‘A man who has not been in Italy is always conscious of an inferiority from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see’ – Dr Samuel Johnson.
As explained in a previous article, this is the ‘Great Square’ of Bologna (and it is literally speaking!). This square was used for public meetings, hence its imposing largeness. You can straight away notice that this square was first meant to impress visitors. The different buildings are so beautiful! I had to catch my breath when I discovered it.
In Chapter 1, I quickly dealt with the ‘Palazzi’ which are built there. So, the different palaces you will see when you find yourself in the middle of la Piazza Maggiore are:
-Il Palazzo d’Accursio: nowadays, this palace is the town hall, or ‘Palazzo comunale’. It contains an impressive library and collection of artefacts. There is also a small garden square inside mysteriously called the Pozzo dei Desideri (the Well of Desires). Isn’t it thrilling?
-Il Palazzo del Podestà (the Palace of the Mayor): it was built in the 15th century. Originally, there was only the tower, La Torre dell’Arengo, which was used to call and reunite the people of Bologna on the square. You will find the Tourist Office under the arcades of the building.
-Il Palazzo dei Banchi: if I say that it can be translated into ‘The Palace of the Banks’, would it make it clearer to you? It was the last building to be built on the wonderful Piazza Maggiore. It takes its name from the banks that had settled there in remote times.
-Il Palazzo dei Notai (the Palace of the Notaries): This palace was built by the notaries of the city to bring together the archives and notarial funds. It seems rather small after all the other palaces…(it is the teeny tiny building behind the tents)
On this square, you can find cafés and the Tourist Information Office. Opposite the Palace of Podestà, there is San Petronio, the Basilica. Go there! This is an amazing monument. What I found different about it is that each small chapel is designed in a different style. You have chapels with old stained-glasses; others have frescoes. You need to pay in order to take pictures (when you enter, you go to the small stall and they will deliver you a ticket to say you have paid)
When you are out again on the square, you can go to your right and go to the Palazzo dei Banchi. Nowadays, this palace is a giant market place. Go behind it, and you will find streets full of food! (I call it paradise) There is the proper market with fresh food stalls and gigantic queues of people. You have even a covered market with restaurants in it. I told you! Bologna is the Italian capital of food. The Bolognese (the people of Bologna, not the pasta sauce…) take alimentation very seriously.
It is in Bologna that I first tasted a panino (sandwich) called ‘tigella’. It is a small round-shaped flatbread cut in the middle and garnished with ham or cheese normally. It is a speciality of the region of Modena. In Bologna, they have a revisited version of the tigella called the ‘piadina’. The difference is the bread that is used: it makes it resemble a wrap more than a sandwich.
Enough about food because I am sure this will make your mouth water! Let’s talk about culture instead! (yeah…I know…) You have too! This is Bologna! I am going to present you one of the places that impressed me the most. It is the Biblioteca dell’Archiginnasio. It is a library (yes, another one…) and I cannot really tell you what it is all about (‘archiginnasio’ does not have an equivalent in English) It is meant to be the most high-level library in terms of education and learning. But, I mean, you just have to see the entrance to understand how important this place was. Originally, this was a palace. It was destroyed in 1944 and rebuilt. You can find it just behind la Piazza Maggiore.
Reader, you must be famished! I leave you to it. Go to a restaurant and enjoy your food and drinks.
I M Gullivering,