Bologna – the university capital of Italy, the city that is home to the first medical university in the Western world, the city that is synonymous with architecture, art, music, creativity, history and culture, the city that is famous as the gastronomic capital of Italy and housed in the most renowned gastronomic region of Italy – Emilia-Romagna, the city of arcades, the city of towers, the city that is famous for it’s nightlife owning to the young university and culturally diverse crowd, the city that is the birthplace of Maserati and Lasagna Bolognese … and much more!
Bologna is city that has something to offer for everyone! And if the description above hasn’t yet convinced you about it, read on to know more as I virtually teleport you to Bologna and arouse your curiosities – be it for art, fine-arts, history, music, cars, nightlife, medicine, food or fashion. And since Bologna has so much to offer, one single article on it won’t do it justice. Thus, I’ll take you through Bologna over a couple of articles – this being my second article on Bologna. If you haven’t yet read my first article on Bologna – check it out here!
Bologna – the city of arcades: Portici
Arcades, arcades and more arcades – walk under them, walk through them or just walk past them – there’s no way of escaping them in Bologna because they are everywhere! And they’re a sight to the sore eyes 🤩. The arcades of Bologna are almost 40km long. Thus, they come with a bonus that you can always escape the rain in Bologna, because the city of arcades can be your umbrella 😉. And to tell you the truth – what a spectacular, colour popping umbrella it makes! You could walk around all day and never feel a drop thanks to the arched roofs and shelters overhead.
One of the best ways to explore Bologna would be to just wander around the city, walking through these lovely arcades. You can enjoy the shops and the lights in via dell’Indipendenza, connecting the railway station to Piazza Maggiore, which has arcades on both the sides, or explore the city to check out some of its record-holding arcades: the longest, the highest, the largest and literally the most articulate ones!
Speaking of the ‘art’iculate arcades, head on to the Via dell’Archiginnasio which starts at Piazza Maggiore and leads to Archiginnasio – the oldest university in the Western World! As you walk to the Archiginnasio, don’t forget to look up to witness the beautiful frescoes in the street – they are a buildup to the beautiful and colourful frescoes that await you in the arches of the university of Archiginnasio.
The Portici and Sanctuary of Madonna di San Luca
Talking about the arcades of Bologna, one cannot miss walking through the longest arcade of Bologna and probably of the world – the Portici or The Porticoes. It is a combination of 666 red hued terracotta arches, 3.5km long starting at the Arco del Meloncello in the city of Bologna, winding its way through the lush green outskirts and leading all the way upto the Sanctuary of Madonna di San Luca. The arcade was a testament to the city’s wealth, each arch sponsored by a local family. While the arches at the start are dotted with shops and bars, these fade out as you head to the outskirts of Bologna towards the Sanctuary.
Would you want a picture-perfect #gram with the perfect red-hued arched backdrop without the touristic crowds or anybody photo bombing your picture for that matter? Then just pick any spot under any one of these 666 arches and you’re set!
Or do you want to burn off those calories from all the binging on the delicious Bolognese food? Then jog through the 3.5km of these 666 stepped arches that lead up to the Sanctuary that is located on a hill! Bet you didn’t know that😉. Jogging through these arcades is not only a healthy way to explore Bologna, but also the locals way of enjoying Bologna. So if you want to enjoy Bologna as the locals do, put on your track pants, t-shirts and sneakers and jog your way up to the Sanctuary! Trust me it’s quite a workout. But once you reach the Sanctuary you’ll be rewarded with the lush green views of the endless nature in sight and peaceful atmosphere of the Sanctuary. However, if you’re not in the mood for a calorie burning workout, but want to visit the Sanctuary anyway – you can visit it by car or take a Bologna city bus to the Sanctuary that you get to and fro at the interval of about every hour.
While the panoramic views of the city of Bologna from the top of the Sanctuary are recommended by many, I didn’t find them particularly breathtaking as compared to the magnificent yet pristine Sanctuary.
Archiginnasio and Biblioteca Comunale dell’Archiginnasio
Archiginnasio, founded in 1088, is the first seat of the university of Bologna and also the oldest university in the Western World! As you enter the university you enter into a seamless amalgamation of literature, art, history and science.
Every arch in the building of Archiginnasio is adorned with articulate and colourful frescoes that depict affluence and richness of art. As you enter the Archiginnasio don’t forget to look above, sideways and behind you to admire the beautiful frescoes that adorn the ceilings and the walls of the building. Every fresco on the wall is unique whereas every arch above has a combination of perfectly symmetrical and paired frescoes. At every step you take through this building, you’ll be immersed a bit more into art, enticed to take the next step ready to embrace the next fresco coming your way! And if you’re an art enthusiast like me, I bet you’ll need a neck massage by the end of the day from all the looking above, sideways and behind in this beautifully ‘art’iculate historical university.
As you walk through the university building, do visit (for a nominal fee) the Teatro Anatomico or the Anatomical Theatre, the historical room of the medical department of the University of Bologna. In the late medieval times, the medical students sat in this wooden room replete with beautiful details on the walls and the ceiling, witnessed autopsies and learnt about anatomy on real dead bodies as the professor dissected the corpses of humans and animals. If merely witnessing a piece of medical history today can be so fascinating, just imagine how the fellow students and professors back then would have felt of making medical history – truly remarkable!
As you walk through the university, do step in a room that provides you a glimpse into the Biblioteca Comunale dell’Archiginnasio, the largest library of Bologna housing innumerable collections of books. While the library itself cannot be accessed by public, this room certainly gives you a glimpse into it. The room, just like the rest of the university building, is adorned by frescoes. While every fresco in the university was beautiful and captivating, I simply couldn’t take my eyes off the frescoes adorning the ceilings of the stairways connecting the ground floor and the first floor and they were undoubtedly my favourite! Bologna is a city where history and modernity effortlessly blend into each other, and this section of the university is a testament to that – while the room gives outsiders only a glimpse of this library, it is a fully functional university library accessible to staff and students even today!
So, as I conclude my second blog on Bologna, if you’re scratching your head wondering why I called Bologna the birthplace of Maserati or looking for more suggestions to explore this beautiful city – then watch this space for my next blog on Bologna 😉.