From Genoa we went on to Bologna whose name means a large smoked sausage of various meats. We were enjoying towns and cities that we had never seen before so our trip was proving to be very interesting.

Arena del Sol Theatre on Independence Street

The trip was 3.5 hours, if all fell into place, as we had to go back to Milan to change trains and, fortunately, there was no delay as there had been on our way to Genoa. We arrived early afternoon and began the walk from the station to the hotel following the signs marked hotels. We walked a long way over a rail bridge, all the time looking for the Hotel Centrale which we had been told was a 15min walk from the station. We did see a very interesting sculpture on one side of the road which turned out to be Dom Antonio Galvinelli (Rizario) sitting across the road from the Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Don Antonio Galvinelli reflects in front of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart
Shrine of the Sacred Heart

Well, after 20 minutes and no sign of the hotel we decided to ask a bus driver as there were many buses going up and down the street. The first 2 had no idea but the 3rd said that he did know where it was and so we boarded his bus, not having to pay as we had our Eurail Pass. We were taken back the way we had come, crossed over the original intersection and on down the road which was the main street, called Independence Street. We were dropped off at an intersection and the driver pointed down a street saying, “down that road” which became down the road, left into another and at the far end of a third – all this with assistance from passers-by; definitely, not a 15min walk from the station. The hotel was very much off the beaten-track, not in the heart of the city as advertised  and not the best we had seen but it was clean and comfortable.

Entrance to our hotel

Once settled into our room, we went out to discover what lay around as there we had seen many small narrow lanes on our long walk. There were dozens of eateries of every kind and size and representing many countries. The only other type of business was a car wash and a cleaning business. Not over exciting so we stopped at a Greek Restaurant where we had a light dinner and headed back to the hotel.

We received a bit of a surprise, when we went down to breakfast, in the type of dishes used for cereals and other offerings. These were all made of recycled material and could be composted, according to a sign on the wall. There was no hot food offered and no assistants, except for a woman who came in and out, looked around and left. Guests were expected to do everything themselves and with no dishes to wash clearing away was simple.

Information on the eco plates

Bologna proved to be an easy city to walk around as it is flat and well laid out. From the hotel we walked back to Independence Street, this was the shopping street of the city and where the Arena del Sol, considered one of the most beautiful theatres in Italy, is found.  We walked up to Maggiore Square, the main square of the city. This area was bought by the town council in 1200, all buildings and homes demolished and developed into a public square with a market place. There was a display being presented by the local police or Guardia as they are known. They had vehicles, a boat, pamphlets and 2 dummies in police uniform and little boys were having a delightful time.

bui Police boat and cars
Police display

In the centre of the Square, was a fountain with a statue of Neptune, known as the Fountain of Neptune, holding his trident. It stands almost 4m high and weighs 2 200kgs. Around the statue at the top are 4 angels and around the base are 4 women with water spewing from breasts.  Besides the 2 medieval towers, which we saw later, it is considered the most important landmark in Bologna. It was created from bronze by Tommaso Laureti and Flemish sculptor Jean de Boulogne, who was also known as Giambologna. The statue and fountain were completed in 1566. It had been requested by Pope Pius IV to give Bologna a public fountain to supply easy access to fresh drinking water. It was used in this way until people began to use it for washing. This was banned in 1588 and, finally, in 1604 it was fenced off.

Neptune Fountain

While standing in front of the fountain there was a large, Greco design building known as the Bishop’s Palace. Interestingly, it is almost impossible to find any information on this building on the internet except for some photos. It must have an interesting history and is referred to as the King Enzo Palace.

The Bishop’s Palace in de Maggiore Square

The Cathedral of Bologna or The Metropolitan Cathedral of St Peter, is on the far side of the Square and is quite beautiful and imposing. Outside of the Cathedral there were rows and rows of chairs and a stage set up in front of these which we learnt was for a concert that evening.

Bologna Cathedral with chairs set out for a concert

As we were leaving the Piazza Maggiore we saw the hop on/hop off train which was standing at one end of the square but no one was on board. We were told that it would only start its tours in the afternoon of that day, so we had to leave that treat out. Similarly, with the hop on/hop off bus which was standing nearby and didn’t seem to have any other takers.

Tour train

This did not concern us as, with wonderful weather and so much to see, we began walking stopping in parks and admiring buildings. As we went down one street we came across the Santa Maria Oratory and, before going inside, we read the information as provided on a plaque near the front door. It was originally built in the 1500s but completely rebuilt by a gentleman named Bonifacio Sochi between 1604 and 1617. Interestingly, the information reads that it was first built in the 14th Century but later, it mentions 14th Century paintings done in the 1500s so that is why I believe that The Oratory itself was built in 1500s. On another After informing ourselves of the history we ventured inside to find it quite beautiful. No sooner had we sat down near the back when a woman came to us and asked us to leave because I was wearing shorts, even though they were knee-length. It is the first time, and I hope the last, that I have been asked to leave a church!

Info on the Oratory
Oratory of Santa Maria
Oratory domed roof

As we wandered around the city, we were amazed at how well the drivers of both small and large vehicles manoeuvred through the narrow streets and even narrower lanes. We came to another square, the Santa Stefano Piazza, which is famous for its 7 churches in within its confines. The main one was the Basilica of Santa de Stefano and as we entered the most eye-catching and amazing piece were the Chancel steps. I have never seen such a steep set with so many stairs. Besides the Basilica, there are 6 other churches which, if on a tour, flow from one to the next:

The Basilica of Santo Stefano is also known as the “Seven Churches”

These are beautifully described in the links given above. There is so much information and it was such a special place to visit. Just as we were leaving all the church bells began to ring. Wow!

Front entrance to the Basilica Santa di Stefano
Chancel of the Basilica
Front of one and rear of another of the 7 churches

Around the corner we finally found the famous 2 Medieval Towers of Bologna and are considered to be the symbol of Bologna. They were built in the early 12th century along with approximately 100 others, most of which were demolished or collapsed.  They are named after the 2 families who were believed to have built them as a symbol of their wealth. The taller is the Asinelli, which can be climbed for a payment of €5 but we chose not to do so as there are 498 steps! The view may be fantastic but not worth the exhaustion. The shorter is the Garisenda and both are leaning.

The medieval towers

We had now done a full circle of the centre of the city and made our way back down Independence Street, continuing past the road to our hotel and right on to the end to check the time that it would take to get to the station and this without any luggage. We did it in 25mins so, when we left the next day, we decided to take a taxi.

On our way back up the street we passed a statue of Marco Marchetti, a Renaissance painter born in Faenza, 50kms SE of Bologna in c. 1528. His most famous painting is the Adoration of the Shepherds which hangs in a Pinacoteca or picture gallery in Faenza.

Marco Marchetti Renaissance painter

We went down a side street as we had seen another large square which turned out to be the park, Montagnola. Here there had been a flea market taking place and stall holders were gradually packing up as it was nearly 5 o’clock. At one table there was a very loud disagreement taking place which seem to be of a male stall holder insisting that a lady customer was stealing his items of clothing.  It confirmed that Italians can speak very loudly.

On one side of the square was a most interesting sculpture of 2 men, one lying dead and the other standing in a pose of achievement. At the time we couldn’t understand the plaque but I have since learnt that it is a monument to the men who were killed on 8 August 1848 during the war with Austria in this park. Little more is known about the monument but it is very moving.

Monument to the fallen in Bologna 8 Aug 1848

We slowly made our way back to the hotel, stopping for a pizza supper on the way. We had a very special day in this easy to see city.

Hydrangeas in an hotel garden