La bella bologna
After a month and week stay in France, I headed to northern Italy’s city of Bologna with my girlfriend. The plane left Paris late afternoon, and we landed in Bologna, capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, two hours later. We have a reason to visit the city as I have a sister who lives there. When we arrived in Bologna, my sister and her children were waiting for us. In quick time we were ensconced in their nice apartment, not far from the airport. We set the program to do some sightseeing the next day with the list of suggestions from my sister and her husband.
Bologna is a wonderful, mid-sized city, easy to get lost in and great fun. As we tour the compact centro storico, we are shielded from the heat by the arcaded streets, some of which date to the 12th century. The streets are lined with palaces and churches whose red-brick facades are the signature of a metropolis, rendering the town the nickname la rossa (the Red one). Traditionally a stronghold of progressive socialism-it is often joked that its politics are reflected in the red buildings. Due the large student population Bologna is an animated place. The University of Bologna is Europe’s oldest, founded over 900 years ago. Michelangelo studied there as well. It remains the backbone of city’s identity as Italy’s most independent-minded, intellectual metropolis. The alleys around university are packed with little restaurants, cafes and bars. This city is known also because of the Bolognese sauce.
In the heart of Bologna is the city’s main square, Piazza Maggiore. Adjacent to the square stands the fountain of Neptune, which dates back to the 16th century, featuring an impressively muscled Neptune, a trident in one arm and a heavy foot on the head of a dolphin. Around his feet are four highly erotic cherubs, also with dolphins. We strolled around there admiring the palace where Enzo was imprisoned, Palazzo Re Enzo, is a gothic-looking structure joined on to Palazzo del Podesta , which these days contains the tourist information centre.
Another great experience was climbing to top of Bologna’s ancient and tallest tower. The Torre degli Asinelli and the Torre Garisenda are two leaning towers which are the city’s landmark, standing at 97.2m and 48m respectively. They are named after the families who built them in the early 12th century and we climbed up in the highest, Torre Degli asineli which is 97.20 meters. Climbing up 498 steps of wooden stairs was no easy feat but the reward was worthwhile. Once we arrived at the top, we were awarded with a beautiful view of the city and the rolling green hills beyond.
I discovered that in the past there were numerous towers erected among the streets, as symbol of force, power and wealth. During this period Bologna showed its undisputed prestige through its vertical architecture, reaching heights that weren’t easy to find in other parts of the world. In its heyday in the 12th and 13th centuries Bologna boasted around 100 towers, of which fewer than 20 now remain.
I fell head over heels in love with the Bologna public library off of the Piazza Maggiore. The Sala Borsa is a beautiful building with a rich history and serves as both a place of learning as well as a cultural center. We wandered in on the next afternoon and the place was buzzing with university students working on projects, senior citizens reading the paper and hip young people on laptops. The best part was the see through floor of the library which provides a window to an archeological dig going on below.
We decided to explore some of the notable churches of the city and were delighted to discover the Santa Maria De Vita, a church that dates to the seventh century yet houses compianto, a group of seven statues that were sculpted two centuries before the construction of the church.
The statues was made by the sculptor Nicollo dell dArcha (died in 1494) stages a scene with the six grief stricken characters of Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Salome, the Virgin Mary, Saint John the evangelist, Mary of Cleapohaeus and Mary Magdalene, standing around Christ’s catafalque in visible distress. The extreme realism of the scene, particularly the deep psychological traits of the figures, suggests that Niccolo modeled his works on the agony of the patients staying in the nearby hospital.
D’Accursio Palace, housed since 1937, in the old Apartment of the Cardinal Legate, the Municipal Art Collection. Its rooms, filled with outstanding and diverse art work, portray the decorative taste of noble families from the 16th to the 18th centuries. The 188 coats of arms of the Legates who ruled Bologna from 1327 to 1744 are displayed in Urbanus’s Room.
Luigi Galvani statue in Bologna, Italy. Famous physician and physicist