As a child I was always in confusion because my family spoke Latvian at home and outside of our home everything was English. In school when we started learning history I picked up the oddest things. One of them involves this Italian city. I came home to inform my parents that we were learning about Italian history and one of the cities mentioned was just like my favorite cold cut – baloney. This is the way I always referred to it. My parents were quite confused, first of all they needed to translate the names of particular cities into Latvian even though they knew English and second they had no idea what I was talking about. Remember this was the time of no computers and finally dad looked in an encyclopedia for a map of Italy. They put two and two together and informed me that the city was not baloney it was called Bologna.
Visitors find that Bologna is the historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, in northern Italy. It has many medieval and Renaissance structures and a pair of medieval towers one of them the leaning Asinelli Tower can be climbed for fantastic views of the city.
San Petronio Basilica is a large Gothic basilica that is the fifth-largest church in the world and it measures 132m by 66m by 47m. Work on the basilica was started in 1390 and even up to this day its facade remains incomplete. Inside you can see a huge sundial stretching 67.7m down the eastern aisle. It is the creation of Gian Cassini and Domenico Guglielmi in 1656 and was instrumental in discovering the anomalies in the Julian calendar and aided in the creation of the leap year. The basilica wasn’t officially consecrated until 1954.
Bologna’s main art gallery Pinacoteca Nazionale has many art works by Bolognese artists from the 14th century onwards. Among them are some important canvases by the late 16th century Carracci cousins, Ludovico, Agostino and Annibale. They were among the founding fathers of Italian Baroque art and were greatly influenced by the Counter-Reformation that swept through Italy in the 16th century. Much of their art work is religious and special pieces to keep an eye out for are Ludovico’s Madonna Bargellini , the Comunione di San Girolamo (Communion of St Jerome) by Agostino and the Madonna di San Ludovico by Annibale. There are also magnificent paintings by Giotto, Raphael, El Greco and Titian.
At the western side of Piazza Maggiore you’ll find Comunale Palace which has been home to the Bologna city council since 1336. It represents various architectural styles having been renovated in the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1580 a statue of Pope Gregory XIII, the Bolognese prelate, who was responsible for the Gregorian calendar was placed above the main portal. Inside you can see the 16th century staircase designed by Donato Bramante which allowed horse-drawn carriages to be ridden right up to the first floor. On the second floor you can see an impressive collection of 13th to 19th century paintings, sculpture and furniture. Outside of the palace you’ll find three large panels that have hundreds of photos representing partisans who were killed resisting German occupation right on that very spot.
We took a look at Pisa with its famous leaning tower and now we find that Bologna has two leaning towers which are the city’s main symbol. The taller tower 97.6m Torre degli Asinelli is open to the public. For fantastic views of the city there are 498 steps to climb. It was built by the Asinelli family between 1109 and 1119 and leans 1.3m off the vertical. Its shorter twin at 48m Torre Garisenda tilts at an alarming 3,2 tilt and is closed to the public.
Next to the Piazza Maggiore the main square in Bologna is the Neptune Fountain. The fountain with the explicit bronze statue was sculpted by Giambologna in 1566. It shows a muscled sea god, four cherubs that represent the winds and four buxom siren with water spouting from every nipple and they symbolize the four known continents of the pre-Oceania world. The statue of the god Neptune was placed at the exact point where the cardo and the decurnanus – the proto-typical main streets of a Roman city intersected. The fountain was supplied with water that was piped in from an ancient underground cistern and a spring that was discovered below a convent.
The city’s main square Piazza Maggiore is surrounded by the San Petronio Basilica and some most impressive Renaissance palaces. It is a square where people come to socialize and always lively. The square was dedicated to King Vittorio Emanuele II and a statue could be found here depicting the king on horseback. It was removed to the Giardini Margherita in 1943.
Bologna’s largest and most popular park is Giardini Margherita designed by the Piemontese Society. It was opened in 1879 under the name of Passeggio Regina Margherita as a tribute to the late wife of King Umberto I. The park has large tree-lined avenues, a little lake that is surrounded by artificial gypsum cliffs, wide lawns, oak groves and many other delights of nature. At the edge of the central lawn is an impressive Tavertine grave.