Among the streets of the first university: music, readings, sacred art and everyday life.
Bologna is famous for being la Dotta (the Erudite), the town with the most ancient university in the western world, recognized by all the other national and international universities, founded in 1088.
For more than nine centuries Bologna was the centre of culture at the highest levels.
The Studio of Bologna, as was called the university in ancient times, had thousands of students among whom important intellectuals that are in the history of literature, sciences, philosophy: Thomas Becket archbishop of Canterbury, Pico della Mirandola, Erasmo da Rotterdam, Niccolò Copernico, Torquato Tasso, Carlo Goldoni, and Giosuè Carducci to mention some of them.
Following the places where the university was founded and developed means to follow centuries of great splendour. Via Zamboni is the modern heart of this town in the university. Along via Zamboni there is piazza Rossini, with the seat of the music conservatory, named after father Giovanni Battista Martini, 18th century musician master of counterpoint, that had the young Mozart as pupil in the period in which the great musician stayed in Bologna (1770) to get the degree as master of music at the famous Accademia Filarmonica.
The conservatory has a historical music library which is among the most important in Europe with lots of ancient finds.
Always in the square there is the façade of the Basilica di San Giacomo Maggiore, a large church with a single nave built in the 13th century by Augustinian monks.
The interior is rich of works of art among which a painting by Ludovico Carracci, wooden crucifixes by Jacopo di Paolo and various paintings and works that decorate the chapels, among which those of the families Bentivoglio and Poggi. It is also kept the tomb of Niccolò dell’Arca. In via Zamboni there are some faculties of humanities with their large libraries the most important one, among them, the Biblioteca Universitaria. To visit also the university museums of Palazzo Poggi at n. 33, among which worth to be visited the Museo delle Navi e delle Antiche Carte Geografiche, the Museo di Anatomia Umana, the Museo di Storia Naturale and the Museo di Fisica.
In via Zamboni there is the Teatro Comunale, designed in 1763 by Antonio Galli Bibiena and going along under the porticos of the theatre towards Porta San Donato after 200 meters you get to the small piazza Puntoni, where via Belle Arti starts seat of the National Art Gallery at n.56, in the same historical building there is the Accademia delle Belle Arti.
The Art gallery has got thirty exhibition rooms containing great works of art most of which saved from Napoleon requisitions in the churches of Bologna and in Emilia.
There are many representative paintings of bolognese art of the 16th and 17th centuries among which Ludovico, Agostino, Annibale Carracci, Guido Reni and Guercino, but there are also works by Giotto, Raffaello, Perugino, Tiziano and many other names of the same artistic importance in an exhibition that goes from 1200 to 1700.
Just behind the Art gallery there is via Irnerio, called after the founder of the school of law in the 11th century and at the n.42 it is possible to visit the Orto Botanico Universitario, one of the most ancient in Italy, instituted in 1568 and developed along two hectares with three greenhouses and five thousand specimens of local and exotic plants among which tropical, officinal, succulent, ornamental, etc.
From via Irnerio or from via Belle Arti, it is possible to get to via Indipendenza where you can admire the cattedrale di San Pietro: it is of early christian origins, but the cathedral was built in the 10th century and rebuilt in 1411 after a fire and restored up to the half of the 18th century with the last changes of the architect Alfonso Torreggiani.
To testify this long period of restoration the interior of the church keeps works of art by Alberto Lombardi, Ludovico Carracci and Donato Creti.
Another interesting proof of the following restorations is the bell tower with a rectangular base, 70 meters high, that keeps the ancient early christian romanesque bell tower with circular plan.
At a hundred meters from the cathedral there is the Biblioteca Sala Borsa with the entrance in front of the Fontana del Nettuno. It is the most famous bolognese public library and it is located in an ancient place of the merchants of the city, the entrance gives access to the large covered square with its two floors, very high paneled ceiling and crystal floor created to admire the ancient archeological excavations and the sedimentation of the various civilizations in a scenery full of harmony and light.
Centuries of history come alive from the first settlement of huts of the villanovan civilization of the 7th century B.C., the etruscan Felsina to the roman Bononia.
The Sala Borsa stretches along via Ugo Bassi and at the end of this street there is piazza Malpighi with the obelisk column erected in 1638 dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. Next to the square there is the courtyard of the Basilica di San Francesco with its Chiostro dei Morti, some tombe dei glossatori of the 13th century, masters of the bolognese Studium on the renewal of the Roman Law, created the modern jurisprudence.
Among the others we can see the tombs of Accursio, Odofredo and Rolandino Romanzi.
Opposite the cloister there is the entrance of the church the oldest dedicated to San Francesco after the Assisi one. It was built in 1236 and is the first example of french gothic in Italy, testified by the exterior apse arches, even if the shapes are still linked to the roman gothic still evident in the façade.
The big bell tower dates back to 1397 by Antonio di Vincenzo. The interior, very suggestive, is latin cross shaped with three naves and the central one, the highest, has the vaults at six wedges like Notre Dame cathedral. There are nine chapels and very beautiful the high altar with a precious marble altar piece by the brothers Jacobello and Pier Paolo dalle Masegne (1388-1392); of particular interest the cappella di San Bernardino, of the 13th century and the shrine of the Antipope Alexander V made by Niccolò Lamberti in 1424.
The library of the convent part of the church has got more than 35.000 works and included the precious music collection of the composer Giovanni Battista Martini, transferred today to the conservatory in piazza Rossini.
PLACES TO BE VISITED
•The library of the conservatory G.B. Martini
• University museums of Palazzo Poggi
• The Town Theatre
• The university botanical garden
• Cattedrale di San Pietro
NOT TO BE MISSED
•Bentivoglio chapel in the chiesa di S. Giacomo Maggiore
• The National Art Gallery
• The Sala Borsa library with the excavations under the trasparent floor
• The Basilica di San Francesco
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