About Bologna…

Russet-coloured Bologna, rich in history, art, culture, cuisine and music, is often overlooked in favour of the country’s more well-known tourism honeypots nearby but is all the more appealing for it.Consider Bologna’s merits: it’s the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, its prestigious cultural institutions earned it European Capital of Culture status in 2000, and its well-preserved historical centre is one of the largest in the entire country. Add to this its lively university population and its culinary prowess and Bologna’s appeal is truly multi-faceted. The city’s foremost attractions lie within its architectural gems from Renaissance palaces and medieval towers to antique churches and more famously, 40km (25m) of elegant, ochre-coloured arcades. Many tourists start their discovery of Bolongna at city’s twin piazzas, Maggiore and Nettuno, handsome public spaces sealed on all sides by medieval palazzi. Here, amid attractive terracota, burnt orange and yellow hued facades, the Bolognese come to shop, pray, chat and attend lectures; the city’s university, founded in 1088, is the oldest in the world, earning Bologna the nickname La Dotta ('The Learned'). Bologna also goes under the moniker of La Grassa ('The Fat'), thanks to its hearty, local cuisine. It goes far beyond the world famous spaghetti bolognese (something the locals never eat - they call the sauce ragu and would never mix it with spaghetti, but with tagliatelle). Other local specialities include mortadella (sausage), tortellini, cured pork meats such as prosciutto and salami. There's also an unexpected side to the city. Two centuries ago, Bologna featured open canals that today are visible in the form of underground waterways. Head to Via Piella where through a hole in the wall, visitors can glimpse a scene reminiscent of Venice - water lapping the foundations of colourful, multi-storeyed buildings. This is also evident at Piazza XX Settembre.

History

Bologna started life in the 6th century BC as Felsina until tribes from Gaul took over two centuries later. The Gauls survived for another couple of hundred years before surrendering to the Romans, who renamed it Bononia, the inspiration for the city’s modern name. The most important date that followed was 1088 when the university was founded and the city continued to thrive as an independent commune. Wealth inspired construction and during the medieval period, key buildings sprang up and came to symbolise the heart of the city: among these were the Two Towers, the Basilica of San Petronio and King Enzo’s Palace. Leading families were also responsible for the construction of around 180 towers, of which around 15 still stand today. However the constant power struggle between the papalcy and the Roman Empire for control of northern Italy inevitably involved Bologna. Papal troops wrested control of the city in 1506 and it expanded under church rule. Many of the city’s churches were built during this period and the city boasted 96 convents, more than any other city in Italy. Papal control continued until Napoleon arrived at the end of the 18th century, freeing the city and placing it under French rule. By 1860 however, Bologna had joined the newly formed kingdom of Italy. In 1941, Italy entered WWII as an ally of Germany. The result was devastating; the mass deportation of Bolognese Jews and widespread aerial bombardment of the city’s historic centre. In 1943, when Mussolini was deposed by a coup, Italy signed an armistice with the Allies and was finally liberated in 1945. After the war, the city became a leading industrial centre, cemented by its growing importance as one of the country’s main railway hub. More recently, in 2006, it was crowned a City of Music by UNESCO, thanks to its repertoire of electronic, jazz, classical music and more, celebrated in a year-round calendar of events. As well as its artistic and historical traditions, Bologna is renowned for its food, sports, and the joie de vivre of its inhabitants.

Things to see in Bologna

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Tourist information:
Bologna Welcome
Piazza Maggiore 1/e - 40124
Tel: 0512 39660.
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 0900-1900, Sun 1000-1700.
Other branches are located at the train station and at the airport.  

Basilica di San Petronio (Basilica of St Petronius)


Named after the city's patron saint, the Basilica of St Petronius is Bologna's largest and greatest church, the fifth-largest basilica in the world. Its imposing pockmarked facade dominates Piazza Maggiore. With construction beginning in 1392, the basilica was originally intended to be larger than St Peter's in Rome. Plans came to a halt, however, when the pope refused permission for such a grandiose scheme. The unfinished facade stares across the piazza like a jilted bride, her rosy complexion topped by a heavy frown of bare brick. Carvings in the central door, depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments, are by Sienese artist Jacopo della Quercia. Inside, a brass meridian in the floor of the north aisle forms an ingenious solar clock - a small hole in the roof allows the sun to shine on the correct spot. Designed in 1656, this sundial was used to uncover discrepancies in the Julian calendar and led to the leap year being created. Tradition has it that when the sun's rays fall in the shape of a heart, it is time to seek a husband. Models of the completed church can be seen in the Basilica Museum. Head to the terrace for panoramic views of Bologna's cityscape.
Opening Times: Daily 0745-1315 and 1500-1830.
Admission Fees: No (charge for entry to terrace).
Disabled Access:Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Piazza Maggiore, Bologna, Italy
Telephone: 0512 25442.

Basilica di Santo Stefano (Basilica of St Stephen)


Standing in the piazza of the same name, the Basilica di St Stefano is a jumbled complex of interconnecting churches, cloisters, courtyards and crypts. Once there were seven churches here, now there are a mere four. The bulk of the building, including the city's oldest church, San Vitale e Agricola , dates from the fifth century. To the right is the Romanesque Chiesa di Crocifisso, which houses the bones of St Petronius, and the Chiesa del San Sepolcro, whose octagonal shape suggests it began life as a baptistry. The Chiesa della Santa Trinità leads into a colonnaded cloister, with a beautiful portico and loggia. The adjoining museum houses a small collection of painting and frescoes.
Opening Times: Mon-Fri 9:00-12:30 and 15:30-1830; Holidays 09:00-13:00 and 15:30-19:00.
Admission Fees: No
Address: Via Santo Stefano 24, Bologna, Italy

Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune)


This 16th-century fountain is the work of Flemish sculptor Jean Boulogne de Douai (known to posterity as Giambologna) and based on a design by Palermitan painter Tommaso Laureti. When it is lit up at night, the shadow of the mighty bronze Neptune looms across the piazza, his trident clasped firmly in his left hand and a fish squirming beneath his foot. At his heel, four angels representing the four winds playfully blow water through their pipes. Below, the four voluptuous sirens symbolise the four continents (as speculated at the time). 
                            

Sala Borsa (Stock Exchange)


It is tribute to both the strength of Bologna's cultural life and the forward thinking of the local authorities that the Sala Borsa has turned its back on the world of high finance to serve as a meeting point and source of reference for the citizens of the city. This grand old building is now Italy's largest multimedia library and reopened after its big makeover in 2001 and since has proved popular with Bologna's large student community, although tourists will be as impressed by the grand interior and the Roman remains below floor level as they will by the amenities.
Opening Times: Tues-Fri 10:00-20:00, Sat 10.00-19:00.
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access:Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Piazza del Nettuno, Bologna, Italy
Telephone: 05121 94426.

Biblioteca communale dell'Archiginnasio (The Archiginnasio public library)



Behind San Petronio, in Piazza Galvani, is the Archiginnasio, a gracious old building that was formerly the university and is now one of the largest municipal libraries in Europe, with around 700,000 volumes. Its painted halls are stacked high with rare leather-bound volumes too delicate to touch and entry is strictly limited, to avoid overloading the sagging floors. Fans of Rossini should take a look at the Stabat Mater Room (open in the morning only), named in honour of the famous composition by Rossini that was performed here for the first time on 18 March 1842. The main reason to make the trip, however, is to see the wood-panelled medical faculty dissection theatre, the 17th-century Teatro Anatomico (also open mornings only). It was destroyed by WWII bombing and has been completely restored, using as much of the original wood as possible. Photos on display show the extent of the war damage. The town's gentry used to have to pay to attend the world's first public dissections (overseen by an Inquisition priest, to check if proceedings were spiritually acceptable) but today entry is free of charge and, mercifully, gore free.
Opening Times: Mon-Fri 09:00-18:45, Sat 09:00-13:45 (main reading room).
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access:Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Piazza Galvani, Bologna, Italy
Telephone: 0512 76811.

Le Due Torri (The Two Towers)



The Two Towers are among the city's most recognisable landmarks. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the noble families of Bologna raised over 100 towers across the city in successive attempts to outdo each other. Of the 20 medieval skyscrapers that survive today, the Asinelli and the Garisenda towers are Bologna's most famous. Standing at the end of Via Rizzoli, they lean precariously like a couple of proud old dowagers. The taller of the two, the 98m (320ft) Torre degli Asinelli (built between 1109 and 1119), can be climbed and offers spectacular views of the city if you're prepared to climb 498 steps. Her stumpy companion, the 48m (157ft) Torre Garisenda, was cut down to size in the 14th century, at the request of Giovanni Visconti da Oleggio, when her stoop threatened to topple her.
Opening Times: Daily 0900-1800 (summer); daily 0900-1700 (winter).
Admission Fees: Yes (for the Asinelli Tower).
Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Address: Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, Bologna, Italy

Museo Morandi


This charming museum devoted to the 20th-century, Bologna-born painter Giorgio Morandi, occupies part of the town hall, in the Palazzo d'Accursio. As well as the largest collection of his paintings (quiet, luminescent still lifes - more than 250 in total,) there is a reconstruction of his studio, and displays from his own art collection.
Opening Times: Tues-Fri 1100-1800, Sat & Sun 1100-2000.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Piazza Maggiore 6, Bologna, Italy
Telephone: 0512 03332.

San Domenico


The church of San Domenico, consecrated in 1251, was built to house the relics of St Domenic, the founder of the Domenican Order. Nicolo Pisano designed the 13th-century Arca di San Domenico that houses the saint's bones, with additions by many Bolognese artists. The reliefs illustrating the saint's life are by Pisano and his pupils. Pisano sculpted the statues on top, Nicola dell'Arca (1469-73) designed the canopy and a young Michaelangelo carved the angel on the right and the figures of St Proculus and St Petronius.
Opening Times: Mon-Fri 0930-1230 and 1530-1830, Sat & Sun 0930-1230 and 1530-1730.
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access:No
Unesco: No
Address: Piazza San Domenico 13, Bologna, Italy
Telephone: 05164 00411.  

Santa Maria della Vita



Tucked away down Via Clavature is the church of Santa Maria della Vita, which shelters one of Bologna's most dramatic works of art. Stepping into the gloomy interior of the church is like passing into another world after the bustle of the lively street. Nicolo dell'Arca's Pieta, known historically as the Mourning Marys around the Dead Christ, stands inside the church - a silent 'scream in stone', as it was once memorably described by the Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio.
Opening Times: Mon-Sat 1000-1700, Sun 1630-1900 (sanctuary).
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Address: Via Clavature 10, Bologna, Italy
Telephone: 0512 36245.  

Santuario di Madonna di San Luca (Sanctuary of the Saint Luca Madonna)



This sanctuary in the hills 3.5km (2 miles) from the city centre, is mainly interesting for the route to it: a 3.5km (2 mile) portico of 666 arches alternating with 15 chapels, built (1674-1793) to protect the icon as it was paraded up and down the hill. It's the longest portico of its kind in the world. The current church was built in the 18th century. Its icon of the Virgin Mary is attributed to St Luke and every year, in May, it is brought down to the city for a week. The views from the sanctuary are dramatic and it's a cool, calm escape from the city. For those looking to work off some of the worst effects of 'Bologna, La Grassa', walking at least one way is a must.
Opening Times: Mon-Sat 0630–1700, Sun 0700-1500 (Nov-Feb); Mon-Sat 0630-1900, Sun 0700-1900 (Mar-Oct).
Admission Fees: No                                                                               
Disabled Access: No                                                                        
Unesco: No
Address: Via di San Luca, Bologna, Italy
Telephone: 05161 42339.

Museo Ebraico (Jewish Museum)


The Jewish Museum was opened in time for Bologna's year as a European City of Culture in 2000. Bologna was the second city of the Papal States to force Jewish people to live in a particular part of the city. This area - the ghetto - is where the museum is located. Despite this, Jewish historical and cultural contributions to the region were extensive. The museum explores both the greater Jewish identity and that within Emilia Romagna, and its materials link to the synagogue of Modena and the Jewish Museums of Soragna and Ferrara.
Opening Times: Sun-Thurs 1000-1800, Fri 1000-1600.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access:No
Unesco: No
Address: Via Valdonica 1/5, Bologna, Italy
Telephone: 05129 11280.

Museo Civico Archeologico (Archaeological Museum)

 


This superb museum is located in the 15th-century Ospedale della Morte (the old mortuary). It contains one of Italy's most important collections of Egyptian artefacts, including a splendid cycle of bas-reliefs from the tomb of Horemhed. The Roman section is also first rate. Nevertheless, this museum is best known for having one of the finest Etruscan sections outside Lazio, featuring finds from the city of Felsing (from the ninth century BC to the Gallic invasion in the mid-fourth century BC). Most renowned is Askos Benacci, a sculpture of a man on a horse that is in turn riding upon another llama-like animal. The collections are also strong on aspects of daily life.
Opening Times: Tues-Fri 0900-1500, Sat & Sun 1000-1830.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Via dell'Archiginnasio 2, Bologna, Italy
Telephone: 05127 57211.

Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna (National Gallery of Bologna)


The National Gallery, tucked away under the arcades in Via Belli Arti, celebrates the city's artistic and spiritual past from the 14th to the 16th century. There are some fine examples of works by fathers of baroque Guido Reni and the Carracci brothers. Deeply influenced by the Counter Reformation that was sweeping the country, the paintings are highly emotionally charged and deeply religious. Among the Italian old masters, Raphael's Ecstasy of St Cecilia and El Greco's Last Supper should not be missed.
Opening Times: Tues-Sat 0900-1900.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Address: Via Belli Arti 56, Bologna, Italy
Telephone: 05142 09411.