Bologna  is the largest city (and the capital) of Emilia-Romagna Region in Italy and only a 35 minute train ride from Florence. It is the seventh most populous city in Italy, located in the heart of a metropolitan area (officially recognized by the Italian government as a città metropolitana) of about one million. The city, the first settlements of which date back to at least 1000 BC, has always been an important urban centre,  first under the Etruscans (Velzna/Felsina) and the Celts (Bona), then under the Romans (Bononia), then again in the Middle Ages, as a free municipality (for one century it was the fifth largest European city based on population). It is home to the oldest university in the world, University of Bologna, founded in 1088.  Famous for its towers and lengthy porticoes, Bologna has a well-preserved historical centre (one of the largest in Italy).  It is a wonderful walking city, thanks to those nice porticoes, and we walked through most of the centre.  First stop was the  Basilica of San Petronio which is the main church of Bologna. It dominates the Piazza Maggiore. It is the fifteenth largest church in the world, stretching for 132 meters in length and 66 meters in width, while the vault reaches 45 meters inside and 51 meters in the facade.  The church hosts also a sundial in the form of a meridian line inlaid in the paving of the left aisle in 1655; it was calculated and designed by the famous astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini, who was teaching astronomy at the University: at 66.8 meters it is the longest sundial in the world, following measurements that were for the time uniquely precise; Cassini and Domenico Guglielmini published an illustrated account of how the meridian was accomplished in 1695.                      The Anatomical theatre of the Archiginnasio was our next stop and is one of the main historical rooms of the medical school in Bologna, located in the Archginnasio, the first unified seat of the University of Bologna. The palace was built quickly, between 1562 and 1563, by order of Saint Charles Borromeo, then pontifical legate in Bologna.  A first anatomical theatre was constructed in 1595, in a different location, but in 1636 it was replaced by a bigger one in the current location.  The theatre – completely made of spruce wood – underwent several modification and reached its final shape between 1733 and 1736. In this period, Silvestro Giannotti carved the wooden statues which decorate the theatre walls. They represent some famous physicians of Ancient times (Hippocrates, Galenus, etc.) and of the local athenaeum (Mondino de Liuzzi, Gasparo Tagliacozzi). The two famous statues of the “Spellati” (skinned) carrying the canopy surmounting the teacher’s chair are the work of the well-known artist of anatomical wax displays, Ercole Lelli. In the centre of the theatre stands the white table on which the dissection of human or animal bodies took place.  The theatre was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War, by an air raid on January 29, 1944. After the war the Theatre was rebuilt using all of the original pieces recovered among the rubble of the building.

If there is a tower you know we are going to climb it.  This one is the city’s tallest tower with 496 steps and quite a view once you are up there.  After the climb we felt that we deserved lunch so we walked to the near-by deli called Tamburini on the recommendation from our friend Kevin.  It looked to be a local hot-spot!  But no rest for the tourist for we are quickly back on our feet again to the next place of interest: The Basilica of San Domenico. It is one of the major churches in Bologna, Italy and built in the early 1200’s. The remains of Saint Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), are buried inside the exquisite shrine Arca di San Domenico.  Then on to Santo Stefano’s Basilica which  is a complex of religious edifices in a very nice piazza setting. We had just one more thing to see on Kevin’s recommendation, the Museo di Palazzo Poggi, which houses some anatomical wax models but we were 30 minutes too late and it was closed.  But it was an interesting walk and allowed us to see much of the University area.  By this time it was getting dark so we headed for the train station and our ride home.  We loved this city and might just make a return trip before the month is out.

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