Exploring Bologna

Published Date Author: , May 5th, 2012

Bologna, Italy

We survived the jetlag.

After getting in to Bologna a little after 2 PM (5 AM at home), our friend Marco arrived and brought us to his home, a beautiful modern apartment on the top floor of his building. We’re staying in the cute little Italian town of Forlì, about halfway between Bologna and Ravenna in the province of Emilia Romagna, maybe two hours east of Florence on the Adriatic side of Italy.

On the advice of our friends, Mrco and Fabry, we stayed up until 9 PM the first night, enjoying a wonderful dinner (tortellini in broth) with them. But by 9 PM I was fading fast. Heading off to bed at last, we slept all night, from 9:30 PM until 8 the next morning, and woke, if not exactly refreshed, at least able to function.

Our destination for the day was the city of Bologna, where we had arrived at the airport the day before. Marco and Fabry arranged to have four of their friends, two other gay couples, meet us in the city for a day of walking and sightseeing.

Canal in BolognaWe started the day in Piazza 20 Settembere, where we met Alex and Loris, and Luca and Marco. After exchanging Italian hugs and kisses, we made our way into the city’s centro storico – the historic center.

Bologna has a large historic center – with miles and miles of beautiful covered walkways. Like many Italian cities, there’s a surprise around every corner.

The first of these surprises was one of the underground canals that runs through the city (at left). At one end of Piazza 20 Settembere, you can see the canal and a beautiful set of ruins. At one time, Bologna, like Venice, was built around canals, but most of these are now buried beneath the city.

We noticed that Bologna also seems to have a large gay community – there were gay guys, lesbians, and couples everywhere. Bologna is a university town, and Luca and Marco told us that many kids from the south come here for school – they called Bologna the San Francisco of Italy, where people feel free to be who they really are, although there was some disagreement on that title among the group. 🙂

Piazza Maggiore, BolognaFrom Piazza 20 Settembre, we walked over to Via di Indipendenza, past another beautiful ruin, and down the street to the Piazza Maggiore, the largest plaza in the historic center of Bologna.

Along one edge of this historic plaza sits the cathedral of San Petronio. Originally this church was to be built in the shape of a cross, and it would have been even larger than St. Peter’s in Rome, but the church at the time ran out of money, and instead the church has only the one long hall, without the side wings.

Here, also, you’ll find Il Comune del Bologna, with a public library, city offices, and a wide, open internal courtyard with glass tiles where you can look down at some of the ruins that lie beneath the current city. Bologna runs deep!

Apple Store, BolognaWe also found one of our own churches – the church of the Apple Store! We try to make the pilgrimage here wherever we go – it was like seeing an old friend here in Italy.

There was also live music in the Piazza – a trio of musicians – strangely, when we walked by, they were playing the victory theme from the original Star Wars movie – you know, where Luke, Chewbacca and Han Solo get the medals at the end? Che pazzo paese – what a strange (and wonderful) country.

We enjoyed lunch with our old and new friends at Il trattoria del Rosso – we’ll do a separate review of this great little restaurant – suffice it to say the food was really good and the hosts very friendly.

Towers in BolognaAfter lunch, we walked down to the two towers – i Torri degli Asinelli e della Garisenda – did you know Bologna has its own leaning tower? This one has been stabilized, but at one time part of the top of the tower fell to the street. You can climb to the top if you want – it costs about 40 Euros, and the passage is really narrow and over 300 steps high. We decided to take in the view from the ground level.

House in BolognaAlong the way, we also passed one of the oldest homes in Italy, built in medieval times – and still standing. The home is supported by impossibly long, thin wooden beams and two brick columns… it seems to hang there, suspended in the sky above you. The original family still lives on the premesis, but there are now stores below and some beautiful courtyards.

We ran across this sign on the way as well. A little background – there’s a son of a local politician who is accused of having bought a degree at a university abroad, and it’s ballooned into a huge scandal here over how that party has spend political funds.

Apparently they have a slogan that they are “hard” for Italy, and so the slang here says that we’re now paying for the party to have a hard… well, you get the idea. “Soldi anche al’ucello di Bossi” translates as “money also for the cock of Bossi” (the politician) – ucello has two meanings in Italian – one is “bird”, and the other is, well, cock.

As we said, crazy-wonderful country.

Bologna ChurchWe also visited a beautiful 11th century church – now the Museum of St. Stephen – the church itself is really old, especially by American standards, but it’s built atop an even older church, which you can still visit – it’s now a quiet chapel for prayer. While photos were not allowed in part of the church, we were able to take a few in other parts, including the chapel.

If you have a day or two to spend, Bologna is a great place to visit – the historic center is huge. Parking is tight, so take the train in, or if you have to drive, give yourself plenty of time to find parking. The parking spaces use a system similar to the one we have in Sacramento – park, and find the kiosk where you pay for the parking for the day.

Then you can just wander the streets of this fascinating city (but bring a good map)!

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