THE U-AREA: where history meets art
Posted on 01 June 2020 From Fondazione Innovazione Urbana
Via Zamboni is a historic street connecting the Two Towers to Porta San Donato. Its Renaissance palaces, churches and chapels overlook its course.
It is a homogeneous area, filled with porticoes that stretch along the main street connecting it with many historical buildings’ through their cloisters.
Via Zamboni finds its center in Piazza Verdi, in front of the Municipal Theatre.
The museums disseminated along the street hold magnificent examples of a million-centuries old cultural heritage, that rely on civic protection and custody.
Description for Visually Impaired Visitors
The starting points are Piazza Maggiore, Via Rizzoli, Piazza di Porta Ravegnana: places where the traffic coming from various streets of the city converges. From there you can enter the ageless silence that permeates the narrow and rocky alleys of the Jewish Ghetto, often full of parked cars. Continue on Via dei Giudei, Via Canonica, Via dell’Inferno to get to Piazzetta Biagi. Though Via Valdonica you reach the Jewish Museum of Bologna: the entrance isn’t easy to spot, the audio guide is good but there is little that can be touched.
Following Via Valdonica, Vicolo Luretta and Via Marsala you reach Via Zamboni. On the other side of the street stands San Giacomo Maggiore Basilica. The width of the inside of the Basilica is a sharp contrast if compared to the narrow alleys of the Ghetto. The buzz of the street outside, on the other hand, brings the visitor back to present times. Along the portico on the right in the direction of the Viali, we find the Oratorio di Santa Cecilia. It hosts periodical concerts as well as the cycle of St. Cecily and her husband Valeriano, which consists of ten large frescoes that are also reproduced in relief. The reliefs can be visited under request.
Near the Basilica there is also a nice hidden little garden.
Later, the pavement of the portico descends in long steps into Piazza Verdi, where the silence of the Ghetto is long forgotten. Proceeding with your walk, you find Piazza Scaravilli on your left. The square got its name from the one of a partisan who died fighting during the Italian Resistance. After the square you meet Via delle Belle Arti and the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna (National Gallery of Bologna), full of masterpieces dated back up to the 14th and the 18th Centuries. It offers only a limited number of works that can be touched, among which the relief of “Saint George and the Dragon” by Vitale da Bologna. When coming back to the centre, take Via del Guasto and follow a steep but brief way to visit the Guasto Gardens. The way back towards Piazza Ravegnana can offer you the chance to take a break in one of the many dehors you will find on your path.
Description for Visitors with Hearing Disabilities
In the past Bologna was one of the cities that had the most towers in all Italy: it counted more than 200 towers just in the first circle of walls.
The two towers of Bologna, Asinelli and Garisenda, are the most famous landmark of Bologna. They were built between the 12th and 13th Century, at the time when Italian medieval Communes reached their highest development.
The highest tower, Asinelli, was built between 1109 and 1119 and was famous eversince for its height of 97 meters. It never fell even if it got struck by lightnings and earthquakes many times. At the base of the tower there is a rocchetta that hosted soldiers on lookout.
It was firstly built in wood, than in 1488 in bricks and in 1921 it was restored.
The other tower, Garisenda, is lower than the Asinelli’s and measures 48 meters.
It presents a steep overhang due to a subsidence of the land and the foundations. Because of that, its construction was interrupted for a while. In the 14th Century it was lowered and, for this reason, it has been called torre mozza (chopped-off tower) until today.
The walls of the two towers are wider in their lower part and are made of two layers of bricks combined with cobblestone and lime. The bases are covered in blocks of selenite coming from Monte Donato.
> Corrado Ricci and Guido Zucchini, Guida di Bologna, with updates by Andrea Emiliani & Marco Poli, new ed. illustrated, San Giorgio di Piano, Minerva edizioni, 2002, pp. 129-130
On April, 7th, 1878 Luciano Monari, a 19-years-old lantern maker, climbed down the Asinelli tower hanging on its lightning rod.
On May, 4th of the same year Luigi Galloni, a 26-years-old bricklayer, climbed up and down the tower in only 22 minutes and while performing gymnastic exercises.
Since that moment, many tried to climb up until the top of the tower despite the restrictions of the authorities.
> Cent'anni fa Bologna. Angoli e ricordi della città nella raccolta fotografica Belluzzi, edited by Otello Sangiorgi & Fiorenza Tarozzi, Bologna, Costa, 2000, pp. 68-69
*Lantern Maker: maker, seller or keeper of lanterns.
Continuing on Via Zamboni, through Via dei Giudei you reach the Jewish Ghetto.
The ancient Jewish ghetto, located in the Medieval heart of Bologna, still retains its original structure: many little streets with covered bridges and tiny windows. Here lived an entire community that, starting from 1556, was forced to live in this specific part of the city by the State and the Church. Jews in Bologna lived in this area until 1569, when they have been forced to move before receiving a permission to return to their homes. Then, in 1593, though, the last 900 jews remained,were definitely expelled.
For the next two centuries, Jews were not allowed to live in Bologna.
The Jewish neighbourhood had several entrances, all constantly monitored, which were opened in the morning and sealed at sunset: one was located at the beginning of via de’ Giudei, another one at the intersection between via del Carro and via Zamboni, and the third in via Oberdan up to the arch which gives on vicolo Mandria.
The Ghetto is one of the most interesting areas of city centre, defined by the walls of buildings that belonged to wealthy Jewish merchants and bankers and full of many craft shops.
You can immediately notice a change in sound when you walk through its streets as there’s a pleasant quietness and only a few people walking. To visit the Ghetto you can follow the stops indicated by the map in the shape of the Hand of Miriam, a Jewish symbol.
After the Aquaderni gallery, turn left into Via Canonica and then right into Via dell’Inferno, walk straight on until Piazzetta Marco Biagi, that takes its name from a labour law expert that was killed in Via Valdonica in 2002. At the end of the street you find the Jewish Museum. At the entrance there is a gate that is always closed, in order to visit it it’s necessary to ring the doorbell.
The Bologna Jewish Museum is located in Via Valdonica 1/5 , in the former Jewish Ghetto. It’s inside a 16th Century palace that once belonged to the Pannolini family and is now owned by the Municipality of Bologna. It measures 500 square meters and is divided in three different sections: the ground floor hosts the permanent and temporary sections, whereas the first floor is home of the documentation centre.
The permanent collection presents the theme of the Jewish identity by talking about the history of the Jewish people in the course of almost 400 years.
There’s a strong continuity between ancient, medieval and modern history until contemporary Hebraism because the new generations have always maintained strong contacts with the previous ones. Two rooms of the museum are dedicated to Jews residing Bologna and Emilia Romagna from the Middle Ages until today.
The temporary activities section includes spaces dedicated to exhibitions, meetings, debates and educational activities for children.
Here are held conferences, workshops, seminars and book presentations organized by the museum. There is also a bookshop.
The Section of the Documentation Centre includes a specialized library and a centre of cultural promotion that is partnered with museums, universities, libraries and research centres in Italy, Europe, Israel and the USA.
If you come back to Via Valdonica and continue until Vicolo Luretta, a narrow alley filled with parked cars, and then take Via Marsala, you go back to Via Zamboni. You have come back to the buzz and chatter typical of the University area where streets are crowded again. House numbering on doors has been the same one since the end of the 18th Century and follows the district-classification.
The Oratory of Saint Cecilia and Valeriano is situated along the portico near the church of San Giacomo Maggiore.
It was previously a roman church. Giovanni II Bentivoglio, lord of Bologna, made it smaller and commissioned the frescoes to preserve its paintings, that are among the most important works of the Bolognese Renaissance.
The paintings were started by some of the most well-known artists of the Bentivoglio court, such as Francesco Francia, Lorenzo Costa and Amico Aspertini, and they were completed by less famous artists.
The frescoes cover the right and left walls at the oratory entrance. In ten panels, divided by pilaster strips* decorated with grotesques*, events of St. Cecily's life and her husband Valeriano are described. They are set at the age of Pope Urbano 1st, when the two saints became martyrs because they did not recant their Christian faith.
*Pilaster strip: Architectural term for a narrow, low-relief, vertical pillar in a wall.
*Grotesque: Decoration on walls or sculpture in the form of fantastical plants or creatures intertwined with human figures, animals and oddly-deformed masks.
Proceed along the portico until Piazza Verdi, located at the centre of Via Zamboni.
It is the heart of the university district, used as crowded meeting point of students or location for demonstrations. On the square faces also Teatro Comunale, whose entrance is in Largo Respighi.
After that you arrive to the Oratory of Saint Cecilia.
The portico ends with a staircase just before Piazza Verdi and to continue the tour you must go back until Piazza Rossini, go outside the portico and stay along the bike path for a little, to then come back under the portico.
When you reach Piazza Verdi turn slightly and stay on the right outside of the portico of Teatro Comunale because otherwise the way ends with two steps.
In order to enter the Theatre ask for the ramp. When you come back to Via Zamboni you can enter again the porticoes on the left side of the street until Piazza Puntoni as they don’t present any obstacles. You can cross it without difficulty and then turn left in Via delle Belle Arti to enter the National Gallery of Bologna. In order to do that, continue in Via delle Belle Arti until number 52 where you can find a ramp.
After that, go along the portico on the right whose pavement is smooth and you’ll find the entrance to the Gallery.
The door is very wide and it’s always open at opening hours. Immediately on the right you’ll find the ticket office: the desk is 114 cm tall. Just after the ticket office there’s a ramp that is 110cm wide.
This service was conceived during the co-designing process U-area for all as part of the European project ROCK. ROCK was financed by the Horizon 2020 Innovative Action program with the aim of promoting accessibility to cultural heritage in the University District of Bologna.