And off we went. We did not have much time as we were planning to return early to the train station, just in case. And how that just in case applied my goodness (will talk about it latter). We decided we would walk down Via Dell Indipendenza, as it leads to the train station and we would not for sure get lost (getting lost with only two hours before your train departures, with the ticket bought and nonrefundable is not a good idea) as far as we could, at least to Piazza Maggiore and back. Best decision ever as it was a Saturday and Via Dell Indipendenza is closed to the traffic during weekends, from 8 a.m. on Saturday to 10 pm on Sunday allowing people to walk freely on a so usually busy street. We could see all sorts of people, from all sorts of origins, languages, cultures, walking along the street, stopping in a nearby caffe to have a nice strong Italian espresso (yeah, I found out cappuccino is only supposed to be drank at breakfast, duh), admiring the looks on the windows of the many shops, or simply being blown away as us, by the beauty and vibe of the city. The street is a true and beautiful example of the architecture, colors, textures and life of Bologne. Buildings are painted in terracotta, yellow, shades of orange. Porticos pop up everywhere, transporting us to the past, imagining the old days (at least if you have a fertile imagination as I do. which can be a curse sometimes …).
The porticos of Bologne are famous features, and can be found everywhere. The porticos were created in the Middle Age, as a way to expand the city not affecting the areas reserved for the streets. At the time, the height of the porticos had to be enough to allow a man on horseback to pass below them! There are 38 km of porticoes in Bologna, and not only they are beautiful but they are also perfect for a rainy day or a hot summer day and they provide shelter allowing to still walk around the city.
One of the first buildings we found is the Theater Arena del Sole on the right hand side when you walk towards Piazza Maggiore. I wish I could have tried to see it inside, but we were rushing and it was not a priority. The building as an impressive facade of the Neoclassic style, large columns and porticos and was built in the 1800’s.
Across the street from Arena del Sole there is a statue in memory of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian hero, and his horse Marsala.
Continuing walking down the street and close to Piazza Magiore, we came across the Bologna Cathedral – San Pietro Cathedral. The building is an impressive and magnificent example of the Italians unique architectural and art skills. It traces back to the 10th century but underwent many changes since then, due to catastrophic events such as a massive fire and an earthquake. Although originally it has a gothic-romanesque structure, due to the renovations those traces were lost.
The interior is breathtaking, majestic and a fine example of the Baroque style. The ceilings are amazing and intricately carved, each corner, each ambiance is truly beautiful. The entrance is free, and it is so worth a visit. The campanille allows for visits for a fee of 5 Euros, but we did not go there (damn). It was really quiet and peaceful, a fantastic atmosphere.
Did you know?
Bologna was the first city in the world to abolish slavery and liberate all serfs.
Piazza Maggiore was the place where, in August 25, 1256, citizens heard from Chief Magistrate and the Captain of the People that all serfs living in or around Bologna were liberated, under a fee to be paid to their “owners”.
Palazzo D’Accursio and Palazzo dei Notai
Palazzo D’ Accursio: Above the entrance there is a statue of Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1582 (which is the calendar still in use). The Palazzo is the symbol of the political power of Bologne since the medieval times and its in reality a merge of 3 distinct palaces. It was the home of a jurist and distinguished law professor that gave his name to the Palace .
Palazzo dei Notai: faces Palazzo D’Accursio and was built in 1381
Basilica of San Petrónio
its one of the largest Catholic churches in the world, and not the largest (as the plans were) due to the Pope not liking the idea of having a church larger than the San Pietro Basilica in Rome.
Palazzo del Podestà: Its construction began in the same year as Piazza Maggiore in 1200 and was the first seat of the local government.
Palazzo Re Enzo – Enzo, King of Sardinia was imprisoned here for 23 years, until he died.
Palazzo dei Banchi: A palace with a beautiful Rennaissance façade (of which I did not take a pic, I wonder why) constructed in the 16th Century.
As we were quickly running out of time, we decided to return to the station, walking back through Via Dell’ Indipendenza.
On the way back we passed by a beautiful building, the Palazzina Majani built by The Majani Chocolate company in 1908 that has a beautiful open balcony, as well as other charming corners and side streets. At the end (beggining in fact) of Via Dell Indipendenza is the church (Chiesa) de San Benedetto, built in the 12th century.
And so, our magical 3 hours in Bologne ended, and we got back to the station to take the train to Florence. I bought the ticket online and in advance and managed to find a 1st class ticket for 19 Euros, which was a gem. What we did not expect was to get lost…wait a minute….inside Bologne train station. Yes, we got lost, and yes, thank god we arrive early otherwise we had lost the train. As we arrive early we still wanted to eat something before getting on the train. Before eating we had the brilliant idea of going to the toilet. Long story short, Bologne’s train station is the more confusing place I have ever been, and I have quite a good sense of direction. After going up and down various sets of stairs, getting to platforms we have never supposed to be at, we finally managed to find the luggage deposit, find our platform, and starving getting on the train, to enjoy a 1h36min train ride to Florence.
STAY TUNED FOR MY NEXT POST, FLORENCE IT IS