Bologna's fascinating legacy traces back to 10,000 B.C. and the Villanova Civilization, the Etruscans, Gauls and Romans. Stroll through our Historic Center along cobbled streets surrounded by Romanesque and Gothic art, medieval palazzi and majestic towers.
Bologna is the capital and heart of Emilia-Romagna, the region of renowned artists Carracci, Parmigianini and that great cantor Pavarotti. Producing Lamborghini and Ferrari sports cars and Ducati motorcycles are favored industries! You'll find the artists' paintings in the museums, sports cars still squeeeeezze through our narrow medieval streets and someone is always singing or listening to music while shopping.
Neptune's Fountain was built from 1563 to 1566 in the Piazza Nettuno, adjacent to Piazza Maggiore. Note the square base which represented the four cardinal directions and the four oceans and continents as they were known in the 1500's. In addition to being ornamental, Neptune's Fountain provided water for the outdoor market located in this piazza – the merchants washed their produce in the fountain! It is so beautiful and serene at night, enjoy an outdoor concert sitting under the stars and relax at the outdoor cafe right around the corner. Everyone is Benvenuto!
From its inception in 1200, Piazza Maggiore was encapsulated on three sides by magnificent palazzi. Palazzo Re Enzo, Palazzo del Podesta, Palazzo dei Notai and Palazzo d'Accursio were daily reminders of the importance of education and politics combined with religion, represented by the Basilica di San Petronio. These three components represented daily Bolognese life and their influence changed the marketplace of the city.
Unlike other major Italian cities during the Middle Ages, Bologna was a city of the people and the Pope, refusing to be dominated by one particular family as Florence was by the Medici, Ferrara by the Este, Milan by the Sforza and Visconti. The development and use of Piazza Maggiore reflected this dual, often conflicting, influence, and was supported by the University of Bologna, by way of its jurisprudence system!
The oldest university in Europe, founded in 1088, the University of Bologna became a magnet for students from around the world. By the 13th-century, thousands of students with their families settled in and around the Historic Center. With centuries of influence through art, medicine and science, Bologna also became one of the most dominating cities of merchants and bankers catering to the needs of students, wealthy families and royalty. So, the fourth side of Piazza Maggiore, the Palazzo dei Banchi, was built in 1565, reserved for bankers, merchants and later the Outdoor Market. Behind the palazzo were the shops grouped according to business located along the same street: Via Drapperie – tailors and fabrics; Via Clavature – locksmiths and blacksmiths; Via Pescherie Vecchie – fishmongers and produce; Via Caprarie – butchers; Via degli Orefici – goldsmiths; and Via Spaderie – sword-making. Except for Via Spaderie, all streets remain today in our market.
Torre Asinelli (1109-1119) is 97 meters high with an incline of 2.23 meters. Torre Garisenda (12th-century) is 48 meters high with an incline of 3.22 meters, Bologna's very own 'Leaning Towers'. The Two Towers are the most famous of the remaining family-owned towers built during the Middle Ages, and are important symbols of Bologna along with mortadella and tortellini.
In 1289, local law required all property owners to construct porticos in front of their houses to meet the social and economic needs of the city. Always for public use, these covered walkways give us the advantage of shade on sunny days and an umbrella is rarely needed! Continuing for more than 30 kilometers, meander under beautiful porticos with hand-painted frescoes, visit museums, designer stores and antique shops.