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Bologna Guide Italy

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Historical building and monuments

Piazza Maggiore
This is the salon of the city. It was once the center of political and religious power, but is now one of the main gathering places of the city, used for meetings, concerts or simple evening strolling. The square was built in the 13th century to create a complex of buildings for public events. The fountain of Neptune, symbol of Bologna, stands at the entrance to the building.

Palazzo Re Enzo
Built in 1244, for 23 years it was the "residence" of the son of the Emperor Frederick II: King Enzo of Sardinia, taken prisoner during the battle of Fossalta (1249). The first floor contains weapons and war machines of Bologna's army, the second floor was used to hold sessions of the popular councils. The Sala del Trecento is impressive. Next to Palazzo Re Enzo, stands Palazzo del Podestà; the building, the first seat of the citizen's government is surmounted by a square tower containing a 2 ton bell: called the Campanazzo it rings during important occasions. The vaults of the building were once enlivened with the workshops of haberdashers, green grocers and artisans. The facade facing the square was remodelled in Renaissance style by local aristocrat Giovanni Il Bentivoglio. The two buildings are opened for exhibits and events.

Palazzo Comunale
This is an impressive building-fortress overlooking Piazza Maggiore, today the seat of the municipal government. It is characterized by a succession of overlapping styles; the part in Gothic style with marble mullioned windows and terra cotta decorations, dates back to 1400. On the left is the 16th century portal surmounted by a statue of Gregory XIII. Inside the complex it is possible to visit (if not in use) a succession of wonderful halls and chapels, climbing the 16th century stairway designed for a triumphant ascent on horseback. Sala Farnese leads to the Collezioni Comunali d'Arte and Museo Morandi.

The Archiginnasio
Sits on the eastern side of Piazza Maggiore, built by Cardinal Borromeo between 1562 and 1563 as the sight of the university Law and Arts schools. It currently houses the town library. Interior: the walls of the halls, vaults of the stairways and loggias are decorated with the engravings of thousands of students' coats of arms and names. The Teatro Anatomico in carved wood, was built by Antonio Levante in 1637 for teaching anatomy. Visiting hours: Monday-Saturday 9:00am-1:00pm.

Two Towers
Bologna's towers were important for warning and defensive purposes and were naturally a sign of prestige for the families who lived in them. At the end of the 12th century there were one hundred of them, today around fifteen remain. The two towers are the symbol of Bologna. The taller one is Asinelli Tower built in the 10th century. It is 97 m high with a 2.23 meter inclination The base was modified in 1488 to house guards. The smaller is Garisenda Tower, a contemporary of its neighbor. Its strong inclination (3.22 m) is striking, caused by an earlier greater settling of the land.

Palazzo Bevilacqua
One of Bologna's most remarkable buildings is located in Via D'Azeglio, built between 1477 and 1482 by jurist Niccolò Sanuti. The building greatly differs from Bolognese architectural canons, and looks more like Tuscan Renaissance buildings. The use of rustication on the facade like the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara is interesting. The charming internal courtyard with its two loggias one over the other is ornately decorated with sculptures and terra cotta relief work.

Palazzo Pepoli Campogrande
A large residence of nobility built by Count Odoardo Pepoli starting in 1653 opposite the family's medieval building. All of the decor of the building was aimed at celebrating the family and is an extraordinary example of late 17th century Bolognese art. The internal courtyard contains a great staircase with a square layout. It is possible to visit the frescoed main hall and other magnificent decorated rooms which compose the apartment, where works of the Zambeccari Collection are displayed with works of Emilia's leading painters. Open: Saturday 3:00pm - 7:00pm - Sunday 9:00am-7:00pm

Isolani Houses
Casa Isolani, at 19 Strada Maggiore, is one of the rare examples of 13th century civil buildings. The facade is unusual, as is a very tall portico formed by oak beams supporting the third floor of the house. A charming arcade (Corte Isolani) starts from the house which crosses a series of internal courtyards opening onto Piazza S. Stefano at the Palazzo Isolani. This 15th century building contains a mixed style combining Bolognese Gothic and Tuscan Renaissance. The faces of the six figures inserted in circular medallions "curiously" display 19th century hair styles.

Photos courtesy of: APT Servizi, Regione Emilia Romagna, Comune di Bologna.

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