Bologna is city of culture, arts and music and has alot of theatres all over the city area. There had been even more theatres and opera-houses in the city, since early 17th century, but some of them fallen into disuse or burnt down. For instance, Teatro Malvezzi, built in 1651 and burned down in 1745, and that event prompted the construction of a new public theatre. In fact, Nuovo Teatro Pubblico was the first name of Teatro Comunale and it was the first major opera-house in Italy constructed with public founds and owned by the municipality.
The theatre was designed by Antonio Bibiena and opened in 1763, inaugurated with a performance "Il trionfo di Clelia" of Gluck, an opera which the composer had written for the occasion. It is considered as the second ancient theatre throughout Italy, the most ancient is Teatro San Carlo in Napoli. Initially, the theatre was a palace called Palazzo dei Bentivogli, but was destroyed during civil war in 1507. The adjacent street to the theatre was named Via del Guasto (the street in which the damage had occured) to commemorate the civil war.
It has very huge proportions and can hold 1.200 spectators. Teatro Comunale is one of the most important venues in Italy, presenting eight operas with six performances during its November to April season.
The famous wood and brick portico of Isolani Palace in Via Maggiore, claimed to be one of the first ever built in town. This splendid and suggestive house, one of few of a kind left in Bologna, was built in 1250 by Pagno di Lipo Portigiani from Fiesolo. It is in Romanesque-Gothic style and boasts the highest wooden portico of the city. The nine meters tall oak beams support the third floor of the house and are flanked by two brick columns for maintaining the stability of the construction. Windows resemble those of Bentivoglio palace, while the courtyears preserves, even if in part, the ancient shape and has very interesting capitals. The evocative gallery (Corte Isolani), opened to passers-by and linking a series of inner courtyards with the Casa Isolani, on the Strada Maggiore, and the Palazzo Isolani on the Piazza San Stefano.
The building was restored in the late 19th century.
The front portico features wooden ceilling where three arrowas are embedded, which tradition attributes to the three different legends;the first tells of a nobleman who wanting to avenge the betrayal of his wife had sent three archers to kill her, but the woman dropping the cloak she wore remained naked and the archers missed the target.,the second tells of a road quarrel between two noblemen, truncated by the archers in their escort,%s%the third tells of a students prank to Raffaele Faccioli, who in 1877 had restored Casa Isolani: it seems that the joke consisted to ruin of the building, recently restored.
There is long covered portico inside the building with number of interesting shops. The whole building is huge and its rear part overlooking Piazza San Stefano.
“The city of Bologna, which has always combated for liberty, remembering the past, and its eyes fixed on the future, in honor of our Savior Jesus Christ, hath ransomed all the serfs on its territory, and decreeth that it would not suffer there a man not free.”
— from “Istorii di Bologna”
SWEET LIBERTY Bologna’s coat-of-arms proclaims, Libertas; and so important is liberty to the Bolognese that it is stated twice. Twice too is the inclusion of the Cross of St. George. A fierce lion stands guard over it all.
In 1256 Bologna freed its serfs, paying an indemnity to their masters. The decree that brought about this change closed with the words above.
Examples of Bologna’s coat-of-arms can be found throughout the city, including an especially fine example at one corner of Torre degli Asinelli (see photo #2).
“This is a major plan of our city’s historic centre. I hope the
reopening of the canal can be considered in a calm fashion, in order to create a comfortable and attractive place in this striking stretch of Bologna.”
— from a statement by Bologna’s mayor, Flavio Delbono, January 2010
PET PROJECT Few visitors know it, but under Bologna exists a dense network of canals. Bologna was not built on a river, therefore, in order to provide water for drinking and sanitation, and as an energy source to weave silk and grind wheat, canals were dug between the 12th and 16th centuries from the River Reno. The canals helped make the city one of Europe’s major industrial centers. The waterways, which spanned the entire city, were gradually filled in or paved over beginning in the 1950s as part of Bologna’s rebuilding efforts after the Second World War. We took a late afternoon pick-me-up at Caffè Opera overlooking one of the canals.
“This water was brought from a mountain spring to the square for the citizens’ convenience.”
— the inscription on Fontana Vecchia
Fontana Vecchia, the Old Fountain, is set against the wall of Palazzo d’Accursio (city hall, also known as Palazzo Comunale) that faces via Ugo Bassio. The Sicilian architect and painter Tommaso Laureti (1530-1602), was granted the commission in 1563; and the classically styled fountain was completed in 1565. Tommaso Laureti also designed Fontana di Nettuno (see von.otter’s Bologna Things To Do Tip: “Neptune: A Bulging Mass of Bronze Muscle”).
Made of sandstone, this fountain replaced a fountain that was demolished in 1483, and whose stones were given to the workshop of the nearby Basilica di San Petronio. The water that supplies Fontana Vecchia and Fontana di Nettuno come from the same source.
After passing out from Bologna’s center through Porta Saragozza and walking along the porticoes of via Saragozza you will reach a most lovely arch, Arco Meloncello.
The fabulous Arco Meloncello, completed in 1732, unites the porticoes along Via Saragozza with those that run up the hill to Santuario della Beata Vergine di San Luca.
“The few hours spent in Bologna next morning were devoted to a visit to the church known as the Madonna di San Luca. It was from the Porta Saragozza, on the south of the city, that I approached the striking, isolated Monte della Guardia, on whose summit the church is perched.”
— from ‘Notes on North Italy’ in “The Irish Monthly” 1878 by Nathanael Coloak
Porta Saragozza is one of the twelve gateways built into the walls that were constructed around the city during the Middle Ages. This porta was reconstructed in the mid-1800s. It is from this gate that the world’s longest portico, which leads up to the Sanctuary of San Luca, begins.
“Real misanthropes are not found in solitude, but in the world; because it is the experience of life, and not philosophy, which produces real hatred of mankind.”
— Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837) Italian poet and philosopher born in Le Marche
LIFE’S EXPERIENCE Giacomo Leopardi attended evening salons of music and poetry at Palazzo Bolognini; these salons were hosted by the Casino Society in the rooms of this palazzo’s ground floor.
Palazzo Bolognini (see photo #3, the building on the left of the photo) was begun in 1517; it turns passers-by’s heads with the 177 heads (see photo #1, #2, #4, & #5) that decorate its façade. This unique decoration led to its nickname Palazzo della Teste, Palace of Heads. The impressive stone and terra-cotta heads, some large some small, are the work of Alfonso Lombardi and Niccolò da Volterra.
“Do not allow a chance to the enemy. Continue to fight until final victory.”
Luigi Longo (March 1900-1980), Commander in Chief Italian Resistance 1943-1945
Bologna was a center for the Italian Resistance, first against Italy’s Fascist government, then against the Nazi occupation.
Opposite Palazzo di Re Enzo, which is reflected in the monument’s glass (see photos #4 & #5), a simple tribute to Bologna’s Resistance fighters, more than 1,800 of whom were put to death by the Nazi SS, has been created on a wall of Palazzo Comunale.
Initially black and white photos were posted on the wall informally by the victims’ relatives at the end of the Second World War. Now this sacrario, shrine, is a collection of 2,052 tiles printed with portraits and names.
Recently opened, Corte Isolani is a small commercial centre housed in two adjoining historical palaces in Bologna. The two impressive palaces, Casa Isolani and Palazzo Bolognini are linked together through an inner courtyard and are considered a successful rehabilitation project of historical buildings. Casa Isolani on Strada Maggiore dates from the 13th century and is one of the oldest surviving palaces in Bologna. On via Santo Stefano is the 15th century Palazzo Bolognini, one of the most beautiful palaces in Bologna, combining Gothic and Renaissance styles.
Bologna's main opera house, il Teatro Comunale is located in the heart of the University quarter on via Zamboni. It occupies the site of the infamous Palazzo Bentivoglio, which was destroyed in 1507 after the tyrant rule of Giovanni II Bentivoglio, who was expelled by Pope Julius II. The opera house was designed by Antonio Galli Bibiena in 1750 and inaugurated in 1763 with a premier of the opera il Trionfo di Clelia, by Christoph Willibald Gluck. The interior of the theatre was redone in 1866, while the façade was rebuilt in 1937.
Designed for daytime open-air theatrical shows by Carlo Aspari, the Arena del Sole was completed in 1810 on a site that was formerly occupied by the convent of Santa Maria Maddalena. The main façade, however, was built in 1888 after the creation of Via dell'Indipendenza, which necessitated new construction along the length of the grand thoroughfare. The Neoclassical design was the work of Gaetano Rubbi, while the interesting overhanging sculptures were by Alfredo Neri. It originally only played shows from Easter until September, but in 1916, a removable roof was added to allow for year-round shows. The theatre continues to function to this day.
An early 14th century palace, Casa Conoscenti belonged first to Alberto Conoscenti, then to Astorre Manfredi di Faenza. Much like other palaces in the heart of Bologna, Casa Conoscenti was built on much more ancient structures. In fact, in the 1970s, a section of the Roman-period wall was discovered in its courtyard and has been left exposed (see attached photos). It is one of the few remains of the ancient wall, known as la Cerchia di Selenite, in Bologna. Casa Conoscenti is located where via Manzoni meets via Galliera.
Running parallel to Via dell'Indipendenza, Via Galliera is a showcase of sumptuous palazzi. Historically, the narrow arcaded street had been the preferred address of noble families from Bologna, whose palaces still carry their names and have survived mostly intact. A walk down Via Galliera is a fantastic way to admire bolognese palace architecture and its evolution from the 15th to the 18th centuries. Two Via Galliera palaces, Palazzo Felicini and Palazzo Bonasoni, are described further below in more detail under individual tips, but for photos of some of the other palazzi, check out the travelogue: "Palazzi di Via Galliera."
The most beautiful of Bologna's porticoes lies underneath this elegant 19th century palazzo. It was built in 1864 as the office of Banca Nazionale, but nowadays it is occupied by Banca d'Italia. The building was designed by Antonio Cipolla, but the frescoes covering the vaulted ceilings of the porticoes were the work of Gaetano Lodi who also designed the interior frescoes. Piazza Cavour which lies outside the building was created around the same time as its construction, sadly through the demolition of mediaeval buildings and the church of Sant'Andrea degli Ansaldi.