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Best Historic Locations in Bologna

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Established in 1088, the Università Di Bologna is considered to be one of the foremost and oldest universities in the world. It is also the largest university in Bologna with over 11 schools and 85,500 students enrolled in its various programs. The university offers courses as diverse as merchandising, popular science and gender studies. Not only does the alumni boast of the likes of Pope Alexander VI and Dante Alighieri but the faculty are among the best while largely modernized amenities set this institution apart from the rest. Check website for more details on courses offered.

One of the most popular historic places of worship in the city, Basilica di Santo Stefano comprises several holy buildings, built and renovated over centuries. The complex consists of: The Chiesa del Crocifisso, the Chiesa del San Sepolcro, the Chiesa dei Santi Vitale and Agricola, the Chiesa della Trinita, the Benedictine Cloisters, the Chiesetta della Madonna del Loreto (protector of aviators), the Chapel of Santa Giuliana and the Chapel of the Cross. The Romanesque cloister, with its loggia columns topped with anthropomorphic and zoomorphic capitals, is the ideal place to reflect on the beautiful mystique of this legendary place.

One of the largest churches in the world and Bologna's most beloved, Basilica di San Petronio forms the focal point of Piazza Maggiore. Construction began in 1390, however, Antonio di Vincenzo's original designs were never fully realized, and the church remains incomplete even today. The bottom half of the facade is bedecked in red and white marble, replete with sculptures by Jacopo della Quercia and other master artists, while the rest is a simple front of bricks. Together, these two halves come together to paint a striking picture of flawed beauty. Inside, Italian Gothic influences abound with red-hued, rarefied pillars lit up by an ample flow of natural light, while the 22 side chapels preserve an extensive array of ecclesiastical art. Also of note is the Meridian line designed by the astronomer Gian Domenico Cassini in 1655; it is the longest of its kind in the world. Dedicated to the city's patron saint, the church was originally envisioned as a public space, rather than a place of worship, and has played host to several momentous events such as the coronation of Charles V in 1530, presided over by Pope Clement VII. Originally owned by the city, the basilica was only consecrated in 1954 and has since been one of the city's most revered churches.

Located in the attractive piazza dell'Archiginnasio, former home to the Bolognese studio, this library was established at the beginning of the 19th Century. The large, bright reading room that is decorated with the coats of arms of its noble students and lecturers, is equipped with long and capacious wooden tables, where you can read quietly, is really pleasant. The bibliographic archives contain more than 600,000 volumes, thousands of manuscripts, prints, engravings and old geographical maps.

The Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca is an impressive basilica in Bologna that is nestled upon a small hill-top. It was first constructed in 1193 CE and later redesigned by Carlo Francesco Dotti in 1757. Earlier a cable car used to lead up to the shrine until 1976. However, after the closure of the service, it can be reached by road. The sanctuary houses an icon of Mother Mary that is said to have been brought here during the 12th Century from Constantinople.

Piazza Nettuno is one of the two prominent squares of Bologna with the other being Piazza Maggiore. Named after Statua del Nettuno, the square was built in the 16th century and is more famous for the Fontana del Nettuno. Besides being a spot for sightseeing as it is flanked by many historical landmarks, it is also a gathering place for locals.

Standing in the center of the Piazza di Porta Ravenna, the highest tower in Bologna, an emblematic symbol of the once "towered city," stands at 318 feet (97 meters), undisputed queen of the Bolognese rooftop panorama. Built in the 12th Century by the Asinelli family, most of the city's other Medieval structures have crumbled, but this tower's strong foundations have kept it standing. The 498 steps take you to the very top, from where you can enjoy a really incredible view. At its summit it displays the Guelf battlements.

This theater was built in 1638 by the architect A. Levanti in the Archginnasio, the former University site. It is said that it was reduced to rubble by bombing in 1944, and was minutely rebuilt so as to resume its original beauty. It is beautiful and upon entering it seems as if time is standing still, and that is it built entirely out of wood, the Doctor's cathedral still retains the two "Scorticati" designed by Ercole Leilli, but scuplted by S. Giannaotti, who also made the other statues.

The buildings that line the sides of this beautiful medieval piazza were all built between the 12th and 14th Centuries. The Piazza forms the heart of city and it provides a wonderful backdrop for everyday city life. The streets are full of artists, university students and families with children. When the sun is high, they move from the open areas of the square to the shade of the Basilica di San Petronio. Here they sit and witness the daily life of a city which is famous for its university, architecture, tortellini and the extraordinary vitality of the people who live there. Often you can find a crowd gathered in a circle listening to and sharing political ideas.

The site of the oldest cemetery in Bologna, the Certosini cemetery sits on top of what was previously an Etrusan necropolis. The necropolis was uncovered in 1869 by archaeological digs carried out by Antonio Zannoni. The cemetery has now become a very special memorial. It is beside the Certosini Monastery (built in 1801). Nowadays, it contains a collection of the most artistic funeral monuments, many of which were carved by some of the best 19th-and 20th-century artists. There are monuments to famous men like Giosué Carducci and Giorgio Morandi e Ottorino Respighi.

Built around the 12th Century, probably at the same time as the Torre degli Asinelli was built, the leaning Torre della Garisenda is about 48 meters high. It is also called the Mozzata (Docked) tower, because it is said to have been hight than it now is. Dante Alighieri supports this hypothesis in Canto XXXI of Inferno (v136-138) when he said: "...Qual pare a riguardar la Garisenda sotto 'l chinato, quando un nuvol vada sovr'essa sì, che ella incontro penda..." ("It seems that I am looking at the Garisenda Tower under its incline, and when a cloud passes over, it leans a little..."). We can also deduce that the tower acquired its lean quite quickly, perhaps due to a subsidence in the ground. There is a plaque inscribed with Dante's verses on the leaning side of the tower. Admission: Not open to the public.

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