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Must Visit Attractions in Bologna

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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.

Fontana del Nettuno is in the middle of Piazza del Nettuno, between Palazzo Re Enzo and the Palazzo Comunale. It was built following the urban renovation project planned by the Legato Pontificio Pierdonato Cesi and commissioned by Pope Pious IV. The work on the magnificent statue of Neptune was assigned to Giambologna, while the base was designed by Tommaso Laureti. It is an excellent example of the Bolognese Renaissance, and incarnates the God Neptune who rules the seas.

Erected in the Baroque style by Carlo Francesco Dotti in 1741, this church is perched on top of a hill overlooking the city of Bologna. Energetic tourists and ambitious joggers make the trek of just over three and a half kilometers (two miles) up to the majestic Santuario up the long portico lined with 666 arches leading from Porta Saragozza to the sanctuary on Colle della Guardia. Built in honor of an image of the Madonna, the edifice is beautiful, both for its architecture and its exclusive view. Each May the citizens of Bologna carry the figure of the Madonna around the city in procession. People travel from all over the world to take part; it is said that doing so is of great spiritual benefit.

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.

The longest stretch of porticoes in the world start at the Porta Saragozza. They reach right up to the Santuario della Beata Vergine di San Luca. The porticoes were built to protect the pilgrims from bad weather during their walk up to the Sanctuary. There are 666 arches which spread over three and half kilometers. Originally conceived by Father Ludovico Generoli, the porticoes were designed by Gian Giacomo Monti. The project was finished in 1732 with the completion of the Baroque Arco del Meloncello designed by Carlo Francesco Dotti.

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.

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.

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