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Underground Bologna: memories from Bologna’s subsoil

bologna sotterranea hotel maggiore bolognaUnder the roads, squares and arcades making up the urban geography of Bologna, the subsoil of this city hides an intricate maze consisting of galleries, tunnels and underground routes that extend for many kilometres and guard the secrets of the historic events tracing back to Ancient Rome, through dark centuries and bearing witness to the great wars of the early 20th century.
Despite being still unknown by most visitors and tourists, underground Bologna is one of the most suggestive and charming sceneries offered by the chief town of Emilia Region. If indeed on one hand, there is Felsinea – thus named by the Etrurians – a live and energetic city where amusement goes hand in hand with the typical laboriousness of the region, on the other hand there is underground Bologna: two parallel city levels able to reveal the facets of the same medal.
Bologna’s subsoil still carries the signs of those who passed through it and built  the city on it, weaving historic networks still able to charm those who adventure among its alleys. An excellent example of technical domain: ancient civilizations built and exploited the networks of underground Bologna, until creating an actual maze consisting of channels that, over time, gave the name to many streets above ground.
Thanks to the waters of the Reno and Savena rivers that were feeding its thick network of galleries, the subsoil of Bologna became part of the city life such to allow the opening of three ports, the most famous one connecting Ferrara to Venice.
Today, after being restored and made accessible to visitors and tourists, the timeless water infrastructure of underground Bologna is a jewel of technical supremacy that can be visited through guided tours that tell the history and allow re-living ages made of conquests and mysteries. For those who wish to discover the subsoil of Bologna, we are proposing three main stages, all worth seeing.

Aposa torrent: beating heart of the city life.
One of the itineraries proposed in the subsoil of Bologna allows exploring the stream that was the main protagonist of Bolognese city life in ancient times. The Aposa torrent is the only natural water stream of Emilia’s chief town and for this reason, it guided the commercial and industrial history of the city throughout the centuries: indeed, it was supplying wash-houses, mills, silk and dyeing factories of the city, of which it soon became the beating heart.
In the 17th century, the channels of underground Bologna crossed by the torrent were gradually buried and surmounted by bridges and other man-made structures in order to improve sanitary conditions and expand the area to erect new buildings, until they completely disappeared during the early 20th century.
Currently, the torrent can be accessed thanks to reclamation works that were executed during the late ‘90s: through two entrances, one in Piazza San Martino and the other in Piazza Minghetti, it is possible to access the area of Bologna subsoil that preserves the signs of the passage of different ancient civilizations where once the famous torrent was flowing.

Bagni di Mario or Conserva di Valverde
Wrongly identified in the 19th century as a thermal centre built in Republican age by consul Caio Mario, the Conserva di Valverde has in reality, recent origins: indeed, it is a tank dating back to the Renaissance built by Tommaso Laureti in 1631.
The itinerary proposed in this area of underground Bologna allows seeing part of an amazing renovation project of the city ordered by Pope Pius IV: in particular, the Conserva was conceived with the purpose to drain and purify water coming from the hills to be directed towards the hydraulic structures on the surface, one of the most famous is the Fountain of Neptune.
Structured on two levels of Bologna subsoil, the visit at Conserva di Valverde allows accessing a marvellous octagonal hall surmounted by an imposing dome surrounded by eight small cavities intended to collect water.

Air-raid shelters for civilians and soldiers.
During the First World War, the architectures of underground Bologna underwent a reconstruction project in order to render tunnels and channels safe for civilians and soldiers. The construction of bunkers in Bologna subsoil to shelter people during air-raids represented an operation with major impact for public and private safety.

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