Bologna is often missed in the rush to travel between the big three: Roman, Florence and Venice.
But if you stop in Bologna you will find a town with a beautiful arcaded historica centre. This is a busy city with a good feel. It is home to one of Europe's oldest universities.
We had previously visited Bologna many years ago and most recently, we stayed here in 2007 when I was able to arrange a visit to the Omas pen factory. The Omas what? Your must know that Omas is one of the leading manufactures of fountain pens. We stayed at the Hotel Porta San Mamolo and we are very pleased to have this as one of our Great Places to Stay destinations. We found the arcaded streets, medieval towers, historic churches, palaces, galleries and museums all very much worth a visit. The town was a pleasure to walk and it is know for the arcaded sidewalks, the sidewalks that are under the structures of the old palazzos and other buildings.
Bologna is also know for its food and we are some very good food on our visits to this city.
The Piazza Maggiore is the centre of the town and there you find the Duomo. The façade of the S. Petronio Church is rather plain. It was built between 1390 and 1659 and is still not finished. Religious politics.
The Duomo is open daily from 7:45 to 12:30 and then again from 3:00 to 6:00. The Duomo was originally meant to be bigger than St Peter's in Rome. A grand plan, however, the money ran out and the building remained unfinished. The foundation stone was laid in 1390. The side walls were built with the recycled materials from nearby demolished buildings. The base of the façade, is a striking contrast to the unfinished upper part and has elegant moldings red Veronese marble and Istrian stone. On the floor you can check out the meridian line that was traced back in 1655. This is actually a sun calendar. An opening in the ceiling allows a beam of sunlight onto the bronze strip. The strip is engraved with the days of the year and signs of the zodiac.
On our 2007 visit we found the security into the church to be very tight. That year they would not let me into the Duomo as they said my camera bag was too big.
Palazzo del Podestà.
Piazza Maggorie is the heart of the city.
The piazza includes the Basilica di San Petronio, Palazzo dei Notai, Palazzo d'Accursio, Palazzo del Podestra and Palazzo dei Bianchi.
The Piazza was originally an area of grass. In 1200 the Municipality commenced buying up houses and land to assemble the square. It was the Platea Communis, and later named after Vittorio Emanuel II. In 1945 the square and the surrounding area took the name Piazza Maggiore.
The piazza has the Palazzo d'Accursio (the former city hall), the Palazzo dei Notai (former notaries' guild), Asicilica of San Petronio (the Duomo), Palazzo dei Banchi (former banking center), Palazzo dei Podestà Bologna (former police and justice offices)
The Northeast corner opens into the smaller Piazza Re Enzo.
In the Piazza del Nettuno was built to give prominence to Statua del Nettuno, the statue at the centre of the piazza. In 1565 the area was totally altered and enlarged to make it suitable for the new square and the new statue. Piazza del Nettuno gave a new look to the whole area: it served as a connection with Piazza Maggiore, thus unifying an area once divided. The statue was built between 1563 and 1567. On the square is the municipal building with a monument in honour of the partisans dead during WWII, and Sala Borsa which has been adapted to be the municipal library.
On the other side of the square there is Palazzo Re Enzo. Palazzo Re Enzo was originally known as “the new palace” to distinguish it from the older Palazzo del Podestà. From 1249 it became a prison for King Enzo. King Enzo was the son of the Emperor Federico II, he was taken prisoner during the battle of Fossalta and lived in this palace until his death in 1272. At present, Palazzo Re Enzo, still known with this name, hosts exhibitions and other events.
Even thought Bologna is know for education and food, it is really pens that keep pulling us back to this beautiful city. In 2007 we came to Bologna to visit with the OMAS pen company. After the visit, I remember enjoying drinks in the Piazza Maggorie. Flash forward and in 2019 we return to Bologna to visit with Scrittura Bolognese, known as SCRIBO. This is an exciting new pen company that was started by some of the former employees in OMAS. More information on SCRIBO's pens and the visit will be found on glennspens.com
Yes most European cities have a few streets with arcades to walk through. Bologna has more than probably anywhere else.
The Portico di San Luca, at the Porta Saragozza, is the longest in the world.
At the beginning shops nestle behind the arches, and the arcade is busy with people going about their everyday business. But as the arcade starts to climb the hill the shops peter out, and there is no-one to be seen. Well, this is not one of the arcades in the business centre. It was built between 1674 and 1793 to provide shelter for worshippers making the long trip up to the sanctuary. It stretches 3.5 km and has 666 arches, leading all the way up the hill towards the Sanctuary of the Modonna diSan Luca.