Collezioni Comunali interni ©Roberto Serra

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Must-see masterpieces in Bologna

Posted on 02 December 2021 From Bologna Welcome

Maria Luisa Pacelli Courtesy Pinacoteca Nazionale

Accompanying us on this promenade...


Maria Luisa Pacelli, art historian, former director of the Gallerie d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Ferrara and scientific and organisational manager of the exhibitions of the Fondazione Ferrara Arte in Palazzo dei Diamanti. Since November 2020 director of the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna.

Where do you start when trying to discover Bologna's must-see masterpieces?

What strikes me about Bologna are the links between the city, its museums and its territory, and thus the pervasiveness of artistic expression. With masters such as Raphael, Giotto, Guido Reni and Titian in the collections of the Pinacoteca Nazionale, multiple tourist itineraries in the city can be envisaged, providing an opportunity to witness an age-old wealth. A unicum is the complex of frescoes of Santa Maria di Mezzaratta, the detachment of which began in the 1950s. Originally started by Vitale da Bologna in the 1440s and later carried on by other masters, the cycle was reassembled according to its original structure in the most spectacular hall of the Pinacoteca.


Jacopo Avanzi, Punishment of the Idolaters, from Santa Maria di Mezzaratta. ©Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, by permission of the Ministry of Culture

Another extremely interesting path follows the traces of Amico Aspertini, one of the most distinctive personalities of the Renaissance. The monochrome decorations on the facades of Bologna's palaces have since been lost, but works by this brilliant painter can be found in the Pinacoteca, in the Municipal Art Collections, in the Palazzina della Viola, in the Oratory of Santa Cecilia, in the Church of San Martino Maggiore, in the Basilica of San Petronio and in the Rocca Isolani in Minerbio, home to magnificent decorative frescoes by the artist in three rooms: Sala di Marte, Sala dell'Astronomia and Sala di Ercole.

Interior rooms of Rocca Isolani, Minerbio (BO) Courtesy of Linda Cavicchi

I have read about the Carraccis among the famous artists in the city. Where can I find them? 

When it comes to unmissable encounters, the art of Ludovico, Agostino and Annibale Carracci is reflected not only in the masterpieces of the city's museums, but also in the frescoes adorning Palazzo Fava and Palazzo Magnani and matching the elegant monumentality and history of these two sites. On the subject of architectural decoration, we may not forget the quadrature painting of the 17th and 18th centuries, of which superb examples can be seen in Palazzo Pepoli Campogrande, the detached headquarters of the Pinacoteca Nazionale, and in Palazzo Albergati in Zola Predosa. 


Palazzo Fava - Jason Cycle ©Paolo Righi, Meridiana

And then?

Finally, it is definitely worth paying a visit to Giorgio Morandi's studio-house,  in whose suspended atmosphere, among the customary objects of the master, one can think back to the artists he met in the city and with whom he undoubtedly had an in-depth knowledge and love. Among the rooms of the house, including the famous room on the courtyard, an itinerary develops through audio-video installations and multimedia technologies that allow visitors to learn more about the artist's life and work.


Room on the Courtyard, Morandi House ©Roberto Serra, Courtesy Istitizione Bologna Musei

Discover places in the itinerary

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