The tourist office in the Piazza Maggiore organises a number of city tours, and although we usually prefer to explore on our own we decided to join the one they call “Enjoy Bologna”. This is described as “A tasty journey to discover the wine and food culture of Bologna, through the traditional flavours that made it world-famous.” This two hour walking tour is offered twice a week – on Fridays at 16.30 or Saturday at 10.15. It costs €25 per person, which may seem quite a lot, but that price includes a number of tasting opportunities as you will see.
We chose the Saturday morning tour and were surprised on arriving at the tourist office to find that we were the only people signed up that morning, so we got a very personal experience from our guide. She told us it is quite usual for this tour to have only a few people, and that makes it much pleasanter than the general city walking tour they offer which can attract quite a large group with all the challenges that brings of people staying together in the city crowds, hearing what is said and so on. We were also accompanied by another guide who was learning this tour.
Our tour started with a stroll along Via D'Azeglio, one of the best shopping streets in the city (and unusual for its lack of porticos). On the way our guide pointed out the former house of singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla, one of Bologna’s best-loved former sons, in the Piazza de' Celestini.
From here we made a visit to the famous chocolate shop Majani on Via de' Carbonesi, where we were told something of the history of this Bolognese institution and offered several of their specialities to sample (see separate tip). From there we went to the Quadrilatero where we stopped at number of shops to learn about local specialities such as tagliatelle with ragù and other pastas, mortadella, breads and cakes etc., as well as regional wines. Our guide showed us the oldest bar in the city, the Osteria del Sole, where Buffalo Bill apparently drank (in another separate tip). It was also from her that we learned about the free recipe book that was available from the Palazzo della Mercanzia (again, see separate tip), although we weren’t able to go inside that day as it is closed at weekends.
The tour ended at a typical Quadrilatero shop-come-restaurant where we had a glass of local wine (Pignoletto Frizzante white which was lovely, or Lambrusco) and a plate of cold meats and cheese, all included in the tour price (no need to buy lunch that day!). We were also given vouchers for free ice cream at la Torinesse by the Palazzo Re Enzo (which we used later that afternoon) and for coffees at le Terzi in Via Oberdan, which we didn't (we wanted to sit outside for coffee and it has no outdoor terrace).
I now want to tell you more about the delights of the Majani chocolate shop.
Together with the adjacent Piazza del Nettuno and Piazza Re Enzo, Piazza Maggiore is the heart and salon of the city. The most important public buildings are grouped around it: Palazzo d’Accursio or Palazzo Communale as the centre of the magistrate, the ancient Palazzo Re Enzo and Palazzo del Podestà as seat of the mayor and governor, Sala Borsa as centre of economy, the main church of San Petronio, the Archiginnasio as first seat of the university, Palazzo dei Banchi as financial, Palazzo dei Notai as jurisdictional centre. The buildings tell of the power and wealth of the medieval and renaissance republic.
The statue of Pope Gregor XIII overlooks the square from the façade of Palazzo d’Accursio. Giambologna’s Neptun fountain (16th century) ornates the part of the square named Piazza del Nettuno in between Sala Borsa and Palazzo del Podestà.
Piazza Maggiore is not only Bologna’s biggest square, it is also the one humming with life and activities, day and night (not that I can really judge the latter – I am not a nightlife person). In fact it is not only one piazza but two: Piazza del Nettuno to the north also somehow is part of this hustling and bustling centre. To the south is Bologna’s cathedral, Duomo San Petronino, to the west the municipality’s seat Palazzo Communale (Palazzo d’Accursio), to the north Palazzo del Podestà and to the east Palazzo dei Banchi. Piazza Maggiore is very large: 115 x 60 metres (approx. 380 x 200 ft) and surely among Italy’s larger piazza. When I was there in September 2014, vast renovation was going on: the cathedral’s steps were closed off except for the entrance area and Palazzo del Podestà was “bagged”. It all looked as if these renovations will take longer.
During my 2 ½ days in town I had other priorities than to pay visit to the various museums and rooms in the buildings surrounding the piazza (except the cathedral). Almost all buildings can be visited inside, especially the museums. This all will have to wait for my next time. Only one word about a specific statue above the door of Palazzo Communale: it is of Pope Gregorio XIII, the one who “invented” the Gregorian Calendar.
For those who are interested in visiting the buildings: Bologna’s website has further information about those, including the rooms and museums:
Palazzo d’Accursio or Communale,
Palazzo del Podestà,
Location of Piazza Maggiore on Bing Maps.
© Ingrid D., October 2014 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
At the top of the main portal of the Palazzo Comunale is placed magnificent Pope Gregory XIII bronze statue, carved by Alessandro Sermenghi.
Pope Gregory XIII (1502-1585) born Ugo Boncompagni, was Pope from 1572 to 1585. He is best known for commisioning and being the namesake for the Gregorian Calendar. The chief architect in the process of reforming the calendar was Christopher Clavius, Jesuit priest and astronomer, who was credited by the Pope.
In the beginning, the switchover from Julian to Gregorian Calendar was bitterly opposed by much of the populace, who feared it was attempt by landlords to cheat them out of a week and a half's rent. The Catholic countries complied it soon but more than a century passed before Protestant Europe accepted the new calendar. The Gregorian Calendar, however, was not accepted in eastern Christendom for several hundred years, and then only as the civil calendar.
Gregory XIII was liberal patron of the recently formed Society of Jesus throughout Europe, for which he founded many new colleges. The Roman College of Jesuits became the most important centre of learning in Europe for a time, known as the University of the Nations. It is now named the Pontifical Gregorian University.
In many aspects, Pope Gregory XIII is one of the most significant popes in the history of Papacy.
Piazza Maggiore is in the center of the hisotrical town. Main events are often held here. Always full of people, both tourists and local.. young people seemed like to gather here.. especially around Fontana Nettuno.. and the staircase below Basilica San Petronio... It's a perfect spot to relax and people watching if that's your thing.. :)
Bologna's central square, the Piazza Maggiore, is a good starting point for a walking tour of this city. The most prominent building here is the Palazzo del Podesta, which served as the seat of municipal government for centuries. The Arengo Tower stands over the great palace.
At the south side of the square is the Flemish Giambologna's statue of Neptune, Roman god of the sea (Poseidon to the Greeks).
The current town hall is in the Palazzo d'Accursio, completed in the 16th century. In front is a statue of Pope Gregory XIII.
On the north side of the piazza is the Basilica of St Petronius, begun in 1390 but never quite completed. Antonio di Vincenzo, the noted Bolognese architect, designed it to be even more imposing, but it was just too costly and time-consuming. It's still a masterpiece of Italian Gothic architecture.
Piazza Maggiore is Bologna's most famous square, featuring one of the world's largest basilicas and a selection of fine palazzi, which makes it an ideal starting point for a tour of the city.
It's all-pedestrian, and is also a lovely place for a cappuccino and a gelato, or ice cream
- Basilica di San Petronio
- Palazzo Comunale
- Palazzo del Re Enzo
- Palazzo del Podesta'
Bologna's main square, Piazza Maggiore, is both its geographic centre and its cultural and political heart. The spacious piazza began to take on its current shape in the 13th century, and soon afterwards, it found itself encircled by the city's most important edifices. For the first time visitor, standing in the middle of la Piazza, as it is referred to locally, and gazing at the impressive architecture surrounding it could be an overwhelming experience. On one side is the enormous, albeit unfinished Basilica di San Petronio, and on the other three sides are monumental public palaces: Palazzo d'Accursio, Palazzo del Podestà, and Palazzo dei Banchi. The impressive Piazza Maggiore is connected to another square, Piazza del Nettuno, which is marked by the famous statue of Neptune.
Piazza Maggiore is just that - the Large Square, the centre of action. This place is frequently referred to simply as La Piazza by the bolognesi, and it is hard to describe it as anything else than a large open urban space. The centre is too large and the buildings that surround it too far apart for the Piazza to be crowded by café tables, buskers and hawkers, which makes its a great place to simply take picture of the remarkable palazzi that surround it. To the south is San Petronio, to the north Palazzo della Podestà, to the east the Museo Civico Archeologico and to the West the Palazzo Comunale. The four buildings are not quite in the same style and represent different periods in the history of Bologna and architectural trends, which gives the visitor a great sense of the changes experienced in this city. Palazzo Nettuno is more likely the place to find displays or fairs - Palazzo Maggiore just seems too large to be anything other than a meeting place for individuals and private groups heading to one of the many cafés, restaurants and bars that line its edges.
The centre piece of Bologna is the charismatic Piazza Maggiore. This magnificent square was created in 1200 and was the site of an ancient Roman Forum. These days it is lined with some of the city's most important buildings.
The most prominent of these is the Basilica di San Petronio, with its incomplete façade. The large basilica is a must see and there is no fee to enter.
Also on the square you will see the Palazzo Comunale, the city's town hall. Located on the western side of the square, this large fortress-like building was built in 1287 and has a lovely clock tower which was added in 1773. Inside the palazzo you can visit the Museo Morandi, which has a large collection of works by Giorgio Morandi, Bologna's most famous artist.
At the northern end of the square is the Palazzo del Podesta. If you walk under the arches, past the cafes, you will find a whispering gallery and a medieval tower.
Piazza Maggiore is a fabulous place to stop for a coffee and gelato, or a drink. Take some time to relax in one of the expensive cafes and watch the Italians do their thing. There is often some sort of street entertainers in the square to keep you amused too.
It seems that everyone is doing something around Piazza Maggiore. There are tourist and also Bolognians. The square is for pedestrians only.
The Piazza Maggiore is surrounded by some of the city's most impressive medieval and Renaissance buildings and monuments.
Here we go with the main sighseeing =).
the main Square "heart of the city" where you can find the main sights for your hungry eyes. Medieval buildings (Well, if you are lucky and won't get to Bologna at the time when they are mounting the open cinema in the main square ;)).
From here you can see fountain of Neptun, at the right from it - Palace of Accursio with few museums, in front of the square Basilica di S. Petronio, on the right from it Palazzo dei Notai, to the left - Palazzo dei Banchi. In front of Basilica or to the left of the fountain Palazzo re Enzo and Palazzo del Podestà here you'll find and tourist information. Ask the staff for a map of Bologna, they add quite useful short description of the main sigtseeing things.