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Capital of Emilia-Romagna

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Population: 395,000 (Bolognese)

Specialities: al ragu sauce. Bologna mortadella. Tortellini in brodo. Cotoletta alla bolognese. Zuppa Inglese (dessert).  

Personalities: Umberto Eco (writer), Pier Paolo Pasolini (writer and film-maker), Ruggero Raimondi (opera singer), Lucio Dalla, Raffaella Carra (song), Rossano Brazzi, Gino Cervi (actors), Gregory XIII, Gregory XV and Benedict XIV (popes), Il Guercino (painter). Gugliemo Marconi (inventor, Nobel Prize in Physics). Pierluigi Colonna (football referee), Gianluca Pagliuca, Christian Vieri (football). Alberto tomba (alpine skiing).

Sport: Virtus Bologna and Fortitudo Bologna (basketball). FC Bologna (football). Zinella Bologna (volleyball). Competitions: Giro d’Emilia (cycling)

Culture and festivals: National Music Museum. Arcades. Towers of Bologna. Pinacoteca Nazionale. Il Vecchione (31 December).  Bologna Children's Book Fair (spring). Bologna Jazz Festival (September). Bologna Design Week. Bilbolbul (comics).

Economy: tourism, university, innovation, research. Automotive: Ducati, Lamborghini and Malaguti. Fashion: La Perla, Mandarina Duck, Stone Island. Exhibition centre.

  Labels: Unesco World Heritage Site for the Portici.

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Bologna is also home to the start and finish of the Giro d'Emilia, which has been held since 1909 and is one of the races held at the end of the season: its last three winners were Primoz Roglic twice (2021, 2023) and Enric Mas (2022), while some of the biggest names in Italian cycling have won here (Coppi, Bartali, Girardengo, Moser, Bugno).   Bologna is also home to the 2023 Italian champion, Simone Velasco, who took part in the Tour de France just once, in 2022. Other riders from Bologna include Lorenzo Fortunato, winner of the Monte Zoncolan stage in the 2021 Giro, and pioneer Aldo Bettini, who took part in the Tour de France three times between 1908 and 1910.  The Giro has stopped off in Bologna 23 times, most recently for the Grand Depart in 2019, when Primoz Roglic won ahead of Simon Yates and Vincenzo Nibali in the 8-km time trial that opened the event. It is also the home of former racing driver Alessandro Zanardi, who became a disabled cyclist after an accident and went on to win four Paralympic titles in London and Rio.


  • Portici (Bologna Arcades)

Construction: from the 11th century.

History: the first arcades in Bologna were probably built spontaneously as private buildings encroached on public space to increase surface area. The earliest known historical reference dates back to 1041. Over time, the size of the extensions increased and it became necessary to build columns to support them. The widespread use of arcades stemmed from the need to cope with the sharp increase in the number of students at the University of Bologna, as well as immigration from the countryside. In 1288, a municipal notice stated that all new houses were to be fitted with arcades, while existing buildings were to be fitted with additional ones.

Features: initially made of wood, a decree in 1658 required them to be rebuilt in brick or stone. Some wooden arcades have survived, however, such as via Marsala and Corte Isolani. They are a symbol of the city's architectural and cultural heritage, as are the many ancient tower-houses. No other city has so many arcades: they cover almost 40 km in the historic centre, and 62 km if you include those outside the medieval walls.

Listed as: UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2021.  

  • Piazza Maggiore

Piazza Maggiore is Bologna's main square, surrounding the city's most important medieval buildings. The oldest of these is the Palazzo del Podestà to the north, dating back to 1200 and surmounted by the Torre dell'Arengo. Next door is the Palazzo Re Enzo, which was added to the first building. The west of the square is closed off by the Palazzo d'Accursio (or Palazzo Comunale), a monumental 14th-century architectural complex that houses the Town Hall and the Museo Morandi. This building also overlooks the Piazza del Nettuno, which adjoins the Piazza Maggiore, at the centre of which stands the Fountain of Neptune, also known as the Giant's Fountain, created in 1565 by Giambologna. To the south, opposite the Palazzo del Podestà, stands the majestic unfinished façade of the Basilica of San Petronio, an example of Italian Gothic architecture, whose construction began in the late 14th century and was completed three centuries later. The eastern part of the square is enclosed by the Palazzo dei Banchi, built between 1565 and 1568 by Giacomo Barozzio. From this palace, a portico leads to the Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio, the medieval seat of the University of Bologna and its anatomical theatre, now one of Europe's most beautiful and richest libraries.   

  • Podestà Palace (Palazzo del Podesta)

Construction: 13th century.

Style: Gothic and Renaissance.

Architect: Aristotile Fioravanti.

History: the building was built as the seat of the local podestà and various municipal officials. It is located in Piazza Maggiore. In 1245, it was flanked by the Palazzo Re Enzo, on top of which stands the Torre dell'Arengo (Arengo Tower), proving insufficient to accommodate the citizens due to the massive participation of the people in the city's government. In 1453, on the orders of Giovanni II Bentivoglio, Aristotile Fioravanti replaced the bell and rebuilt the original Gothic façade in Renaissance style. In 1525, the terracotta statues of the city's protectors were placed in the Voltone. These sculpted representations were all created by Alfonso Lombardi. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the palace was converted into a theatre. In the 20th century, the palace was decorated with frescoes by painter Adolfo de Carolis.

Features: Palazzo del Podestà is a long building with a large hall on the upper floor. The lower floor consists of a double open arcade, known as the Voltone del Podestà, housing two rows of storerooms. Under the tower of the palace, in the centre of the building, a curious acoustic effect allows people to speak to each other, even in a low voice, from the four corners of the vault that supports it.

Special features: the Torre dell'Arengo overlooks the Podestà Palace. In 1453, a bell made by Aristotile Fioravanti was added to it. It is the largest bell in Bologna (around 47 quintals) and was intended to mobilise citizens on the occasion of political or social events.

Listed as: Italian cultural asset.  

  • Basilica of San Petronio

Construction: 14th century.

Style: Gothic.

History: the foundation stone was laid on 7 June 1390 to the design of Antonio di Vincenzo, to celebrate the freedom won back by the Guelph faction. It was continued in Gothic style for two centuries. Work on the first chapels, begun in 1393, was not completed until 1479. It was not until the 17th century that Girolamo Rainaldi completed the decoration of the central nave, between 1646 and 1658. Under the baldachin of the high altar, Pope Clement VII crowned Charles V emperor on 24 February 1530.

Features: Gothic basilica located in Piazza Maggiore. It is the largest brick Gothic church in the world, with a volume of around 258,000 m3. It is also the fifteenth largest church in the world, measuring 132 metres in length and 60 metres in width. Its vault reaches a height of 45 metres and its façade 51 metres. It can hold around 28,000 people.

Special feature: the basilica has been the target of several attempted Islamist attacks due to the presence inside of a 15th-century canvas painted by Giovanni da Modena, depicting a scene from Dante's Divine Comedy and depicting Mohammed in hell being devoured by demons. 

Listed as: Italian cultural asset.  

  • Palazzio d'Accursio

Construction: 15th century.

Style: composite.

History: the palace is a collection of buildings that have been joined together over the centuries and was originally the residence of Accursius, a jurist and Master of Law at the University of Bologna. In 1136 it became the residence of the Anziani (the Elders), and later the seat of the city's government. In the fifteenth century, architect Fioravante Fioravanti enlarged the palace with the addition of the Torre d'Accursio clock. The building was also modified in the early years of the sixteenth century after the fall of the Bentivogli family.

Features: also known as the Palazzo Comunale, this is Bologna's current town hall. On the façade, a bronze statue of Gregory XIII dating from 1580 stands atop a doorway, as does a Madonna and Child by Niccolo dell'Arca dating from 1478. At the back, a portcullis door protected this side. Inside, the palace preserves the memory of the city's historical events. The frescoes painted by Angelo Michele Colonna and Gioacchino Pizzoli between 1675 and 1677 can be seen on the first floor, where the current town council chamber is located.

Listed as: Italian cultural asset.  

  • Towers of Bologna

Construction: 12th and 13th centuries.

History: a large number of towers were erected in Bologna in the 12th and 13th centuries. It is assumed that the city's wealthiest families used them as defensive buildings as well as symbols of power. There are also tower-houses in the city, mainly for residential use. They are less high, have more openings, are generally rectangular in plan and have thinner walls. A large number of towers were demolished during the 13th century. Others eventually collapsed. They were put to a variety of uses over the following centuries, including prisons, belfries, shops and homes. The last demolitions took place in the 20th century, at the same time as the 13th-century walls, as part of an ambitious urban restructuring plan: the Artenisi and Riccadonna towers, which stood in the central market not far from the two large Asinelli and Garisenda towers, were demolished in 1926.

Characteristics: the towers of Bologna are a group of military or noble towers of medieval origin. It has sometimes been said that there were 180 towers, but this estimate, based on a misinterpretation of notarial records, is now considered to be very high. The current estimate varies from 80 to 100 towers, not all of which are contemporary. Fewer than twenty of these towers are still standing in the 21st century, including the twin towers of Asinelli (97-m high) and Garisenda (48 m), and the Azzoguidi (54.80 m), Prendiparte (60 m), Scappi (39 m), Uguzzoni (32 m), Guidozagni and Galluzzi towers.  

  • Fountain of Neptune

Built: 1565

Style: Mannerist.

History: the fountain was commissioned in 1563 by Charles Borromeo, Cardinal Legate of Bologna, as part of the architectural redevelopment of the Piazza Maggiore area to celebrate the recent election and reign of Pope Pius IV, his uncle. The pedestal fountain was created by sculptural architects Bartolomeo Ammannati and Tommaso Laureti, and the imposing bronze statue of the god Neptune and his trident by sculptor Giambologna.

Features: This is a monumental allegorical fountain in the Mannerist style dating from the 16th century, dedicated to the Roman mythological god Neptune. This monumental fountain with 90 jets of water is located between the Town Hall, the Palazzo Re Enzo and the Palazzo del Podestà.

Trivia: the Maserati brothers founded their Maserati sports and racing car company in 1914 in Bologna (before the headquarters were transferred to Modena in 1940) and took the trident from this statue as the logo for their "trident brand".  

  • International Music Museum and Library

Bologna's music library has one of the largest repertoires of scores in the world. It contains precious manuscripts and operas, as well as letters and autographs by eminent intellectuals and musicians. A vast section of volumes is displayed around a variety of paintings and musical instruments. The library becomes a calm and inspiring place for all art lovers. Visitors are encouraged to discover the history of sheet music over the centuries. One of the main items in the library is the signature of Mozart, who studied in Bologna.  

  • Fico Eataly World

Fico Eataly World is a 10-hectare space dedicated to showcasing Italian excellence and the agri-food market. The park offers a wide range of services: learning to cook, buying local produce, and discovering the secrets of Italian gastronomy through a variety of events. There are forty restaurants, manufacturing laboratories, a farm, discovery workshops, shops, wine bars...


  • Bolognese or not?

It's impossible to talk about Bologna without mentioning the famous Bolognese sauce that we love so much on... spaghetti. Sacrilege! The real Bolognese sauce does come from Bologna, but here it's called Al Ragu sauce, and it's mainly served with... tagliatelle. 8 mm wide to be precise, which have a much better grip. It can also be enjoyed with penne or rigatoni. As for making the sauce itself, you need some excellent ingredients and a lot of time. To cut a long story short, mix some minced meat (pork or beef) with an onion, a clove of garlic, a carrot, some celery and some Italian tomato pulp, then add a little wine, a little milk and a few aromatic herbs. Simmer for at least two hours before serving.


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