|Piazza Maggiore, Bologna|
• Private cars are banned from the city centre during the day
• The museums are free to visit (except for the Pinacoteca Nazionale)
• There are many food markets and a huge weekly market (Friday and Saturday)
• The porticoes shelter you from the sun or the rain
• The food is amazing ( it is the unofficial culinary capital of Italy)
• It has the world's largest perfectly preserved medieval city centre
Piazza Maggiore, the magnificent main square is a good place to start. Get a free map of the city in the large tourist information office opposite the cathedral before you begin your exploration. First off, inside the gothic interior of Basilica San Petronio on the left of the square, there is an interesting Zodiacal sundial 67m long on the floor. It was created by astronomer Domenico Cassini in the 17th century. If you look up you’ll see a tiny window in the apse where the sun shines through illuminating the meridian line which shows the exact period of the current year.
The Palazzo Comunale (Palazzo d'Accursio), the elegant adjacent building, is home to three museums with many illustrious and priceless works of art throughout. A huge Bramante stairway leads to the first floor; the low, wide steps were to allow those on horse-back access to the upper floors. The museum of painting and decorative objects on the first floor has richly frescoed ornate rooms with lovely views of the piazza from the windows. In the Sala Farnese on the second floor, the ceiling from the 1800’s is beautifully illustrated. If you are interested in art you’ll enjoy the Morandi museum on the third floor. It contains about 200 paintings by Bologna born artist Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) the greatest Italian still life painter of the 20th century. The collection spans his career from youth to maturity.
Leaving the building around the corner you’ll find yourself in the adjoining Piazza di Nettuno. Take the time to admire all the details of the stunning Neptune fountain.
|Fontana di Nettuno Bologna|
Palazzo Re Enzo on the right
|Bologna's iconic Two Towers|
Garisenda and Asinelli
Near the Two Towers is the gorgeous, atmospheric, Piazza Santo Stefano – a must-see.
Head towards Via Clavature to see the amazing sculptures in the Santuario Santa Maria della Vita (which I wrote about in my previous post) and then explore the tiny side streets with many small food shops in the medieval market area. There are fishmongers, vegetable vendors, chocolatiers, homemade pastas, salumi (cured pork, beef, lamb or veal) and cheeses at La Baita. Check out the mouth-watering pastries and the panificio on via Orefici. Bologna has so many good restaurants, trattorias and osterias; I believe that no matter where you choose to eat in this city you’ll have a wonderful meal. If you want a quick takeaway lunch Pizzeria Il Mascalzone on via dell'Indipendenza is the place to go.
Now for one of Bologna’s secrets…If you continue walking down towards via Piella and cross a bridge you’ll come to a wall with a little window cut out in it about two feet square. When you look through this window you’ll get a surprise…
|Piccola Venezia, Bologna|
The shops re-open about 3.30pm. One of my favourites is the Feltrinelli bookstore. I always return from Italy with Italian books, CDs or DVDs.
|La Feltrinelli bookstore Bologna|
Lastly, you could end your day with a hike up to the beautiful Santuario di San Luca. We first went there in August 1998 so the photos below are scanned. The sanctuary is located on the hill that oversees the entire city. Take bus number 20 from the city centre to the stop at the Meloncello Arch. Bologna has a frequent and efficient bus (and train) service. From here it is a 4k walk to the church at the top under the world's longest portico of 666 arches and you'll pass 15 frescoed chapels along the way. Built in the mid 18th century it offers lovely views over the city and countryside.
During July and August there are free films outdoors on a giant screen in Piazza Maggiore at 10pm. With a gelato in hand, sitting in the piazza, watching a movie in the open-air on a warm summer’s night is a magical way to end a day in Bologna. You could easily spend a week here and still not see all it has to offer!
|Open-air cinema Piazza Maggiore Bologna|
image courtesy of http://www.tafter.it/
Update: For a walking itinerary in Bologna complete with an interactive map have a look at this excellent post at https://delightfullyitaly.com/2015/03/08/bologna-in-one-day/
My other post about Bologna: A Night in Bologna