Bologna Travel Guide

Main sights

"For a complete list, see Buildings and structures in Bologna

Until the late 19th century, when a large-scale urban renewal project was undertaken, Bologna remained one of the few remaining large walled cities in Europe; to this day and despite having suffered considerable bombing damage in 1944, Bologna's historic centre is Europe's second largest, containing an immense wealth of important medieval, renaissance, and baroque artistic monuments.

Bologna developed along the Via Emilia as an Etruscan and later Roman colony; the Via Emilia still runs straight through the city under the changing names of Strada Maggiore, Rizzoli, Ugo Bassi, and San Felice. Due to its Roman heritage, the central streets of Bologna, today largely pedestrianized, follow the grid pattern of the Roman settlement. The original Roman ramparts were supplanted by a high medieval system of fortifications, remains of which are still visible, and finally by a third and final set of ramparts built in the 13th century, of which numerous sections survive. No more than twenty medieval defensive towers remain out of up to 180 that were built in the 12th and 13th centuries before the arrival of unified civic government. The most famous of the towers of Bologna are the central "Due Torri" (Asinelli and Garisenda), whose iconic leaning forms provide a popular symbol of the town.

The cityscape is further enriched by its elegant and extensive porticoes, for which the city is famous. In total, there are some of porticoes in the city's historical centre (over in the city proper), which make it possible to walk for long distances sheltered from the elements.

The Portico di San Luca is possibly the world's longest. It connects Porta Saragozza (one of the twelve gates of the ancient walls built in the Middle Ages, which circled a part of the city) with the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, a church begun in 1723 on the site of an 11th-century edifice which had already been enlarged in the 14th century, prominently located on a hill overlooking the town, which is one of Bologna's main landmarks. The winding 666 vault arcade, almost four kilometres (3,796 m) long, effectively links San Luca, as the church is commonly called, to the centre of town. Its porticos provide shelter for the traditional procession which every year since 1433 has carried a Byzantine icon of the Madonna with Child attributed to Luke the Evangelist down to the cathedral during Ascension week.

Other churches in Bologna include:

San Petronio Basilica, one of the world's largest
St. Stephen basilica and sanctuary
St. Dominic basilica and sanctuary
St. Francis basilica
San Giacomo Maggiore basilica (13th–14th century), featuring numerous Renaissance artworks such as Lorenzo Costa the Elder's Bentivoglio Altarpiece

source: Wikipedia

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