Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) was built between 1563 and 1566 by the Flemish sculptor Giambologna. It is a symbol of the power of the Pope: he ruled the world like Neptune ruled the seas.
Three hours in the heart of our city
Your journey of discovery around Bologna starts at the Fountain of Neptune, one of the symbols of our city and the work of the Flemish sculptor know as Giambologna. Before visiting the splendid setting of Piazza Maggiore, take a step back into the history of ancient Bononia and enter Salaborsa. In the 19th century, this was the city’s economic centre and today it is a place of culture. With its rich, multi-media library, it has become one of the favourite meeting places for the people of Bologna. At the centre of the building is a covered square, where you will meet the first unexpected side of Bologna. Below your feet, a glass floor will offer you a view of the original city. Here, you will be able to sip a coffee spanning two thousand years, while admiring the art nouveau ceilings and seeing close up the archaeological remains on which our city stands today.
After observing the beginning of Bologna’s history, you are now ready to continue your journey, entering Piazza Maggiore, known simply as the “piazza” by the locals. Let yourself be seduced by the wide spaces, the great area surrounded by some of the buildings that can tell the story of the city: Palazzo D'Accursio (headquarter of Bologna Town Hall) that houses the City Art Collection and the Basilica of San Petronio, housing the largest sundial in the world. Before leaving Piazza Maggiore, play a little game. Below the open arcade of the so-called Voltone del Podestà, between Palazzo di Podestà and Palazzo Re Enzo, there is a kind of whispering gallery. If you whisper, facing one of the four corners of the arch, you will be heard by anyone who is at the opposite corner.
From the piazza, walk along Via dell’Archiginnasio, with its beautiful Portico del Pavaglione and some of the most desirable shops in Bologna. Following the road that runs alongside the Basilica San Petronio, you will reach the Museo Civico Archeologico (Archaeological Museum) and here, if you are so inclined, you can find out more about Etruscan and Roman Bologna through the archaeological exhibits. You can also visit the museum’s superb Egyptian collection. Next you will see Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio, the first unified seat of the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the western hemisphere, founded in 1088. The Teatro Anatomico (Anatomical Theatre), where anatomy lessons were once held, is well-worth visiting. Nearby is the Basilica of San Domenico, a true treasure chest of Italian art. You can admire the marble shrine with the remains of this saint, decorated with precious statues by Nicolò Pisano, Nicolò dell'Arca and the young Michelangelo.
After discovering Bologna “The Learned”, spend time exploring Bologna “The Fat”, the Bologna of good food and excellent cooking. Go back on yourself, behind Piazza Maggiore, and enjoy wondering through the narrow streets of the old city market, the Quadrilatero. During the day, you will come across many stalls filled with all kinds of food products, from seasonal fruit to fresh fish from the nearby Adriatic Sea, from tortellini and that speciality of Bologna, mortadella, to various sweets. In the evening, just before dinner, these streets are transformed and shops give way to bars and drinking places, where people of Bologna can enjoy an aperitif at the end of the day.
After this refreshing interval, cross Via Castiglione and be astonished by the wonderful Piazza Santo Stefano. Your eyes will alight on the church at other side of the square. If you have time, you will discover that is it not one church but seven. This is not all illusion, but the consequence of the historical events that took place in this corner of the city. From Piazza Santo Stefano, go along the covered passageway of Corte Isolani and soon you will be in Strada Maggiore. From this point, at last you can see the Asinelli and the Garisenda Towers, side by side at the centre of a circle from where all our city’s main streets radiate. Continue along Strada Maggiore to the Two Towers, the tallest of the twenty still standing in this city of towers, which in mediaeval time boasted over one hundred turrets. If you find this hard to believe, climb the 498 steps up to the top of the Asinelli Tower and look out over the city. You will discover that, even today, there are many more towers than you had imagined.
From the Two Towers, walk along Via Zamboni, the main university street, with its various departments, the historical Teatro Comunale (City Theatre) and the famous university museums.
From Via Zamboni, going towards Via Indipendenza, you will discover another unexpected side of Bologna, the underground waterways that were open canals until two centuries ago. Under the arcade of Via Piella, your glance takes in a brief impression of Venice: water lapping against the buildings’ foundations. To get back to Piazza Maggiore, walk along Via Indipendenza, the main shopping street. If you do have time for a bit more culture, a tiny detour will allow you to visit one of the most delightful museums in the city, the Museo Medievale.
Inaugurated in December 2001, a cultural space and multimedia within Accursio Palace, former seat of the historic town that overlooks the Piazza Maggiore, always the center and heart of Bologna. Today, the Salaborsa once again gives witness to the centrality and importance of this site in its new role as library, treasure trove of knowledge and multi-media center.
Piazza Maggiore is located at the very centre of Bologna. In the past the square underwent many changes and was further enriched with important buildings: Basilica di San Petronio, Palazzo dei Notai, Palazzo d'Accursio, Palazzo del Podestà and Palazzo dei Bianchi.
Vault under the Palazzo del Podestà. It originally housed the city market and the benches of the notaries; later on, blasphemers were set on the pillory and hangings were performed under its arches.
The Archaeological City Museum, one of the most prestigious institutions of Bologna, can be found in the city centre of Bologna, in the 15th century Palazzo Galvani, in front of the eastern side of Basilica di San Petronio.
The building, opened in 1881, was adjusted to host Archiginnasio (the city library) and the new Archaeological City Museum. At present, the Museum hosts important archaeological collections coming from the old University Museum, from Pelagio Palagi's donations, and from the excavations led between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.
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.
One of the richest churches in Bologna for the historical art, it is the Preaching Order’s first creation and guardian of its founder S. Domenico’s mortal remains.
Market located in the Quadrilatero, between Piazza Maggiore and Piazza della Mercanzia, for the sale of food products, fruits and vegetables.
Piazza Santo Stefano is one of the most peculiar places in Bologna. Even though it is mainly considered as a square, it is not properly this: Via Santo Stefano widens to create this peculiar area that leads to the monumental group of buildings named after the same Saint.
Also know as the "Seven churches", the Basilica of St. Stefano is the most particular church complex in Bologna, the real city sanctuary and the cradle of the Fathers’ faith.
The two towers the traditional symbol of Bologna, stand at the strategic point where the old Aemilian way entered the town. 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.
Via Luigi Zamboni is a historic street located in the center of Bologna and heart of university life. It crosses Piazza Verdi and Largo Respighi where there are Teatro Comunale and the offices of many faculties.
Via Indipendenza is the main street of Bologna. Now via Indipendenza is the heart of the shopping area
This corner of the city is known as "little Venice". Looking out among the buildings, you can see one of the few stretches of running water, which was not covered with asphalt between the beginning of the twentieth century and the postwar period.
The most important part of the museum is dedicated to the Middle Ages: the Early Middle Ages artefacts, the great gold-plated copper statue of Bonifacio VIII, built by the Senese goldsmith Manno Bandini in 1301 for the "Palazzo Pubblico".