Welcome is Bologna

The city of records

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In its century-old history Bologna has recorded a series of records which depict it as a city extraordinarily advanced, innovative and rich in culture, societal development, law, economics and politics.

Texts by Le Guide d’Arte - www.guidedarte.com

A great palace, a great history - Piazza Maggiore, 6

A great palace, a great history - Piazza Maggiore, 6

Palazzo d’Accursio, for seven centuries the seat of local government and now the City Hall, is the second biggest building in Europe to host a local government. The façade is dominated by the statue of Gregory XIII, the Bolognese Pope who reformed the Roman calendar. The new calendar, which was named “Gregorian” after him, has been adopted since 1582 in the whole Western world. In the main courtyard of Palazzo d’Accursio a plaque quotes the impassioned and touching words of the Liber Paradisus, the deed of liberation of serfs.

The Republic of the Notaries - via de' Pignattari 1

The Republic of the Notaries - via de' Pignattari 1

Piazza Maggiore is dominated by the austere building of the Palazzo dei Notai. It's the only palace of the notaries existing in the world. Dating back to XIII century, it shows the extraordinary political importance that the guilds had in medieval Bologna. Notaries represented the richest and most powerful guild. In 1200 they even became a sort of ruling class. The importance of this guild is shown by the monumental tomb of Rolandino de’ Passeggeri in the churchyard in front of the church of St. Domenico. This is a unique case of a monumental tomb which celebrates a notary. Also Rolandino is one of the four notaries who drew up the Liber Paradisus, which is the first deed in Europe to free serfs by law.

The measure of time -  San Petronio - Piazza Maggiore

The measure of time - San Petronio - Piazza Maggiore

Since the Middle Ages Bologna has been considered as one of the most important cities in the world for the measure of time. Already in XV century it had one of the first astronomical clocks produced in Europe. The wooden automata of this amazing mechanism can be now seen in the Municipal Art Collections. Inside the Basilica of St. Petronio a sundial made by the famous astronomer Giandomenico Cassini indicates noon. Alongside the sundial of S. Maria degli Angeli in Rome (which took it as a model) it is the only example of a sundial inside a church. Being 67,5-mt-long, it is the longest sundial in the world.

The storage of the Etruscans - via Archiginnasio, 2

The storage of the Etruscans - via Archiginnasio, 2

In 1877, during some excavations in Piazza S. Francesco, an enormous terracotta vase was found. It contained almost 15,000 bronze pieces with an overall weight of almost 15 quintals (quintal =100 kg): axes, swords, razors, horse bits, points of spears, brooches, pieces of metal vases and belts, work tools, crude metal, lumps of bronze, fragments and scraps of fusion. This big vase, called the ‘storage of St. Francis’, later dated to VII century b.C., is the biggest archaeological find of the Iron Age in Europe. The objects of this extraordinary find can be now seen inside the Villanovian-Etruscan section of the Civic Archaeological Museum.

Archiginnasio: coats of arms and books -  piazza Galvani, 1

Archiginnasio: coats of arms and books - piazza Galvani, 1

In 1563, the Studium, the old university of Bologna, was assigned a new seat inside the Archiginnasio palace and here remained until the end of XVIII century. The students were a real melting pot of nationalities as indicated by almost 6.000 coats of arms of students from all over Europe that decorate all the surfaces of the porticoes, walls and halls of the building. It is the largest collection of coats of arms inside a building. Inside the Archiginnasio palace you can also visit the Anatomical Theatre: among the various anatomical theatres of old Italian medicine schools, alongside that of Padua it's the most important old dissection hall. Nowadays the palazzo is the seat of the City Public Library of the Archiginnasio, which holds its own record: with its collection of over 1.700.000 volumes it is the biggest city library in Italy.

Unesco Creative City of Music - via Orefici and Caprarie

Unesco Creative City of Music - via Orefici and Caprarie

On the sidewalk along via Orefici and via Caprarie a series of stars in the ‘Walk of Fame’ style pays tribute to the names of the famous jazz musicians of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s: Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Chet Baker and others. These were the guests of the great international jazz festival that was hosted in Bologna every year from the '50s to the '70s. The jazz tradition in Bologna is witnessed by the ‘Doctor Dixie Jazz Band’, the longest established jazz band in the world, founded in 1952. The jazz culture is a contemporary expression of the Bolognese century-old music tradition the most important places of which are the Teatro Comunale, the G. B. Martini Conservatoire, the International Music Museum and the Mozart Hall at the Accademia Filarmonica. In 2006 Unesco declared Bologna Creative City of Music. It's the only Italian city to have been awarded such an important recognition.

Photo ©Rocco Casaluci

Towers, towers, and still more towers!! -  piazza Porta Ravegnana

Towers, towers, and still more towers!! - piazza Porta Ravegnana

The Asinelli and the Garisenda Towers are, together with the Neptune Fountain, the most prominent symbols of Bologna. Still today there are more than twenty medieval towers within the XIII-century wall ring: the Prendiparte Tower (near St. Pietro's Cathedral), the Alberici Tower (near the Mercanzia palace), the Galluzzi Tower (in the courtyard with the same name), the Conoscenti Tower (inside the Medieval Museum), the Uguzzoni Tower (in the area of the former Jewish Ghetto), just to mention a few. As for the number of still exisisting towers Bologna is even ahead of the well known S. Gimignano and is, among the old towered medieval cities, the one that has the highest number of towers. The Two Towers are a record themselves: with a height of 97 mt the Asinelli Tower is the tallest surviving medieval tower and the Garisenda with a lean of 4 degrees is the most leaning tower in Italy.

Alma Mater Studiorum - via Manzoni, 4

Alma Mater Studiorum - via Manzoni, 4

The University of Bologna has conventionally been dated back to 1088. It is the first university in Europe, founded before those of Oxford, Paris and Cambridge. In the first centuries of its history the Studium (that's how is called the university) didn't have a fixed location. Instead there were various places where well known professors of law and liberal arts gave lectures. Evidence of the record of being the oldest university in Europe are the monumental tombs of university professors in the Civic Medieval Museum. They depict scenes of professors teaching and students attending lessons. This is a cross-section, genuine, vivid and authentic, of university daily life in the Middle Ages.

On the waves of electricity - via IV Novembre, 7

On the waves of electricity - via IV Novembre, 7

Here is located Guglielmo Marconi's home. The plaque on the front wall reads: "Here Guglielmo Marconi was born, the one who first sent the word on the waves of electricity without the help of cables or wires...". Thanks to this extraordinary discover in 1909 Marconi was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics, never given before to an Italian scientist. The evidence of his work is the Marconi Museum at Villa Griffone in Sasso Marconi, his father's home and summer residence, where the physician developed a system of wireless telegraphy later spread all over the world (www.fgm.it). The exceptional intuition of Marconi has its roots in the great Bolognese tradition of studies on electricity, which has its founder in Luigi Galvani. His experiments and instruments, which lead to the discover of electrophysiology, are exhibited along the historical-scientific path through the Palazzo Poggi Museum.

Photo Archivio FGM

Kilometres of portici - Porta Saragozza

Kilometres of portici - Porta Saragozza

The portico of the Pavaglione, the portico of the Death, the portico of the Annunziata, the portico of the Servi, the portico of the Bank of Italy, the portico of the Canton de’ Fiori (the flower corner), the portico of the monumental cemetery Certosa, the portico of the Alemanni, the portico of the church of St. Giacomo: these are just some very famous segments of the portici (arched walkways) which stretch through the city for more than 40 km; more than any other city in the world. The origin of this record is itself a historical record of city planning: in 1288 a law required that all buildings, houses and palazzi should each have their own portico, which is a unique case in all of Europe. Furthermore this record comprises another one: the longest portico in the world. Starting at Porta Saragozza, the portico of St. Luca stretches without interruption for almost 4 km, initially on level ground and then climbing the hill as far as the Sanctuary of the Holy Vergin of St. Luca.

Photo Portici ©Luciano Leonotti