dish came from Bologna’s own architecture, it is not a far leap to see the lasagna as a tower of food created in honor of Bologna’s own Two Towers by using the most traditional of bolognese recipes.
Gelato – While not originally from the region, Bologna still has contributed massively to the expansion and export of Gelato. Bologna based company Carpigiani led the way in the industrial side of gelato by creating machines that allowed many people to create delicious flavours anywhere in the world. Technology finally allowed Carpigiani to create the “hard-o-matic” that brought about a gelato revolution world wide. It is said that Carpigiani controls half of the world market for ice cream machines. However, back to eating, there are many gelaterias around Bologna that are made with fresh ingredients that are locally sourced especially refreshing in the spring and summer months when the shade from the beautiful porticoes just isn’t quite enough.
6 – The University and the People
The city is very much a University city, attracting over 80,000 students every year from around the world the city comes alive around them. The streets both in summer and winter are filled with musicians playing jazz, Bologna’s favorite genre of music which lead it to being announce d by UNESCO as a City of Music. In the summer you can spot artist paining in the shade of the portici due to Bologna’s extensive art scene. And as always the presence of students (especially art and music students!) leads to prices being lowered to accommodate this very large portion of Bolognese community. The people of Bologna themselves are much more free thinking and open to change than any other city in Italy. Due to the traditional “red” political background of the city and also due to the energy that only an incredible number such as 80,000 students can bring to your town.
The high standard of the University guarantees the future of many companies who recruit from the best of the 80,000 students that are enrolled every year in the University of Bologna. The University of Bologna is the oldest in western world having been founded in 1088, and has in turn been influencing the region for a long time, maintaining an incredibly high standard of education for such a long time must surely be of great benefit for the surrounding businesses, how else would such a concentration of quality goods be possible?
7 – Exhibitions and Events
BolognaFiere is one of the leading European exhibition organizers and one of the most advanced exhibition centres worldwide. BolognaFiere Group manages three exhibition centres (Bologna, Modena, and Ferrara) with over 75 outstanding exhibitions in Italy and abroad; BolognaFiere Group consists of several companies than offer an extensive range of events and provide businesses with all of the promotion and specialised services they need to successfully participate in every exhibition.
The Bologna Exhibition Centre extends over 375,000 m2 of covered and outdoors areas. Its total services area is 36,000 m2. Its 18 halls are completely wired, air- conditioned and equipped with IT systems, and multiple events can be held simultaneously thanks to 5 separate entrances. Flexibility and mobility indoors are ensured by a network of moving walkways and by a parking system with 14,500 covered parking spaces that can be reserved in advance. BolognaFiere is the first exhibition centre with its own motorway tollbooth, part of a plan – along with a dynamic third lane – that aims to reduce congestion by providing entrance directly to the Fair, thereby avoiding the ring road.
BolognaFiere in numbers:
375,000 m2 of total surface area 14,500 parking spaces
28 exhibitions every year on average
13,337 (4,828 from abroad) – 2011 exhibitors
5 separate entrances
1,715,304 – 2011 trade visitors
European city of Culture in 2000 and first in Italy to be designated UNESCO Creative City for Music in 2006, Bologna has an artistic and cultural tradition of excellences confirming its leadership in the national and international scenery. City of extraordinary vitality, every year Bologna offers a really wide rage of proposals: classical music, jazz, rock and pop, as well as theatre, exhibitions and festivals that deepen and diffuse contemporary arts and languages. Cinema has another leading role in Bologna cultural life, also due to the presence of Cineteca.
8 – The Motor Valley
Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Morini, Malaguti and Ducati, and the great tracks of Imola and Misano are only a few of the “worlds” of this land, synonymous with glamour, passion, and victories for millions of people all over the world.
If you want to learn about the companies, the car and motorcycle museums or to visit some of the world’s most beautiful and valuable private collections of veteran cars and motorcycles, you are in the right place, because the region of Emilia Romagna is filled with a great “passion for motors” so much so that it is called MotorValley.
Here, a whole world revolves around motors, characterized by advanced research, a remarkable production of cars and motorcycles, both sport versions and racing models, restoration of vintage vehicles, and a lot of excellent training opportunities both on a professional or university level. And of course there are the events promoting the most advanced technologies, the international sports competitions, the racetracks, the practice tracks, museums and private collections… and so much more.
9 – Shopping in Galleria Cavour
Bologna is definitely one of the Italian meccas for shopping, an enormous outdoor shopping center which is home to the leading designer boutiques as well as design and furniture shops, and many book stores, antique shops and art galleries. The area of the historic center of Bologna called Quadrilatero includes: Via Rizzoli, Via D’Azeglio, Via Farini and Via Castiglione, in the historic center of Bologna. This is the oldest part of the city, where you can feel the atmosphere of the past, enjoy flavors of traditional cuisine, discover the historic shops, called Botteghe, still active. And this is the heart of Bologna “la grassa” (the fat), the old Market of the middle, where shopkeepers shows their wares along the narrow streets, where the shops often have no doors and where we can find stands in mall covered market.
Galleria Cavour was designed in the 50’s to recover a part of the city that was destroyed by the war. It is the first commercial gallery in Bologna, home to some famous brand names and trademarks related to the trade and manufacturing of the town. It is a traditional place for luxury shopping.
10 – And last but not least, Great Golf!!
Bologna is also golf, plenty of top quality golf, on the days and at the times you prefer, thanks to 3 magnificent Championship courses situated close to one another and ready to welcome you 365 days a year. Just one green fee for 3 fantastic courses and so many great holes just a few minutes away by car where you can experience the wonderful challenge of a new course every day.
Golf Club Bologna is one of the classic Italian courses, designed by Cotton & Harris and built in 1959. The golf club is situated on splendid rolling countryside with marvellous sweeping panoramic views across the surrounding hills and plains. Its layout is constantly being up-dated and in recent years, it has played host to the Italian Amateur Championships many times as well as to a great number of top level professional competitions. The smart and elegant clubhouse blends in well with the surrounding countryside and is the ideal place to sample the refined cuisine of the club restaurant, which has been named amongst the top ten club restaurants in Italy on more than one occasion.
Golf Club Le Fonti is situated in the fascinating Sillaro Valley, with a mild and pleasant microclimate, surrounded by gently rolling hills. Nearby there are several important and attractive health and spa facilities, such as the Castel San Pietro Spa Centre and the Salute Più Health Village, where treatments for physical and mental wellbeing can be combined with the game of golf. The course, which stretches for a total of 6,480 metres, has 18 holes and is par 72, and is extremely varied and entertaining both for experienced players and beginners. The club house provides catering services with an excellent restaurant that develops the local traditions of food and wine with flair and impeccable hospitality. In 2006 and 2007 the Le Fonti Golf Club hosted the Qualifying School of the Ladies European Tour, in 2009, 2010 and 2011 it was chosen for an event of the Alps Tour international professional men’s golf circuit and in 2016 hosted the Italian Professional Championship. Since 2007 it has been accredited as the headquarters of the Ladies Federal Technical Centre.
Modena Golf & Country Club is situated in a strategic position and it can be reached, quickly and easily, from any direction. In fact downtown Modena (only 10 km away), Sassuolo, Vignola, Carpi and other interesting towns are all nearby. Spread over 100 hectares and built following a design by the German champion Bernhard Langer, assisted by the American architect Jim Eng from Boulder, Colorado, this course is one of the finest in Italy. The wide greens and tees, the smoothly winding fairways, the large “hungry” bunkers and the numerous, extra-large water hazards make this course the ideal venue for top level competitions such as the Italian Open, which celebrated its 50th edition here. An executive course, a well equipped driving range and two tennis courts complete the sports facilities on offer. The club also features: a fine gourmet restaurant, where sophisticated and local dishes can be relished, a cosy bar and coffee-shop, two swimming pools, a billiard room, a gym and TV and card lounges to welcome players and their guests after their golfing “efforts”.