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Ca' di Vale is located in a quiet street a few metres from Via Sant'Isaia inside the ancient town walls layout, now marked by wide boulevards. In a five minute walk you can reach Piazza Maggiore the real centrepiece of this grand city. This is a small tourist guide of Bologna useful if you are visiting the town or you are just considering to visit it.
In Via Sant'Isaia, frequent buses connect the Fair District (Line 14) and every other part of the town. You can easily reach the station with the direct line 21. A frequent and cheap shuttle bus connects the station to the Marconi Airport.
At thirty metres from Ca' di Vale there is a paid parking lot where you can leave a car.



Bologna the “town of porticoes”
Bologna the "Dotta" (learned)
Bologna the “Rossa” (red)
Bologna the “Grassa” (fat)
Piazza Maggiore and the Basilica di San Petronio
The Two Towers
Portico di San Luca
Compianto sul Cristo Morto
Archiginnasio building
Other cultural landmarks

Glimpse of Via Frassinago

Bologna the “town of porticoes”

It is a great experience to live the town under the constant presence of a “portico”: not only because it offers a valid protection from the rain but essentially because the protected spaces are mid way to be public and private: when you walk under a portico, aside a shop you are in some way already in that shop, anyway in a private space which is offered to you by the owner and this fact is sensibly clear when you see people sweep the portico’s floor outside their properties.
Many of the historical porticoes have in fact marvellous floors made of “terrazzo alla veneziana”, the typical shining surface made up of polished marble gravel which was commonly used in the Renaissance period. By the way: all the floor surfaces of Marsala Apartment are made with “terrazzo alla veneziana”. Bologna‘s historic centre is maybe the largest historical urban core in Europe and its tradition of porticoes rises back to medieval times. There are still some isolated buildings which are preserving their ancient original wooden columns; in fact in medieval times all porticoes in Bologna were supported by wooden structures. Probably the tradition of porticoes in the town rises back even before, in particular to the Roman period. Some techniques, used in the town, are sensibly similar to those used by the Romans (e.g.: the “meniani” in the town of Pompei).

Bologna the “Dotta” (learned)

The University of Bologna is well known to be the oldest in Europe. In fact it was established in the 11th Century and at the time it competed with the University of Paris. So Bologna has been always considered a town of culture and this aspect has a clear a influence also nowadays: many are the exhibitions, cultural meetings and, of course, many are the museums and temporary cultural events. Generally they are addressed to the locals but of course are available also for tourists. Don’t miss the numerous museums connected to the various departments of the University.




Bologna the “Rossa” (red)

This nickname of the town was originally coined to describe the red hued walls of the buildings in the historic centre even if it was also reckoned to refer to the Comunist flag: Bologna was clearly the stronghold of that political tendency immediately after the second world war. Currently radical opinions are fortunately mitigate so political tendencies depend by the fluctuations of the various fortune and ability of the parties like in any other part of Italy.

Bologna the “Grassa” (fat)

Food is a sacred issue for Bologna and its cuisine is respected throughout the world. Haven’t you ever heard of “tortellini”? “Lasagna”? “Tagliatelle con il ragù”? “Mortadella”? Actually Mortadella, which is a particular salami, is universally known as “Bologna” (of course we commonly call it “mortadella” and never “Bologna”…). All these foods had origins in this town. I am sorry but tips about the best places in town where sampling all these specialties are reserved to confirmed guests! Many are the places where it is still possible to buy hand made pasta like tortellini, tortelloni, ravioli, strozzapreti, lasagna, tagliatelle. Many of these places are organised with courses where partecipants learn how to prepare the “sfoglia” (the basic dough) and each of them counts on the experience of their “sfogline”, traditionally the women who are expert to do such specialties with pasta. Ragù is the master souce for dressing pasta: it is a mixture of grinded meat just coloured with a bit of tomatoes. In the entire world you can find “spaghetti alla bolognese” or “spaghetti with meat balls” but here no one is used to dress pasta with meatballs! Honestly if one is fond of traditional cuisine can’t miss a stay in Bologna.


Piazza Maggiore and the Basilica di San Petronio

Piazza Maggiore is the hub of the town, a few steps from Marsala Apartment. It is the square where tourists or locals start or end their excursions. The renowned fountain of Neptune stands in a smaller part of the piazza indicating the magnificence of these wide spaces. Piazza Maggiore faces up competition with Piazza San Marco in Venice.
The impressive roughly shaped façade of the Basilica di San Petronio faces the square. During Renaissance, the Vatican heard that in Bologna there were plans to make a church even grander than St Peter’s in Rome. Such building could have obscured the supremacy of Rome so they carefully re-allocated funds elsewhere leaving the façade sadly unfinished. Anyway its magnificence is undiminished and Bologna is worth a visit just to see the pieces of art by Jacopo della Quercia which are exposed in it.

Paolo’s opinion as architect


The Two Towers

Before the sad event of September eleven, those in Bologna were the most famous couple of towers in the world. Nowadays the Garisenda Tower and the Asinelli Tower seem two isolated beacons signing the geometric centre of the town but in medieval times they were just two of more than hundred similar towers spread all around the historic centre. Such buildings had not a particular defensive reason but they just were built to enhance the importance and witness wealth of each noble family that ordered their construction. This “phallic competition” is the proof of how architecture was always a mean to leave a sign of power on the territory (see for more the Paolo’s architectural opinions).
Climbing the tallest tower facing the inner wooden stairway is an experience for people who have a head for heights but the wonderful panorama from the top over the red rooftops is worth the effort.




Portico di San Luca

The Portico di San Luca is a long arcade, built in the seventeenth century, starting from Porta Saragozza and leading toward the Sanctuary of Madonna di San Luca, the “zuccheriera” (sugar bowl) as the highlighted church on the hill is affectionately known. With its more than six hundreds arches and fifteen chapels en route the portico holds the extraordinary record of being the longest continuous arcade in the world. The entire walk (about four kilometres) is a sort of cathartic walk toward beauty and wonderful panoramas that will give “pilgrims” the feeling of having gained intimacy with the town.
Traditionally, the pilgrimage is often done by students like a votive offering to the success of an examination.

Compianto sul Cristo Morto

The Compianto sul Cristo morto is a masterpiece of Renaissance art by Niccolò dell'Arca. It is a series of sculptures representing the Madonna and disciples in front of the deposed body of Christ: the great pathos transmitted is incredible and the intense sense of movement and the suffering expressions bring to consider statues as baroque but they rise back to the second half of 1,400!
Actually locals always saw the frowning Madonna as an evidence of ugliness. Even nowadays it is possible to hear people say “brutta come la Madonna della Vita” which means: “ugly like the Madonna of the Vita”. It is a wording still used in town to indicate an ugly woman. The Compianto is located inside the church of Santa Maria della Vita on the labyrinthine area of narrow medieval alleys at west of Piazza Maggiore where still their names evoke the trading destination: Via Pescherie vecchie (fishmongers), Via Clavature (locksmiths), Via Orefici (jewellers), drapperie (textile merchants). The Compianto alone is worth a visit in Bologna for its originality and artistic importance.


Archiginnasio building

The Archiginnasio is composed by a series of buildings dated back to 16th Century where pope Pio IV assembled all the cultural activities of the important University of Bologna. In the Archiginnasio complex don’t miss the numerous museums and in particular don’t miss the Egyptian Museum: it can’t compete with the Louvre’s section dedicated to Egyptology but items shown are wonderful. An important highlight to visit is the Anatomic Theatre by Antonio Levanti (1637), completely adorned with wooden boiserie and an unsettling marble table at its centre for the post-mortem examinations. On the same issue don’t miss to go to the ancient Anatomic Wax Museum in the university district: a very original visit!


Other cultural landmarks

Here are listed some other cultural landmarks a visitor can’t miss (a specific tourist guide would have included many others):
the Basilica di San Domenico, rising back to 13th Century with its magnificent tomb crafted by a series of important artists including Nicolò Pisano, Alfonso Lombardi and a young Michelagelo Buonarroti;
the San Peter’s Cathedral with its marvellous Ludovico Carracci’s Annunciation;
Palazzo dei Banchi, facing Piazza Maggiore; “banchi” means benches, in fact that was the place where money-lenders traditionally were used to do business setting up their benches under the portico;
Palazzo D’Accursio, now the town hall;
Palazzo del Podestà & Palazzo di Re Enzo;
San Giacomo Maggiore
and its Oratorio di Santa Cecilia;
the Seven Churches (Abbey of Santo Stefano) with the elaborated burial site of San Petronio which shape was modelled on the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, or the famous eight-century fountain basin reputed to be the one Pontius Pilate used to wash his hands after condemning Christ to death;
the Basilica dei Servi with its works by Vitale da Bologna and Cimabue and its external portico which is a rare exemplum of perfection In this short guide of Bologna we do not quote all the other numerous museums present in town with art works of the most important Italian artists, in particular those who were born in town as Guercino, Domenichino, Guido Reni, Giorgio Morandi and the various Carracci.


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