This past week was an extremely eventful one. Our 6-day excursion to the Emilia-Romagna region in central-northern Italy was quite the experience. We visited multiple cities, such as Parma, Ferrara, Modena, and Bologna. The capital (and largest city) of the Emilia-Romagna region is Bologna, and we actually stayed in that city for three nights of our entire trip.
On the morning of day three of our excursion, we departed our hotel in Parma for Bologna. The bus ride between the two cities was only an hour long, so we reached the city of Bologna shortly after 10:30 AM. It was May 1st, the Italian Labor Day, so we were lucky to have a tour guide who was willing to work and take us around the city. His name was Balda (short for Baldassare) and he met us outside of the Basilica of San Domenica.
We then met up with his colleague, who brought us audio devices since he cannot speak loudly when we enter the church later. It was my first time using this machine on a tour, and I actually like it a lot. I didn’t feel the pressure to walk at Balda’s pace to be able to hear him, thus I was able to focus on my surroundings a lot more.
My first time using the “whisper machine”, as Balda called it.
Our first main stop of the walking tour was Piazza Maggiore, the city’s main square. As I mentioned earlier, it was an Italian holiday, so the square was extremely busy. There were vendors, a stage set up for performances, and just people everywhere. We entered the Basilica of San Petronio, which was one of the buildings surrounding the piazza.
Basilica of San Patronio, exterior is only half covered in marble.
This church has the most controversial backstory of all churches I’ve learned about thus far. It was built in 1390, and funded by the people of Bologna, not by the church. This was because the people of Bologna wanted to counter the power of church. Centuries past, and the many Popes in power attempted to regain authority by either stopping the construction or placing a statue on top of the church. This explains why the exterior of the church is only half covered with marble. After many challenges, the Church of San Petronio was finally consecrated in 1957.
The city of Bologna has a few nicknames; la rossa (the red), la grassa (the fat), and la dotta (the learned). “The Red” refers to both the city’s red buildings and its support for the Italian Communist Party. Its second nickname, “The Fat”, refers to its cuisine.
Finally, the last nickname, “The Learned”, is because Bologna is home to the oldest university in all of Europe. The University of Bologna was founded in 1088, and some of history’s most notable figures taught or were taught here. I was fortunate enough to visit the room where Leonardo da Vinci gave the first lectures on human anatomy; it is called the “Teatro Anatomico”, and located in the Archiginnasio of Bologna. The Archiginnasio today houses the city’s library, where books from the 16th century are on display.
Built in 1637, the Teatro Anatomico remains one of the historical rooms of the medical school of University of Bologna.
Galileo’s books, located in the library of the Archiginnasio.
The peculiar beauty paired with the rich history of the city definitely made Bologna a unique city that I most certainly want to visit again.