Or what to see in a day
What is the best way to get from London to our home city Sofia if not by changing planes in Italy 🙂 After all, the last time I’ve been in the country was almost a year ago , too long, a new visit was demanded .
Joke aside, our coming home turned out quite challenging since it was the middle of December and apparently almost every Bulgarian living in London decided to travel and the prices of plane tickets was sky high ( about 500 euro for three people and one suitcase ) . But since I’m such an experienced traveler, I could not accept this sum and tried to find anything more budget friendly. Of course, there was it – stopover in Bologna for just 115 euro, including the price of our suitcase , paid twice ( two different flights ) ! Thank you, Ryanair !
Enough with the planning, here comes the true journey …
On 15 December we had to get up really early since our flight London – Bologna was at 9.15 AM , which meant that we must be at the airport around 7 AM. Anyone who lived or visited London is aware of the distances in this huge megalopolis , so our standard way to get the airport ( public transport + airport transfer ) couldn’t work unless we didn’t mind to wander at night with all our staff – suitcase , three backpacks and a buggy .
The only reasonable solution was to find a private transfer company, so I started the search and not long after I found Blackberry cars , who I deeply recommend . The service was very prompt , on time and the journey was quite pleasant .
So, the plane took off on time and maybe after an hour and a half we were in Bologna . But not before we marveled at this beautiful views of the Alps .
And the wonderful Verona :
Bologna’s population is around 370 000 people and is pretty famous with the oldest university in the world. There was a settlement in this area from 534 B.C., and beside it’s history the town is known for it’s delicious food.
But first thing fisrt – we had to get from the airport to the city center . It turned out to be quite easy , there is a bus line called Aerobus, with a few stops that gets you to the center in half an hour for 6 euro one way. My only remark is that the stops are not shown in any way and you don’t know where to get off . Thanks to that we missed our stop and went all the way to the train station instead of the city center .
The good news was that the train station wasn’t far away, but that wasn’t the way we planned our start of the tour .
I had something like a plan in mind , after all we had ,give it or take, around 7 hours in Bologna, and our first stop should’ve been Piazza Maggiore, but because of the bus we started with some, not included, but interesting sites.
The first one was the gateway of Parco della Montagnola – the oldest park of Bologna and it has always been a location used for performances, games and sport competitions. This park is open to the public since 1664. The current plan is to be dated back to the first years of the 19th century, when Napoleon ordered the architect G.B Marinetti to redesign it in the French style. In 1896, in the park, were built a monumental flight of stairs and a circular basin in the middle of the garden.
In Montagnola, there are also centuries-old plane trees from the Napoleon period .
We continued the walk on the big boulevard nearby the park, where surrounded by magnificent buildings and palaces we reached а majestic church , which we just had to visit .
Here are some of the beauties we saw :
The church turned out to be the cathedral of Bologna, entitled “Metropolitana” in 1582 by Pope Gregorio XIII. There used to be a baptistery in front of the façade and the origins of the building may be traced back to the beginning of the Christian era.
The cathedral underwent several changes throughout the centuries: it was first hit by a fire in August 1131 and further put under strain by an earthquake in 1222.
Its bell tower is the second tallest tower in the city (70 m). It is actually composed of two towers in one built in different times . The belfry houses the largest bell that can be rung “in the Bolognese way of ringing” (in a cadenced manner and with full rotation of the bell) and weighs 33 tons. The bell complex weighs 65 tons. There is a beautiful panoramic view of the city centre and nearby hillsides from the top of the tower, but we didn’t have enough time to marvel it .
Coming next was Piazza Maggiore and the first building there – Palazzo Re Enzo , also known as ‘Palazzo Nuovo’ (New Palace) to distinguish it from Palazzo del Podestà, was built between 1244 and 1246 (at the same time as Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo) as an extension of the other municipal buildings.
Just three years later, it became the ‘residence’ of the King captured during the Battle of Fossalta and was named after him – King Enzo of Sardinia, son of Emperor Frederick II. He lived in the building for twenty-three years until his death in 1272. His figure inspired many legends in popular literature.
The Palazzo del Podestà was the first seat of city government, which was presided over by the Podestà and his judges and officials. Ever since it was first built, it has had a bell tower – known as the Arengo tower – that was used to gather all citizens in case of extraordinary events.
Surrounded by the magical atmosphere of Piazza Maggiore, Palazzo Re Enzo today combines the charm of the past with cutting-edge technology by hosting congresses, conventions, cultural initiatives, business meetings and exhibitions .
In front of the Palazzo is the Fountain of Neptune . It was erected between 1564 and 1566, when Pope Pius IV decided to give the Bolognesi something they did not yet have: a public fountain. The statue of Neptune is almost four meters tall and weighs 2,200 kilograms . The trident logo of Maserati, the luxury sports car company founded in Bologna in 1914, is based on the trident of Neptune. This was considered especially appropriate not just because the Neptune Fountain is one of the main symbols of Bologna, but also because Neptune represents strength and vigor.
Here is the most famous site in Bologna – the Basilica di San Petronio. Named in honour of Bologna patron Saint Petronius – 8th bishop of the city – the Basilica is the most imposing and important church in Bologna . The construction started in 1390 under the supervision of architect Antonio di Vincenzo. In 1514, Arduino degli Arriguzzi designed a new Latin-cross layout that would overtop St Peter’s Church in Rome. According to the legend, Pius IV stopped the construction of this megalomaniac dream and pushed for the construction of the Archiginnasio instead. Even the facade remained incomplete. The central nave covering and the apse shooting, were completed only in 1663, while the lower naves were closed by rectilinear walls.
Built in 1470 by Lorenzo da Prato and featuring the most prestigious and oldest functioning organ in the world, the Bologna musical Chapel was once very famous.
Right after entering the basilica you are stunned by it’s size and magnificent. The are 22 chapels inside , everyone with different and stunning artworks . If you want to take pictures inside you have to pay 2 euro , but since we are smart-asses , we forgot to exchange pounds to euros. The fault for this, partially, is because we got used to pay everything in England with card and almost forgot to have cash . So, all of the interior pictures are taken from internet.
You can also visit the panoramic terrace for only 3 euros, but plan at least 30 min for it.
After seeing the major sites we took time to wander around the Piazza Maggiore .
Around it there are lots of cozy, quite streets filled with little shops and tratorias .
After all this walking we got a bit hungry, unfortunately thanks to our lack of cash the choice was quite limited. Still we found a little restaurant, whose waitress almost got offended when we asked for pizza and enlightened us that they serve only local food . After very fast choosing we ate mushroom risotto and tagliatelle bolognese, which I can frankly say were one of the tastiest meals I’ve ever eaten . The food in Italy never disappoints me really .
With full bellies we continued to wander in the little streets :
We had the pleasure to see the performance of a street artist, juggling on rope. Every kid there was in heaven 🙂
And the beautiful Christmas decoration :
By plan we were approaching the only site that I really wanted to see in Bologna – The Two Towers .
Pisa is not the only Italian city with a leaning tower…nor is it the one with the most leaning of all. In fact, the record holder is the Garisenda Tower in Bologna, which leans at a whopping 4 degrees (compared to 3.97° of the Leaning Tower of Pisa). Standing alongside the Asinelli, the city’s tallest (97m), the Garisenda forms the so-called Due Torri(Two Towers), possibly Bologna’s most famous landmarks.
Both the Asinelli and the Garisenda take their names from the families who ordered their construction in the 12th century, when Bologna had more than 100 towers, built both as a display of wealth and power and as defense and attacks posts, at a time when the city was divided between two opposing factions, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, those who supported the Pope and those who favored the Holy Roman Emperor respectively. Shortly after its construction, the Garisenda Tower took such a steep incline that, in the 14th century, it was cut off by 12 meters to the current 48 meters it measures today.
The Garisenda was even mentioned in the Divine Comedy by Dante, who probably saw it when he was studying at the University of Bologna. He also refers to an odd phenomenon which can still be observed today when you stand at the foot of the tower: if a cloud approaches the tower from its leaning side, it looks as if the tower, not the cloud, is moving, tilting even more as if to meet the cloud.
You can visit Asinelli for 3 euro , but keep in mind that you must climb 498 steps .We didn’t have time to spare, but you can expect this :
Nearby is another beautiful palace, used for administration purposes – Palazzo della Mercanzia .
We continued to be surrounded by beautiful views .
Step by step we reached one of the most interesting buildings in Bologna – Pallazo Salina . Palazzo Bolognini Amorini Salina is a Renaissance architecture palace located on Piazza Santo Stefano. The Palace is notable by its circular niches with busts on the facade. The palace is still owned by descendant of the 16th-century Senatorial family. The building was erected between 1517–25 with work continuing from 1551–1602. The design was by Andrea da Formigine; Formigine and Properzia de’ Rossi sculpted the capitols in the portico. Palace construction ceased by 1602 for lack of funds, and work on the palace was not restarted till the 19th-century, and not completed until the 1884 under the engineer Lamberdini. The facade has a series of capricci busts made of terra-cotta in the spandrels and below the roofline. The Renaissance artists were Alfonso Lombardi and Nicolò da Volterra and the 19th-century contribution on the right of the facade were by Giulio Cesare Conventi.
Next was Piazza Santo Stefano – one of the most peculiar places in Bologna. Even though it is mainly considered as a square, it is not properly this: Via Santo Stefano widens to create this peculiar area that leads to the monumental group of buildings named after the same Saint. From Piazza Santo Stefano the ancient road to Tuscany may be taken. This group of churches is mainly known as “seven churches” as it is formed by seven holy buindings built and renovated during different periods, mainly on behalf of the patron Saint of Bologna, St. Petronio.
A little glimpse of one of the churches :
On the right side of the square you can see a palazzo with porticos – one of the most famous Bologna features . Porticos have the same aim today as the one they had in the late Middle Ages when they were first built; the urban migration and the arrival of students and men of letters at the oldest University of the Western world caused an extraordinary growth of the city, and at that time Bologna had the same urban development as Paris. The origin of porticos is the sporto, a protruding wooden structure which was usually built in order to extend the inner living space of the upper floors. These structures then grew bigger and heavier, so that it was necessary to prop them up with wooden beams which inevitably occupied the street.
We couldn’t miss the Christmas market and lights on Piazza Minghetti , together with the most expensive place in the city – Galleria Cavour .
This was the end of our trip in the beautiful and old Bologna . The only thing left was to get to the airport, again with the Aerobus, but I have to warn you that if you want to buy some souvenirs or something to remember, don’t wait for the Duty-free shop – it is the lousiest one I’ve ever seen. Very expensive, almost no choice and quite small.
I really hope that I could come back to Bologna, I would definetly stay more time and in warmer, sunny weather . Many sites left unseen, and I could spent more time on the ones we visited .
This is my goodbye and advice – if you have a stopover somewhere , don’t be afraid to go out of the airport, even for a few hours . If you liked my itinerary you can check it out here :