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City Hall and Clock Tower in Piazza Maggiore, Bologna.Bologna is located due east of Genova in the region of Emilia Romagna which it shares with other fine cities, such as Reggio Emilia, Parma, Modena, Ferrara and Rimini. Due south of Venice, it is an easy stop on the way to Florence. Now that you know where Bologna is, perhaps what follows will entice you to visit.

The train station borders Piazza Medaglie d'Oro from which you can get buses to any part of the city. We hadn't been to Bologna for many years so we opted to walk to refresh our memories.

Piazza XX Settembre led us through the ancient Porta Galliera to Via dell Indipendenza, the long arcaded shopping boulevard that runs through the ancient city center. Speaking of arcades, there are approximately 40 kilometers of these covered walkways throughout the city.

A few steps along is the pretty Parco della Montagnola and Piazza Otto Agosto where we remembered attending the market on a Friday on our last visit. At the market (called Piazzola, held every Friday and Saturday), you can find the usual array of household, clothing, jewelry, antiques, shoes, books and food products. At the same time there is a resale clothing market in the park. Just bring cash and bargaining skills. As this was a weekday, there were just a few vendors selling jewelry, antiques and books.

Within minutes we were greeted by the annual carnevale parade with floats, music, costumes and happy children with colorful make-up, a fun way to begin our visit.

Via Indipendenza ends at Pizza Maggiore and Piazza Nettuna, the twin squares which form the heart of the city. Bologna is the seat of the oldest university in the world, founded in 1088. Bologna has acquired many nicknames, the most important of which is "Bologna la dotta" (Bologna the learned). The rainbow of people on the sidewalks and in the squares are students from around the world. Bologna is also an important commercial city, which hosts a multitude of trade fairs, exhibitions and conventions so amongst the crowds of students were smartly dressed business people. Universities and businesses create innovation and a tradition of culture and art; so it is in Bologna. Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna

Entering the twin piazzas it became obvious how the city acquired another nickname, "Bologna la rossa" (Bologna the red), from the rosy color of the medieval buildings. It is also said that it came about from its left-leaning politics. The wide open space of Maggiore and Nettuno is delineated by majestic palazzi and the Basilica of San Petronio. We were tempted to roll our suitcases over to the church steps for a bit of admiration time but since it was getting late and our hotel was just around the corner we decided to check in and get settled.
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Hotel Orologio, next to Piazza Maggiore on Via IV Novembre, 10, is one of four Bologna Art Hotels conveniently located in the city center. An "art" hotel it is - intimate, charming and cozy. A caring staff cheerfully looked after all our needs and made our stay as comfortable as possible. Our twin-bedded room was a haven of both modern and old world comfort done in coordinated floral green with lovely antique pieces. The good size bathroom was well-stocked with thoughtful, quality amenities. Best of all was the excellent lighting - finally a good shave!

Breakfast the next morning was superb, starting from the freshly-squeezed blood orange juice. Now it was decision-making time; we could not possibly indulge in all the beautifully presented quality offerings. It was yes to the glorious bocconcini with ripe tomato slices and grainy bread. The fresh fruit salad was also a must and it was with great reluctance that we passed on the inviting meats, other cheeses, sweets, plus, plus.
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Via de Carbonesi is due south of the hotel and at #8 is Cesari, where we found fine food at comfortable prices pleasantly complimented by a cheerful owner and staff. Dark wood paneled walls, matching tables and chairs, wine bottles and subdued lighting create a pleasant dining atmosphere. It was a good thing we had the hotel make reservations as every table was soon occupied.

Tagliatelle all Bolognese, as enjoyed in its namesake city.The menu sang with a chorus of regional specialties. It is not usual for Linda to sing the praises of a mixed salad, but one of exceptionally flavorful vegetables combined with old balsamic, quality olive oil, laced with Parmigiano Reggiano was worth a few notes. She followed up with tagliatelle alla bolognese and was delighted with the rich meat ragù and al dente noodles.

My ravioli, liberally filled with pumpkin and dressed in butter and Parmigiano was a heavenly starter. I was delighted to find coniglo in agrodolce con capperi, olive and cipollina (rabbit stewed in a sweet and sour sauce with capers, olives and onions), a regional specialty I discovered years ago. Plump tender morsels in the tangy sauce accompanied by polenta, another regional favorite, hit a high note for me.

A medium dry Sangiovese red was a perfect match for the meal. Thankfully the bread basket, perhaps the best we had this trip, was replenished as necessary.

Somehow we had room for dolci; a ricotta cheese and almond tart with a touch of chocolate sounded the final note. Of course we could not reject the house offered ice cold blueberry grappa.

Oh yes, another nickname for Bologna is "La Grassa" (The Fat), which comes from the fact that Bolognese take their eating very seriously. I guess Linda and I have some Bolognese genes (would you believe tight jeans!).

Erotic metal sculptures of mermaids on the Neptune Fountain in Bologna.On the way back to the hotel we saw the bronze Fontana del Nettuno, in Piazza Nettuno, aglow in the evening darkness. Linda broke out her digital and captured Neptune grasping his trident while crushing a fish beneath his foot while four cherubs are blowing water through their pipes and four well-endowed mermaids are spouting their own water.
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Basilica di San Petronio, named after the city's patron saint, is the largest church in Bologna and the fifth largest in the world. Construction was started in 1392 and planned to be larger than St. Peter's in Roma. The Vatican would not allow this to happen and work came to halt. It is still a monumental work, albeit with an unfinished façade, which makes it quite unique as it dominates Piazza Maggiore. The bottom half of the façade of stone and red marble moldings is quite lovely and in complete contrast with the unfinished brick of the upper part. The central doorway has carvings depicting scenes from the Old and New Testament and a lovely Madonna and Child.

We were struck by the brightness inside, the result of its south-facing orientation. Look for the solar clock, which indicates the time of day. The sun’s rays shining through a small hole in the ceiling strike the brass meridian built into the floor of the north aisle. There is a distinct line indicating the noon hour. Another line has a box with a circle indicating the summer solstice and at the end of the line is the winter solstice box.

On a side altar next to the Patron Saint is a fresco depicting Mohammad which created confusion and controversy and at the time brought notoriety to the church. The eleven chapels, decorated with beautiful frescoes, contain the tombs of prominent citizens. The Coat of Arms of Bologna is painted behind the main altar. Teatro Anatomico at the University of Bologna.

Just behind San Petronio is the 16th century Palazzo Archiginnasio, the ancient seat of the university. The frescoed and sculptured entry and courtyard lead to what is now the largest municipal library in Italy, containing 600,000 to 700,000 books many of which are rare editions. While admission to the library is limited, visitors are permitted in the "Teatro Anatomico". Wood paneled walls, statues of famous physicians and wooden benches surround a single table in the center of the operating theater. The ceiling is painted with the constellations. The "Grand Room" is covered with coats-of-arms and the imposing "Great Room" is the general meeting room for law students.
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There is a wonderful view of the Piazza Maggiore from the windows of the Palazzo del Comune (town hall) cafeteria. The Palazzo, with the Museo Morandi and Municipal Art Collections on the 2nd floor, was built between the 13th and 14th centuries. There is a magnificent carillon clock in its 1444 bell tower.

Diagonally across from the town hall is the Palazzo Re Enzo which was built between 1244 and 1246 as the town hall. It was here that King Enzo was kept prisoner for thirty years until he died in 1272. Next to the Basilica is the Palazzo dei Banchi, the first of the Pavaglione, a long line of buildings whose porticos connect the square to Palazzo dell Archiginnasio, a favorite gathering place of the Bolognesi. Multimedia Library in the Sala Borsa, the old stock exchange in Bologna.

The Sala Borsa, old stock exchange, in Piazza Nettuno is a splendid old building that has been transformed into a stupendous multimedia library. The grand open interior is surrounded by balconies filled with thousands of DVDs, CDs and books of all description. With free internet access, multimedia terminals, restaurants, cafes, a wine bar and a cafeteria, it is a haven for university students. Excavated Roman ruins can be seen beneath a glass floor at ground level.
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Piazza Maggiore is the living heart of the city where people come to pray, conduct civic business, shop, eat and meet. It is a crossroads with a constant flow of people going from one part of the city to another. This is the ultimate place for year-round people watching.

We wandered into the maze of old streets east of Maggiore starting on Via Clavature where we drawn into the church of Santa Maria della Vita. It was quite a contrast going from the hustle and bustle of a busy shopping street into the peaceful quiet of a small church. Though small its height and elegant design are special. It is famous as the home of Nicolò dell' Arca's "Pieta" a masterpiece of Italian sculpture known as "Compianto su Cristo Morto", Nicolo dell' Arca's "Pieta" - Mourning Over the Dead Christ - in terracotta.Mourning over the Dead Christ, also described as "The Stone Crying" or “Scream in Stone". It is a fascinating terracotta work of art.

These medieval streets are filled with markets, food shops, bakeries, pastry shops, restaurants, cafes and bars. We turned onto Via Drappiere to find "Girberto" selling high quality foods and wine since 1905, and the mouthwatering bakery Paoloatti. At the corner at Via Capararie, #1 is the well known Tamburini Deli, which offers an appetizing assortment of meats, cheeses and prepared foods. Tamburini also features a tavola calda. We took our cue from the long lineup of locals, grabbed a tray and waited our turn. We had half portions of grilled pork with fries, lasagna, rice with treviso radiccio, and cauliflower and leek baked with cheese. The food certainly could have been hotter and the pork was tough so, basically, not worth a detour.
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Via Rizzoli leads to Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, home of Bologna's landmark "Le Due Torri" (Two Towers). In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, every noble family wanted its tower to outdo everyone else’s. These two are the most famous of the few that have survived. The taller (and still straight) one of two, La Torre degli Asinelli, about 98 meters high, has 498 internal oak steps twisting to the top for great views. The more exciting one is the leaning Torre Garisenda, which was cut down from its original 77 meters to 48, in an attempt to keep it from falling. When you see it, you are convinced it will tumble down before your eyes. It is a fascinating architectural display.

Basilica di Santo Stefano in Bologna.Piazza di Porta Ravegnana is a hub with interesting streets darting out like spokes in every direction. We chose Via San Stefano which leads to Basilica di Santo Stefano beautifully situated in the Piazza of the same name. This is an eclectic complex of churches, chapels, courtyards, cloisters and crypts of various ages starting from the fifth century. The original Seven Churches are now four.

San Vitale e Agricola is the city's oldest, with an attractive brick and stone altar and two engraved sarcophagi. The octagonal Church of Holy Soporta has brick walls, marble columns and a very high center stone altar. Chiese del Santissimo Crocifisso has a crypt with an inscription dedicated to the Roman goddess Isis that houses the bones of St. Petronius. Chiese della Santa Trinita's gracious cloister has a lovely, arcaded loggia on two levels. A Benedictine Monastery is part of the complex as well as a museum with a modest collection of frescoes and paintings.

Across the way from the complex we entered the Corte Isolani, a shopping gallery formed by a series of inner courtyards of Isolani family residences. The shops, cafes and restaurants looked very inviting.
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View of Canals from Via Piella in Bologna.On our way to dinner on Via Della Belle Arti we stopped on Via Piella to see the canals that flow through the foundations of the city. Bologna was not built on a river so in order to provide water for drinking and sanitation, canals were built from the Reno river in the west. In time streets were built over the canals and there are only a few spots where they are visible, one those being from the bridge on Via Piella.

Via Della Belle Arti houses La Pinacoteca Nazionale (National Art Gallery) and the adjoining Accademia delle Belle Arti. The Gallery was founded by Napoleon for the art collection he had confiscated from churches and monasteries. Today it contains one of the largest collections of European art from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The varied restaurants, cafes, bars and shops create a bohemian ambiance in the area.

The walls at Trattoria Anna Maria at #17a Via belle Arti, tel. 051 266894, are filled with photos of famous people and customer testimonials. Our tagliatelle al ragu and tortellini al gorgonzola were excellent, but we found the portions too small. The stinco was roasted properly and very good. The house red wine was light and fruity and the homemade lemon sorbet was a perfect finish.

After breakfast we were back to Piazza di Porta Ravegna to investigate another street. There are numerous university facilities throughout the city but Via Zamboni is the principle university street, with an army of students always on the move between the various faculties in the area. The Musei di Palazzo Poggi, became the seat of the university in 1803 when it was moved from Archiginnasio. Besides housing major museums it contains the university library and many of the main faculties. The range of museums covers diverse subject matter; science, natural history, archeology, anatomy, obstetrics (with life size wax figures), physics, geography, navigation, military architecture, astrology, etc.
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The area north of Piazza di Porta Ravegna bordered by Via G. Oberdan and Via Zamboni was home to the Jewish Ghetto. Via dei Giudei (street of the Jews) leads into a labyrinth of narrow streets that formed the ghetto. Via Dell' Inferno (hell street) runs north-south in the center of the area and there is a memorial stone at #16 to commemorate the ancient synagogue which was located on the top floor of the building. There is a multimedia Jewish Museum on Via Valdonica.

Before heading over to the present synagogue, we stopped for lunch at Drogheria della Rosa, via Cartoleria 10. Emanuele Addone, whose energy and love of life is contagious, greets the new arrivals like old friends. Luckily we had stopped by the day before because when we arrived there was just our reserved table waiting. Drogheria is an ancient pharmacy, pretty much in tact with the original wood counter (now a bar) and shelving for apothecary bottles, artifacts and now, wine bottles. The trattoria is charming and warm with a short menu of four primi, eight secondi and three dolci.

Eggplant-filled ravili with tomato and basil at Drogheria della Rosa, Bologna.The house offers a glass of delicious vino spumanti brut-prosecco Foss Marai Cuvee and a platter of prosciutto, mortadella and mozzarella di bufala. Emanuele gave us time to savor these delights before he arrived to help us with our next move. He patiently described the pastas, three of which sounded tempting, so we ordered all three! This turned out to be a fabulous decision - tortelli were filled with local cheese and topped with artichoke sauce, triangoli were stuffed with potato and lightly tossed in sage butter and the ravioli were filled with eggplant and topped with a fresh tomato and basil. Each one was freshly house made, the deep pockets stuffed with exquisite filling then partnered with sauce that made the whole greater than the sum of its parts. This was pasta perfection. A medium dry red Pinot Nero of the region was excellent.

Linda exercised some willpower by choosing a marvelous vegetable plate consisting of a veggie mousse, endive, broccoli, green beans and fennel as her secondo. I needed some protein and was rewarded with a filetto al naturale o all'aceto balsamico di Modena, a rare filet with balsamic sauce served with fennel and endive.

We learned that everything was bursting with flavor because Emanuele goes to the market every day and changes the menu seasonally. Only the freshest available products find their way to his cucina.

On the way out we met a delightful couple from Denmark who have a restaurant back home called Tyven Kokken. They were touring Italy for ideas and were having their second lunch at Drogheria. We joined them for a while and shared travel experiences.
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The synagogue is on Via dei Gombruti, 9. We were not sure where it was until we saw a police car parked across the street from the entrance. It is a shame that full time police presence is necessary. This is actually not the main entrance to the synagogue but rather the entrance to the community center and the administrative offices but for security reasons, this is the entrance that is used.

We rang the bell to request a visit but the woman inside only spoke Italian. Fortunately for us Jay, a delightful and bright American Jewish guy who is studying at the university, showed up in the nick of time and graciously served as our translator and tour guide.

The following information is from "The Synagogue of Bologna, the past, present and future of a Jewish presence". "The Jewish people have a long and proud history in Bologna. The first prayer oratory after the expulsion Of the Jews from the Papal States dates back to 1839. In 1868 services temporarily took place in a room in a building on 17 Via dei Gombruti. An adjoining building became available and purchased by the Jewish Community. Work on a new Temple started in 1874 and was completed in 1877 and dedicated on the evening before vigil of Shavuot. A reconstruction took place at the turn of the century and completed in l928, which temple was razed during bombings in WWII. The reconstruction of the present Synagogue was completed in 1953.” Stained glass window above the altar in the Synagogue of Bologna.

The large chapel has a vaulted ceiling and is bright and airy. Particularly striking is a large round window on the west wall with the panes forming the Star of David and at this time of day the sun’s rays were shining through illuminating the chapel. A seven-branched menorah (candelabrum), as in the ancient temple, is the design feature in the colorful stained glass window above the altar. The women’s galleries are on both sides of the upper floor. The congregation is orthodox and we were told that the Jewish community numbers 200-300.

Later in the evening, we stopped by the casual wine bar Pane Vino e San Daniele, Via Altabella 3a, tel. 051 2960540 for a light meal. The menu features meats, cheeses, polenta, salads, grilled veggies and soups. We had ribollita and a mixed salad with cooked prosciutto and grano. We couldn't resist sharing a slice of ricotta pie with pear, nuts and chocolate bits, which we savored while discussing how much we enjoyed renewing our acquaintance with Bologna.
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