A weekend in Bologna
The city is not very large, but the best way to enjoy to the fullest its dynamic spirit is to get lost under the porticoes, looking up and following the decorations, the adornments, the flavours, the music and the unexpected surprises.
Bologna, thanks to its long university tradition has thousands of identities and just as many secrets and therefore remains charming also to whom has always known it: for this reason a lot of tourists love it and come back as soon as they can.
We tried to choose a short list of places, not too mainstream, that must be visited, hoping that this list might be useful to find out the charm of this old medieval town on constant evolution.
FIRST DAY: Start from the TOWERS. It will be helpful to understand the identity of Bologna when it was a commune and the great beauty of this odd town. Garisenda (48,16 m) and Asinelli (97,2 m) are the most famous and daring medieval towers still preserved. At the back of the two symbols of the town, spreads a sunburst of roads on which there are amazing medieval buildings all with porticoes.
Taking Strada Maggiore, at number 19 your attention will be certainly caught by the wonderful wood portico of Casa Isolani, one of the few preserved buildings from the thirteenth-century town.
You ‘ll have to look hard to search for the three arrows shot in the wood ceiling: it is a legend how the clumsy archer shot wrong the arrows.
From Strada Maggiore you can make a small deviation passing through Isolani court to reach the most evocative square of the town: PIAZZA SANTO STEFANO.
Built by imitating the Jerusalem temple, today Piazza Santo Stefano is a precious wealth of old buildings, with the wonderful façade of the Basilica of Santo Stefano, known by local inhabitants as “Le Sette Chiese”. There you might have the sensation that everything is precious and that time has stopped for centuries.
After visiting the Sette Chiese take a break and sit in a corner among the buildings of the most ancient senate families, to have a look at the asymmetrical piazza.
As soon as you are satisfied with the show, leaving the Basilica at your back, follow the edge of the piazza moving along the left portico. Don’t let your attention be caught by the pavement that is a bit difficult to walk on and keep your eyes up on Palazzo Bolognini Amorini Salina. Do not look only at the demon’s face, but linger to appreciate the richness of the capitals’ decorations and the pleasant care taken in the definition of the terracotta faces that seem to look at you.
As soon as you leave the piazza, it is better to enter the “Quadrilatero”, name given by the inhabitants of Bologna to the area included among Piazza Maggiore, Via Castiglione, Via Farini and Piazza Galvani. The old trading area will keep you busy just enough time to find the right place where to eat among small shops of cold cuts and the very colourful market.
Inside the Quadrilatero, in via Clavature there is the entrance to the church Santa Maria della Vita, inside the right chapel from the altar is kept one of the masterpiece of Niccolò dell’Arca: the Compianto su Cristo Morto. This expressive and moving terracotta group is probably one of the most precious treasures of the city. Continue your visit toward Piazza Maggiore where you will find the sixth biggest church of the Christian world, San Petronio, which with its non-finished façade embellished by sculptures by Jacopo della Quercia, will invite you inside. There you will find the famous Meridian Line and works of great artistic value among which there is the fifteenth century fresco painted by Giovanni da Modena, depicting the journey of the three Kings, scenes from the life of Saint Petronius, Heaven and Hell.
Coming out from the church, we suggest you to move along the Portico del Pavaglione, a long portico where there were the old university rooms, until the Archaeological Museum and the Archiginnasio, an unmissable stop-over for its importance in the university tradition of the city.
It will be time now to take the lift behind the San Petronio apsis, go up to the Terrace of San Petronio and enjoy the wonderful panoramic view of all the city, in the pinkish light of the sunset that starts to colour the blue hills and the earthenware buildings, which sparkle in the setting sun. Sighing for the wonderful show you will end your trip in the most pleasant way possible.
SECOND DAY: After a rich breakfast at the buffet in the breakfast room of the Hotel Maggiore Bologna, you might decide to spend the second day of your weekend on a trip around the hills that surround the city. If you have a car we suggest to take the roads up the Apennines to the Rocchetta Mattei (attention, better reserve in advance).
Between the hills of Grizzana Morandi and Riola the odd towers of this strange castle stand out.
The guided tour done by volunteers will keep you bewitched until the end of the visit.
Not far from the Rocchetta, at less than 1 km you must not miss the wonderful Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta, designed by the famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto in 1966.
If, instead you don’t want to leave the centre, you can have another 100% Bolognese experience: you can go up by foot along the portico that from the Meloncello Arch, near the stadium, arrives at the San Luca Sanctuary.
It doesn’t matter how the weather will be or at what time are you planning to go, you will be covered by the porticoes, that are lighted up by night and you will meet many people of Bologna who, to keep fit, use to run up to the Madonna di San Luca, one of the rare Black Virgin.