On 28 August I accompanied a group of guys from Hungary and Denmark, travelling here in Emilia – Romagna for work, on a bike ride around the city centre.
Riding a bike downtown following an historical path is quite a fascinating and amazing experience in Bologna since it is a great way to discover the old beautiful corners of the city.After an historical introduction I took the guys around the center of town. I summarize the entire path followed with the 12 stops:
Parco della Montagnola
Piazza 8 Agosto
Via Piella – STOP 1
* Here the group can admire the city water system (the canals) under Bologna, an artificial hydraulic system built from the end 1100. The Canale delle Moline (Moline Channel) is the extension of Canale di Reno. Here you can see a famous corner of the city known as “little Venice”.
Via Galliera – STOP 2
* The ancient street was a monumental one. Nowadays along via Galliera you can notice some important palaces revealing its ancient importance over the times:
– palazzo Felicini, dated 1497 (Italian Renaissance period), decorated with terracotta, that is baked clay
– palazzo Bonasoni, dated 1500
– palazzo Aldrovandi, dated 1725/52, belonging to the Late Baroque period with some important frescoes inside
– palazzo Dal Monte, dated 1529
– palazzo Torfanini: with a beautiful portico of the 1500 (Renaissance) and the façade of the 1700
San Pietro – STOP 3
* Partial view, a glimpse of what is actually the Cathedral of Bologna, representing the symbol of the Roman catholic Church (the “central power”), the bishop’s office. St. Pietro is the city cathedral and was wanted by Pope Gregorio XIII in 1582 seat of the Archbishop (Metropolitana). The building saw its origins in the early Christian era even if the first evidences date back to the 10th century; in the past centuries a baptistery was located in front of the façade. Between the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century the church was radically restored by various architects and for this reason it lost every trace of the primitive Romanesque-Gothic structure.
Via del Monte
Torre Prendiparte – STOP 4
* This is a beautiful example of tower, along with the Asinelli tower are some of the most ancient found among major buildings preserved to this day. Built in the twelfth century by the guelph Prendiparte family, as the last bulwark against the attacks of enemies of the Prendiparti Tower also known as Coronata Tower. It reaches a height of 60 meters, making it the second highest after Asinelli Tower.
Climbing to the top floor, up stairs, comfortable and safe, you can reach a large terrace which, thanks to a safe guard, you can look out and admire the beautiful view over the roofs, buildings, hills and plains of Bologna. The tower now has a different purpose, filled with careful and respectful Guests that are staying at the Residence, and is used as a valuable dwelling for events of great charm and appeal.
Via S. Nicolò
Piazza San Martino
Piazza Marco Biagi
Via dell’Inferno – STOP 5
* We are now entering the Jewish quarter. The layout of Bologna’s 16th century ghetto can still be precisely traced amid the narrow streets in the medieval heart of the city: here, a maze of alleys, covered bridges and small windows tells the story of a whole community forced to live in a specific area of the town by order of the Papal State beginning from 1556. In Bologna, Jews lived in the ghetto until 1569, when they were expelled for the first time. In 1586, they were allowed to come back to town and lived here again until 1593, year of their final expulsion: 900 people left Bologna and no Jewish community was allowed into town for more than two centuries. Entrances to the Jewish quarter were opened in the morning, sealed at dusk and constantly watched: one entrance was at the beginning of via de’ Giudei, a second one at the intersection between via del Carro and via Zamboni, a third one in via Oberdan, where an arch looks onto vicolo Mandria.
Via dell’Inferno was the main artery where many twisted streets ended: via de’ Giudei, vicolo di S. Giobbe, vicolo Mandria, via del Carro and via Valdonica. The name of via dell’Inferno probably comes from being a dark and dangerous street.
Via del Carro
University – STOP 6
* The University of Bologna is perceived as one of the oldest and most famous universities in Europe, founded in the Italian city of Bologna in the 11th century. It became in the 12th and 13th centuries the principal centre for studies in civil and canon law and attracted students from all over Europe. Since it then had no fixed site or student housing, scholars of like nationality formed free associations, or guilds, to secure protections that they could not claim as citizens (see nation). The organizations formed at Bologna became models for modern universities. In 1158 Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa granted privileges to scholars of Bologna that were eventually extended to all Italian universities. The students at Bologna were mostly mature men; as the civil law and canon law were at first the only branches of study, they attracted men already filling office in some department of the church or state—archdeacons, heads of schools, canons of cathedrals, and like functionaries. About the year 1200 the faculties of medicine and philosophy (or liberal arts) were formed. The medical faculty became famous in the 13th century for reviving the practice of human dissection, which had not been used in Europe since Roman times. The faculty of science was developed in the 17th century, and in the 18th century women were admitted as students and teachers. After a period of decline, Bologna was reorganized in 1860 and resumed its place among Italy’s foremost universities. The contemporary university includes faculties of jurisprudence, political science, letters and philosophy, medicine, and engineering.
2 Torri – STOP 7
* The Two towers are the symbol and the image that represents the city throughout the World. Of the 100 towers built in Bologna around the XII century there remain 24, presence of a unique urban fabric … The two towers the traditional symbol of Bologna, stand at the strategic point where the old Aemilian way entered the town. Today they stand right at the middle of the opening of Porta Ravegnana square, but this does not correspond to their original layout, which comprised wooden constructions all around their base and hanging passageways. Made in masonry work, as very few other buildings at that time, they had very important military functions (signalling and defence), beside representing with their imposing heights the social prestige of noble families. In the late 12th century, at least one hundred towers dotted the town’ s skyline, but today only twenty have survived the ravages of fire, warfare and lightning. Quite recently the statue of San Petronio made by Gabriele Brunelli in 1670 was again placed under the towers, after being removed in 1871 for “traffic reasons”. The Asinelli Tower was built in 1109 – 19 by the Asinelli family, but by the following century it had already passed under the control of the Commune. It is 97.20 m-high with a drop of 2.23 metres and an inner staircase of 498 steps completed in 1684. The plinth is surrounded by a small ‘stronghold’ built in 1488 to house the soldiers of the watch. Today, its arcade is occupied by a few craft shops and ateliers, as a memento of the merchants’ trade of the Medieval ‘mercato di mezzo’. The Garisenda Tower, built around the same time , is much smaller (47 metres) with a steeper drop (3.22 m) due to an early and more marked subsidence of soil and foundation. Dante, who saw the tower before the process had started, compared it to a leaning Anteo in the 31st Canto of his Inferno. In mid 14th century the tower had to be lowered. The ashlar covering in selenite stone of the base dates back to the late 19th century. The towers are one of the main features of Bologna. Between the XII and XIII century a lot of towers was built, but nowadays less than twenty were left standing. These towers had a military and civil function: they gave prestige to the families which paid for their construction. The Asinelli’s tower was built between the 1109 and the 1119 under request of the Asinelli’s family, which used the tower also for military reasons. In 1448 the tower was equipped with a little stronghold to host soldiers. Nowadays the arch and the arcades, that can be found at the base of the tower, host workshops in memory of the commercial function of this city during the middle age. From the top of the tower they can enjoy the beautiful view of Bologna’s red roofs. When the weather is good is possible to see (very far) the sea and the Alps.
Via Santo Stefano
Santo Stefano – STOP 8
* Santo Stefano is also called the 7 Churces by Bolognesi, even though at the moment the remained churches inside are only 4… It’s the most particular church complex in Bologna, the real city sanctuary and the cradle of the Fathers’ faith. Rose around a first fifth-century settlement, wanted by bishop Petronio, that after would have been joint by a reproduction of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, Santo Stefano stands next to the chapel with protomartyrs of Bologna Vitale and Agricola’s mortal remains, exhumated by Saint Ambrogio in 392, and it comprises buildings made between the X and the XIII century by the Benedectines. The complex represents a symbolic rebuilding of the Passion of Christ’s places, as the ancient denomination of the complex testifies: “Sancta Hierusalem”.
Santo Stefano is also one of the most characteristic square of the city, where the complex known as Seven Churches, the Basilica of Santo Stefano, is located. The square is surrounded by important palaces and it often hosts cultural events and concerts. On the left side there is Corte Isolani, leading to Strada Maggiore.
Via de’ Toschi
Piazza Maggiore – STOP 9
* This wonderful square was the “platea communis” where the life either for the commercial activities or for the political aspects took place, it was the open place for the markets but also the meeting point for everyone to discuss the governamental issues … it was also , tank to the construction of the basilica, the main important place where to prey and worship the protectors of the city, San Petronio the most important … This is the heart of the city and surrounded by important buildings: the Basilica di San Petronio, and on the right side of the church, Palazzo dei Notai, Palazzo d’Accursio, Palazzo del Podestà and the spectacular façade of Palazzo dei Banchi.
Piazza del Nettuno – STOP 10
* Famous thanks to the monumental statue of God Nettuno with the fountain realized by a Flemish artist, Giambologne chosen from Carlo Borromeo and the Pope Pius IV. Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) was built between 1563 and 1566 and it is in fact a symbol of the power of the Pope: he ruled the world like Neptune ruled the seas. At the feet of the statue there are four little angels and four little mermaids. They represent the rivers of the four discovered continents at that time: Ganges, Nile, Amazon River and Danube.
Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio – STOP 11
* The building of the Palace was commissioned by Cardinal Borromeo between 1562 and 1563 following the project by architect Antonio Morandi called Terribilia; it was to house the lecture halls for the University Study (Law and Arts). Up to 1803 it was the seat of the University and since 1838 it has housed the Civic Library. The palace was heavily damaged by a 1944 bombing and subsequently rebuilt. The main front presents an arcade with 30 arches, with two stories around a central courtyard. Two grand staircases lead to the upper storey with classrooms(closed at present) and two great halls one for Artists (today Reading rooms) and one for Jurists (called Stabat Mater Hall). The room walls, the vaults of staircases and open galleries are decorated with commemorative inscriptions and monuments dedicated to the teachers of the Studio and thousand coats-of-arms and names of students. In front of the entrance there is the chapel of S. Maria dei Bulgari. The Anatomical Theatre in carved wood, was built by Antonio Levante in 1637 for anatomy lessons. Inside, the famous statues of the Spellati – Skinless – by Ercole Lelli.
San Francesco – STOP 12
* Another beautiful and also somewhat undervalued Church …. This church is the first example of French Gothic style in Italy. It was built between 1236 and 1254 on the initiative of the Franciscan community that stayed in the city already since 1218 with Bernardo di Quintavalle – one of the first disciples of San Francesco who came in Bologna after few years- . Remarkable are the high facade in the Gothic-Romanesque style and the apsidal part with the splendid soaring lines of the two bell towers and the rampant arches of the radial chapels. Both bell towers have a Gothic architecture -the biggest one of the beginning of ‘400 and the other of 1260- and at the foot of the chapels stand the thirteenth-century mausoleums made by the famous glossators Accursio, Odofredo and Rolandino de’ Romanzi.
Via del Pratello
Via della Grada
Via Riva di Reno
Via dei Falegnami
Piazza Otto Agosto
Parco della Montagnola
Other technical information:
• Equipment: sportive, not professional gear
• Bike: a city bike, but also a mountain bike is OK
• Duration: 4 hours
• Level of difficulty: easy
A great Riding Experience – A Must Do! For more information, send me an email.