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Old March 22nd, 2019, 07:56 PM   #1
WasabiHoney
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Bologna: falling in love with La Rossa

Day 1, Saturday 16/1: “Ciaaao, I am Bolooogna”

Preparing for my short internship in Italy in 2016, I was looking forward to visiting Bologna as the sightseeing and nightlife destination of choice, being among Italy’s largest and most vibrant cities, with a well-preserved historic center that is among the most extensive in Europe, and located only 35km from Imola where I was based. So that’s where I headed right away on my first weekend. After my arrival, I lost more than an hour at the train station trying to figure out when the last train to Imola was, how to buy tickets, and which bus line to take to go to the center and back, all the while being harassed by beggars from Eastern Europe (a not so pleasant first contact with the city), then finally boarded the bus that stops right outside the historic area, which I learned at that moment is pedestrianized on weekends. While asking the driver for instructions, I was overheard by an old woman who spoke surprisingly good English, and she offered me to show me around some of the main sights of the center, where she was planning to meet her husband later.

We got down next to the Basilica of San Francesco, and walked eastwards towards Piazza Maggiore, the city’s most central and best known square. Since we were chatting all along, it was only when we actually reached the square that I snapped my first pictures of the city. Here we see the impressive Palazzo d’Accursio with its landmark clock tower, housing the city hall, and the medieval looking Palazzo dei Notai:

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Old March 22nd, 2019, 07:59 PM   #2
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On the other side is the huge Basilica of San Petronio (Saint Petronius), patron saint of Bologna. The picture eerily evokes Giosuč Carducci’s poem Nella Piazza di San Petronio (“On the Square of St Petronius”):

“Surges in the clear winter the dark turreted Bologna,
And the hill over it laughs, white with snow
It is the suave hour when the dying sun salutes
The towers and your temple, divine Petronius”

I have to say that, despite the clear winter sky, the weather was bitterly cold, and I was wearing a scarf around my neck for one of the first times of my life!

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Old March 22nd, 2019, 08:00 PM   #3
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I’ll get back to these same landmarks over the next days of my visit and provide some information about them. After I asked for a map and information at the tourist center on the northern side of the square, my guide showed me the surprising “whispering arcade” located right next to it (again, more on this in the next days), and by that time, it was already late afternoon and the sun had started to set. We walked through one of the arches of the elegant Palazzo dei Banchi on the eastern side of Piazza Maggiore, to find ourselves in the narrow alleys of the Quadrilatero, the old medieval market, lined with shops selling Grana Padano cheese and mortadella (a specialty of Bologna) as well as tables and chairs:

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Old March 22nd, 2019, 08:01 PM   #4
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Walking through the market area, we arrive to the dark and medieval looking Via Sampieri:

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Old March 22nd, 2019, 08:02 PM   #5
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Then take Via Santo Stefano southwestwards towards the homonymous square. This is where I first take notice of the elegant and extensive porticoes that Bologna is famous for, of which there are over 45 km sheltering the sidewalks all around the city, but particularly in the historic center. The one below runs under Palazzo Bolognini:

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Old March 22nd, 2019, 08:04 PM   #6
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At the southeastern end of Santo Stefano square stands the unique Basilica of Santo Stefano, which is actually a complex of several interconnected religious edifices. It is locally known as Sette Chiese ("Seven Churches") and Santa Gerusalemme ("Holy Jerusalem"), because according to tradition it was built by Bologna’s patron saint San Petronio, then bishop of the city, who wished to create a complex of seven churches that reproduced the locations of Christ’s Passion.

The entrance to this ecclesiastical labyrinth is through the largest and most prominent church, the 8th century Church of St Stephen or of the Holy Crucifix, which also gives its name to the whole complex:

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Old March 22nd, 2019, 08:05 PM   #7
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The name refers to a large suspended crucifix dating from the 14th century, and the church also contains a Baroque sculpture of the crucifixion, but my attention was caught instead by a large Nativity scene that had been set in the holiday period and still hadn’t been removed:

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Old March 22nd, 2019, 08:06 PM   #8
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To the other side is the late 4th century Church of Saints Vitale and Agricola, which is actually the oldest part of the complex. It is dedicated to two saints, a servant and master, who were the first two martyrs from Bologna at the time of Diocletian. In the 15th century there was a belief that the remains of Saint Peter were housed there, and as a result, the Pope of the time had the roof removed and the church filled with soil to prevent it from affecting the pilgrim trade in Rome!

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Old March 22nd, 2019, 08:07 PM   #9
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In the middle is the 5th century Church of the Holy Sepulcher, intended to be similar to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Built on the site of a Roman temple to Isis, it is octagonal in shape, and thus in all probability was originally a baptistery. Temples to Isis were usually rededicated in Christian times to the Madonna or Saint Mary Magdalene, and although this one was named after the Holy Sepulcher, during the middle ages, the prostitutes of Bologna would come here on Easter Sunday to pray in memory of Mary Magdalene. This part also originally housed the relics of San Petronio, found here in the 12th century, but in 2000 the body of the saint was moved to the much larger Basilica of San Petronio, where his head already was:

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Old March 22nd, 2019, 08:08 PM   #10
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The 13th-century Holy Garden or Courtyard of Pilate, so called to commemorate the location of Jesus’ trial, is accessed from inside the Church of the Sepulcher. It is bordered by a portico in Romanesque style with cruciform columns in brick, while in the center is an 8th century limestone basin called Catino di Pilato (“Pilate's Cat”). The basin was once believed to be the one used by Pontius Pilate to wash his hands before sending Jesus to his death, however the most plausible theory today states that it was a receptacle for donations of bread and wine to be distributed to the clergy and the poor:

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Old March 22nd, 2019, 08:09 PM   #11
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The complex also houses a Benedictine cloister, larger than the courtyard of Pilate and built on two floors, of which the lower one bears large pre-Romanesque (10th century) arch openings, while the upper one is a 12th-century Romanesque loggia with some grotesque capitals shaped like human heads. In its center stands an impressive limestone well:

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Old March 22nd, 2019, 08:10 PM   #12
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The bell tower, originally from the 13th century but raised in the 19th century, can be clearly seen from the cloister:

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Old March 22nd, 2019, 08:11 PM   #13
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We exit the complex, and it feels good to be back to the light after the dark and otherworldly atmosphere inside! Heading back to where we came from, we pass through the triangular square of San Stefano, lined with palaces. The most impressive of these is the 15th-century Palazzo Isolani on the northeastern side, with its reddish hue, white Corinthian capitals of the portico’s columns, and the elegant ogival arches above the windows that bear medallions with busts:

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Old March 22nd, 2019, 08:13 PM   #14
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On the other (southwestern) side of the square is a picturesque group of houses dating back to the 13th-15th centuries, in well-preserved Gothic style. Notable is Casa Sforno, whose part of the portico bears only one arch that is however higher than all the others. The Sforno were Jews who came from Barcelona to Bologna in the 15th century:

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Old March 22nd, 2019, 08:14 PM   #15
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We stop at a small eatery in a side alley where I have fresh ravioli with a ricotta and spinach filling in a 4-cheese sauce, fresh pasta being one of the culinary specialties of Bologna. By the time we continue towards Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, home to the city’s emblematic “Two Towers”, night has fallen and it’s time for me to part ways with my guide and head for a wild night out, but not before snapping this shot of the lit towers:



While I didn’t see much of Bologna on this first day, it was enough to make me realize the immense artistic and architectural wealth to be found there, and I can’t wait to be back next day to explore for more!
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Old March 23rd, 2019, 12:14 PM   #16
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Great, very nice new thread, cat; great photos from Bologna
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Old March 23rd, 2019, 05:43 PM   #17
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Guys, for every other day I spent in Bologna I'm going to post a map of the city with my itinerary as usual (the first afternoon was nothing but a quick glance), so let's "waste" a few posts so I can directly post the map on the second page Any questions/discussion about the previous pictures?
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Old March 24th, 2019, 03:12 AM   #18
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Glad to see you have finally opened your own Bologna thread! Great start, I'll be waiting for the next updates!
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Old March 24th, 2019, 11:22 AM   #19
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Italy is full of magic.
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Old March 24th, 2019, 12:24 PM   #20
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Please poost more photos from Bologna, cat
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