A day after we have published a post about Bologna, its porticos have been declared a Unesco World Heritage. So we were wondering if you need more reasons to visit it. The location is perfect to discover other cities such as Florence or Milan, as well as minor art cities like Ravenna or Siena. But what if we tell you that Bologna hides many obscure sides if you are not an attentive visitor?
About dreams, untold truths and…
Let’s be honest, everyone has secrets! A dream that one day you would like to realize, like opening a chiringuito in Copacabana. Come on, who has not thought about it just once after yet another day full of work. Or maybe a crazy story that happened one night with friends. Or a hidden place that only you and few other people know. I’m talking about those unique gems with a shy beauty that reveals itself only to the rare, attentive visitors. In other words, your magical place…
Well, not only humans but also cities have their secrets and Bologna most of all. Bologna is known as “La Grassa”, the fat, for the incredible richness of its cuisine. But also Bologna “La Rossa”, the red, for two different reasons. First of all, because of its left-wing political tradition. Second because the roofs of the buildings turn of a dark reddish colour at sunset. Finally Bologna “La Dotta”, the well educated, thanks to the presence of the most ancient university of the Western culture. Such a special city, whose porticos are now a Unesco World heritage, cannot have amazing secrets to jealously hide. These rare pearls are seven, so let’s begin this treasure hunt around the city of mysteries to find them!
Another Little Venice? Here too? Many locations around the world abuse of the most overused city name to describe other towns or landscapes that, at the end, do not remind even remotely the magical beauty of “La Serenissima”. But Bologna is different. We can call this gem La Finestrella, the little window. In fact, by opening a little window in Via Piella 16, you discover a spectacular view. Unleash your Instagram impulse, what you will see is a view that looks like Venice.
The view is really picturesque; the rear sides of the colourful houses overlook the Moline canal. This place is the only point where it is possible to see a portion of the complex canal underground system. Since the Middle Age, these canals transported water in every neighborhood. When you have finished to admire this spectacle remember to close the window! Secrets have to be kept!
Hello! Who’s speaking?
We are now in the heart of the city centre, more precisely under Voltone del Podestà. This is an arcaded passage right below the magnificent Palazzo Re Enzo, a palace in Piazza Maggiore, the main square of Bologna, . In this place you could see some people that are talking turned to the walls of the building. Don’t worry, they are not just crazy. Reach a corner and ask a friend to go to the opposite one of Voltone. Now start talking to the columns, you can clearly hear your friend and vice versa.
Chatting under the arcade
Thanks the acoustic system of the vaults, you can talk about football or shopping without seeing each other. It could be brevetted as a new speed date version…
Those big details on Neptune
Just some steps from this architectural “wireless telephone”, there is the famous statue of Neptune, the symbol of Bologna. The god represents power, strength, virility that in this case the sculpture describes in every part of his body. Now look at the statue from behind. From a specific angulation, by standing on a darker tile in the pavement, you will notice that the index finger of the Neptune indicates the shape of his… erection! All the respect to the God of seas!
The Neptune fountain
The three arrows
Another curious story concerns three arrows stuck in the ceiling of the portico in Strada Maggiore 26. We are in front of Corte Isolani. According to a legend, one day, three bandits came to kill a nobleman who lived here. While taking aim with their arches, a beautiful naked girl showed up, thus distracting the three men. The arrows were shot in different directions and finished in the ceiling. The most attentive eye can still notice them.
That strange sign about drugs
This is the second secret that you can discover only if you look up. More precisely to the ceiling of another porch. This time we are at the intersection between Via Rizzoli and Via Indipendenza under the Scappi Tower. Here you can read in Latin: “Panis vita”, which means “Bread is life”; “Vinum laetitia”, “wine is joy” and the most mysterious one “Canabis protectio” which stands for “Cannabis is protection”. The latter is often interpreted in a funny way, the historical proof of Bologna’s nature: its destiny is to be the “Italian Amsterdam” (and this time not for the canals…).
Indeed, the progressive political orientation and the mass presence of university students have created the image of a free city. Actually, that “protection” in Latin should stand for “richness”: in fact one of the main businesses of the city was the production of cannabis for fabrics and clothes.
Bologna and its many names
The sixth hidden mystery deals again with Latin. As I said, Bologna is called “La Dotta”, the well educated, for the prestige of its university. It seems that a scholar engraved “Panum resis” in a historic table of Palazzo Poggi, seat of the University. These words advice the visitors that knowledge is the foundation of every choice. Wether these choices are about what to eat at dinner, meaning tortellini or lasagne… well that is another big dilemma!
The broken vase on the cursed tower
The seventh and last secret is only for non students or if you have already graduated. The element to find this time is a broken vase located on top of the Asinelli tower. This is the highest building of the historical centre. Tradition has it that if you go on top without having passed all your exams you will never be graduated! Of course, it is a superstition but who is so brave to challenge this legend? Would you risk to attract all the evil ghosts and curses on your graduation chances?
It is true that secrets should be kept secrets. Spilling the tea about Bolognamakes me guilty, I confess. But curiosity has to be fed and beauty has to be shared to be admired and fully lived.
So, don’t wait and let’s start this treasure hunt through all the Bologna mysteries!
Text and photos by Emanuele Nervo