HALF DAY TOUR (2,5/3 hours)
Bologna la Dotta, la Grassa e la Rossa! (Bologna the Erudite, the Fat and the Red!) The Erudite because the oldest university in the world was built here, the Fat for its excellent cuisine and the Red for the warm color of its bricks and its roofs!
This tour starts from the impressive Fountain of Neptune, one of the most famous symbols of the city. The statue of the Flemish sculptor Giambologna was created between 1563 and 1566 as a symbol of the Pope’s power, as Neptune dominates the waters so the Pope dominated the world.
Moving towards Piazza Maggiore you will see Palazzo Re Enzo, the place of imprisonment of the son of Emperor Frederick II, King Enzo, who was captured by the Bolognese during the battle of Fossalta. He lived in this palace for 23 years despite his incredible attempts at escape.
Then you will visit the splendid Piazza Maggiore, the beating heart of the city for more than 2500 years. The most important public buildings in Bologna overlook the “piazza”, as the Bolognese simply call it.
Palazzo del Podestà is the oldest building and it was built as the first seat of the city government. The namesake vault that connects it to Palazzo Re Enzo is complicit in many secrets and ancient confessions thanks to its particular acoustics. Whispering to one of the corners you will be heard in the opposite corner of the vault, just try it!
Palazzo D’Accursio (the City Hall) is composed of buildings that tell us at least 300 years of Bolognese history between the 1200s and the 1500s. Today it houses the Municipal Collections of Art in its magnificent rooms in addition to the Mayor’s office and the Council Hall.
Palazzo dei Notai, which in the past was the headquarters of the Bolognese Society of Notaries, is a marvelous building of the late Gothic period. Finally you’ll see Palazzo dei Banchi that scenically close the Piazza. It owes its name to the banks of the money changers who carried out their craft right on the porch of the building. Its facade was designed by Vignola in the second half of the sixteenth century.
The Basilica of San Petronio stands silently and majestically on the Piazza. It is a unique cathedral, wanted and entirely financed by the people for its patron. Even today it is still one of the most splendid examples of Italian Gothic architecture. On the facade, which was never completely finished, there is one of the most beautiful Madonnas of all time, Jacopo della Quercia’s Madonna, also praised by Michelangelo. In addition to pictorial, sculptural and glass masterpieces of Italian art from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, the church has the longest sundial in the world whose precision, even in the modern day, will leave you speechless.
To get acquainted with Bologna “the Fat” you will walk along the Quadrilateral that is characteristic for its narrow alleys where once the ancient city market was located and where today there are assorted shops and banquets with every kind of food: fruit, fish, salami and the famous tortellini! At the end of the day the Bolognese like to enjoy their cocktail in this narrow streets.
A little further on, you will arrive at the Archiginnasio, where you enter the Erudite Bologna. This was the first site of the University which was founded in 1088. Since 1838 the building has housed the splendid Civic Library in which visitors will find something particularly special: the Anatomic Theater, the ancient hall where the Anatomy lessons were held.
The visit continues now in Piazza Santo Stefano, one of the most characteristic and evocative places in the city. The Basilica of Santo Stefano, from which the square takes its name, is actually a complex of sacred buildings also known as the Seven Churches or Holy Jerusalem. Rising above a previous pagan temple dedicated to Isis, on a closer inspection the seven churches that compose it, faithfully recall the construction of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.
From here, walking down Via Santo Stefano, you will arrive at Palazzo della Mercanzia, which is now the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce. In the past, from the small balcony that separates the two Gothic mullioned windows, the merchant judge used to read the sentences to the people who were gathered here at the sound of the bells. The culprits of failure were tied to a stake that was on the central pillar of the loggia and thus exposed to public derision!
The tour ends with the spectacular view of the two famous hanging Towers, the authentic emblem of Bologna: Torre degli Asinelli and the Garisenda. These two towers were built in medieval times by the rich families of the city as a symbol of their power, but also for military purposes. They are among the 24 survivors of a past time when Bologna was also called the Stone Forest or the “Turrita” because of the almost 100 towers existing within the city walls.
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