May 28, 2016
After arriving late from Milan the previous night, I woke up early to savage the preciously few hours I had in Bologna. From my B&B near the train station I started jogging south. Despite endured heavy bombing during the Italian Campaign of World War II, Bologna’s 350 acres historic center remains one of the largest in Europe. Even at 8 am the sun was emitting a fiery glow, but I was sheltered by Bologna’s famous and extensive porticoes, totaling 38 km within the city center.
My first encounter with a non-cafe business was an Apple store opposite to Piazza Maggiore, nonsensically opened at 9. Who would shop for an iPhone at such an early hour? The gadgets were about 15% more expensive than Hong Kong.
Piazza Maggiore, Bologna’s main square, is dominated by the world’s largest brick church San Petronio Basilica. The first stone was laid in 1390, but besieged by conflicting visions the main facade is never completed.
Next to the cathedral is the Biblioteca dell’Archiginnasio, once the main building of the University of Bologna and currently houses the Archiginnasio Municipal Library and the Anatomical Theatre. The library is the largest in the region and boasts 850,000 volumes, many of which are from religious orders shut down during Napoleon’s short reign.
Also nearby are the Two Towers, perhaps Bologna’s most iconic sight. In medieval time the city was full of towers. These structures were constructed by the rich as both fortification and symbol of status. By the 13th century many were demolished or fallen into despair, and most of the remaining ones were knocked down over the subsequent centuries to make way for new buildings. Today less than twenty remain standing.
Jogging northeast I came across the campus of the University of Bologna, founded in 1088 and the oldest university in the world. This used to be one of the world’s finest higher education institution, claiming Copernicus, Dante and a handful of Nobel laureates as faculty. Graffiti had covered large swathes of the walls, many of which were ideological or political.
That’s it. I met up with my wife at Osteria dell’Orsa, but the queue was already more than a dozen people long. We opted to the nearby Trattoria Anna Maria. The pasta was uninspiring, especially considering we were at the founding place of Spaghetti Bolognese.
My stay in Bologna, one of Europe’s most historic city, was too short to form much of an impression. I did enjoying jogging under the porticoes, sheltered from the elements while briefly getting to know the city where Haruki Murakami called his favourite in Italy.