Bologna half-a-day itinerary

Piazza Maggiore - Photo BolognaWelcome
Piazza Maggiore – Photo BolognaWelcome

Maggiore square
This is the heart of the city and the result of secular transformations which enriched it progressively with important buildings.

Surrounding the square are: Basilica di San Petronio, Palazzo dei Notai, Palazzo d’Accursio, Palazzo del Podesta’ and the scenic facade of Palazzo dei Banchi.

Fontana del Nettuno – Photo BolognaWelcome
Fontana del Nettuno – Photo BolognaWelcome

Piazza del Nettuno– Fountain of Neptune

This monument of marble and bronze was built by the “Flemish” Giambologna according to a design by Tommaso Laureti in 1563. It represents the symbol of papal power: while Neptune rules over the seas the Pope dominates over the land.

At the foot of the God are four cherubs which represent the Ganges, the Nile, the Amazon and the Danube-the rivers of the continents known to humans at the time.

Piazza del Nettuno – Piazza Re Enzo– King Enzo’s Palace
Piazza del Nettuno – Piazza Re Enzo– King Enzo’s Palace


Originally called Palatium Novum because it was added on to the older Palazzo del Podesta’, it was later renamed Palazzo Re Enzo, as it became the prison of Enzo, son of the Emperor Frederic the Second, who was defeated by the people of Bologna in the battle of Fossalta in 1249.

Only a part of the building can be visited; from the courtyard, you go up the staircase leading to a “loggia” or gallery with a spectacular view.

Open: open to the public only during the exhibitions.

Piazza Maggiore – Podesta’ Palace

The present building is a 15th century reconstruction of the old 13th century palace. It was designed by A.Fioravanti and built in sandstone in 1483. The medieval tower reaching into the sky is fruit of Master Alberto’s genious: a true masterpiece of engineering, it doesn’t stand on the ground but on the pillars of the arched Podesta’ vault. Open: open to the public only during the exhibitions.

Piazza Maggiore-Banchi Palace

This was the latest building constructed on the square:it is actually thought as a scenic facade to hide the narrow streets of the market in the back. Designed by Vignola, it dates back to the second half of the 16th century. Its facade is composed of 15 arches, two of which allow the access to the Clavature and Pescherie streets. Only the exterior is visible.

Il Quadrilatero Photo BolognaWelcome
Il Quadrilatero Photo BolognaWelcome

via Pignattari, 1-Notai Palace
This used to be the seat of the ancient and powerful Corporation of Notaries. It is has two different parts: the first, towards the church, was built under the supervision of Antonio di Vincenzo, while the construction of the second, more recent one, was directed by B.Fioravanti in 1440s. The difference can be seen in the double lancet windows. Opening hours:Notai Hall/Internet Cafè: Mon and Fri 8.30-14.30, Tue/Wed/Thu 8.30-18. Closed:Sat and Sun. Entrance free.

Piazza Maggiore – Basilica of saint Petronius
Its construction began in 1390 to celebrate the victory of the people of Bologna over the Florentine people and the Pope. It is a civic temple, that is, belonging to the citizens. It has never been completed and its construction continued up to the 17th century. Pink marble and bricks were used for the facade, and the massive central door is a masterpiece of Jacopo della Quercia, on which he sculpted scenes from the Old and the New Testament. In the inside:the Altar of the 2nd chapel to the left holds the funerary Urn with the remains of Saint Petronius. The particular illuminaion of the church is due to its north-south orientation. The sundial, which is the largest one to be found in an enclosed area, was built by the astronomer Cassini in the 17th century. Among the chapels, the 4th from the left, attributable to Bolognini, is famous for its exquisite decoration. The frescoes are the work of Giovanni da Modena who represented Hell, Paradise and the Coronation od the Virgin on the left wall and, on the right, the journey of Three Kings. Entrance free.

Piazza Maggiore, 6-D’Accursio Palace-Town Hall
It is made up of two distinct constructions. The building on the left, the older of the two, was the residence of the Accursio family, giving its name to the whole building.It belonged to the Magistracy of the Elders from 1336. The clock tower was built in 1444. The right part of the building is fully Gothic characterised by eight double lancet windows and a great window in the lower part. It was built in the mid-16th century by Galeazzo Alessi. The same architect built the triumphal entrance on whose upper part stands the statue of Gregory XIII, responsible for introducing the reform of the calendar. The building now houses local council offices but from the 16th to the 19th century it was the official residence of the Papal legate.The Chapel and the Sala Farnese, the Sala d’Ercole, the Sala Rossa, the Council Chamber and what was previously the Sala Borsa (now the center of the new Council library) are all open to public view. Archaeological exhibits can also be seen in the library (entry from Piazza Nettuno). Morandi Museum-Inaugurated in 1993 on the occasion of the donation of a collection by the painter’s sisters, it includes about 200 works of art which span the artist’s entire career, from youth to maturity. The museum houses aquarelles, etchings, drawings and a reconstruction of Morandi’s studio which was located in the central Via Fondazza. Municipal Art Collection and Appartments of the Legate Cardinal-It includes pieces from private collections (Palagi,Pepoli,etc.) arranged in the halls of the Accursio Palace. Among others, there are pieces dating to the 14th century, as well as pieces by Tintoretto and Carracci.

Due Torri – Photo BolognWelcome
Due Torri – Photo BolognWelcome

Piazza di Porta Ravegnana-The two towers

These are to be considered the symbol of the city. Originally, during the Middle Ages, Bologna counted about seventy towers and house-towers. The construction of the Garisenda tower began arond 1120 to celebrate the banishment of the imperial legate, but was left incomplete due to the incliantion of the ground. Construction of the Asinelli tower began right afterwords, and bears the name of the family who owned it. It is 97 m high (498 stairs) and together with the Garisenda (47m), is under constant observation to measure and contain the incliantion.

Piazza della Mercanzia, 4

Built by Antonio di Vincenzo in 1384, the palace itself is in clay brick while the double lancet windows and the balcony are in marble. The palace, in Gothic style, is characterised by two ogival arches and a long upper frieze displaying the coats of arms of the city guilds. In niches found on the left and on the right are patron saints of the city, while the statue of Justice is in the central one. The palace was destroyed by the bombings during World War II and later rebuilt. Access limited to the entrance hall/groups only by request.

Via S. Stefano, 24-St.Stephen’s Basilics

This is actually a group of churches also known as “Holy Jerusalem” because it recalls the passion of Jesus. Its construction began in the 8th century and was erected by the Longobards, who made their own church. On the left you can see the church of St.Vitale and Agricola, so named for the relics of the first martyrs of Bologna which originally lay here; the church of the Holy Sepulchre, within which is housed the small central temple intended to bring to mind the sepulchre of Christ of Jerusalem (until the year 2000 it contained the remains of Saint Petronius) and the church of Saint John the Baptist. Inside, there are two medieval cloisters, the church of the Holy Trinity and the Museum of St.Stefano.

Mercato Photo BolognaWelcome
Mercato Photo BolognaWelcome

Piazza Galvani, 1-Archiginnasio Palace

This building was the seat of Bologna University from the 16th century until the 1803 when the offices moved to Palazzo Poggi (Via Zamboni 33). From the 1838 the building housed the Council library. The building is the work of the architect Antonio Morandi, known as “Terribilia”. The Anatomy Theatre, in cedar and deal, forms part of the interior. It was used for the staging of the experiments conducted by the Faculty of Medicine.

Piazza S. Domenico, 13 – St.Dominic’s church

Its construction began shortly after the death of the Saint (1221). The beauty of the church is mostly attributable to the tomb of Saint Dominic placed inside.

In this magnificent piece of architecture built in different periods are two remarkable pieces: the 13th century sarcophagus by Nicola Pisano and Arnolfo Cambio, representing episodes of the Saint’s life-the crowning by Niccolo’ da Puglia, who was named “Dell’Arca”-“of the Ark”-after this masterpiece. The candleholder on the right, an angel, was made by Michelangelo. We also reccomend a visit to the wooden choir inlaid by Brother Damiano-Fra Damiano (1528-51), to the “Mystical Wedding of St.Catherine” by Filippino Lippi, to the “Crucifix” by Giunta Pisano and to the 15 “Mysteries of the Rosary”, a collective piece of art created by the painters: Calvart, Cesi, L.Carracci, Reni, Albani, Domenichino e L.Fontana. Outside, you can see the tombs of the “Glossatori” (masters of Roman law): tomb of Rolandino de’Passeggeri and near the wall on the left tomb of Egidio de’Foscherari.

Bologna history >>>
In part Courtesy of IAT Bologna Tourist Office