My second day in Italy, Stacey and I hopped on a train to go to Bologna for the day. This was my first time in Bologna, and I instantly fell in love. This is one of the most welcoming cities I’ve ever been to. Everyone there greeted us with a smile, everyone we asked to give us directions didn’t hesitate and people were more than willing to help you in any other way.
We started the day off walking through the Parco della Montagnola. The entrance to this park is a gorgeous fountain in a wall with stairs on either side of it, and when you got to the top and crossed the small street you were in a beautiful green park, studded with intricate statues of lions and mermaids. (The Mermaids were my favorite, and were very impressive.) This park led to another group of stairs, that you walked down and you were really close to the medieval center. We turned down two streets and we were on the main road leading in to Piazza Nettuna.
It was a ridiculously cold day and none of us were prepared with gloves or a hat, so we ducked into a lot of places to warm up and found some unexpected surprises. We ducked into this beautiful church, just a little after mass was over so the organ was still playing and people were coming and going. We also found a little Christmas Market filled with little gifts, food and ornaments. It was enclosed and another great break from the cold.
Inside the medieval center we found the greatest surprise a girl could ask for… A CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL! We spent a lot of time there eating, looking at the amazing art these people made with chocolate alone. The picture below shows a box of “crafting supplies” made completely of chocolates. It was so impressive.
There are a few piazzas put together and past the Fontana del Nettuno- Neptune’s Fountain, is the main basilica that people visit when they go to Bologna, San Petronio. It was really beautiful, but costs 5 Euros to enter. I don’t know if I would pay to visit this church if I would’ve known about the other amazing free churches we went to. Not only did I think 5 Euros is a little high for just a church, but you couldn’t take pictures- so you have to buy postcards to have pictures, and there are 22 beautiful chapels off the side, but they’re dark unless you pay to illuminate them. The church was beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but not as beautiful as the third church we went to.
We started to walk around and try to find the two towers that are mentioned by Dante in “The Inferno”. You can climb these, but we got there too late. I wish I would’ve been able to do this, and from pictures I’ve seen, I’m really sad I didn’t get to. As we started that way, back through the chocolate festival, we heard the greatest street performers I’ve ever heard. I was genuinely amazed by them, and they made the soundtrack for our walk toward the two towers.
There are a few remaining of the once 180 towers, but these two are positioned side by side and they’re amazingly constructed. One has been cut short because it leaned at suck a severe angel they were afraid that it would fall over. The other tower is still at it’s original height, and even just seeing them you realize what an amazing feat it was between the 12th-13th centuries.
We explored Bologna some more, continuing to escape the cold in little boutiques and art shops. We stumbled onto this church and decided to go in, and it is my favorite church that I have ever been in. The Chiesa di Bartolomea; it was free to get in, which is good as someone who travels as cheaply as possible, and I think it adds to the authenticity of the church. I feel like when you pay a bunch of money to go into a church it loses the sanctity. We were in here after dark and were literally the only two people there. The colors in the church were dark, and having the moonlight shinning in through the windows. It was amazing. A definite “must” for anyone going to Bologna.
After leaving here we walked around some more and stumbled upon Basilica di Santo Stefano, which is one of the basilicas I had read about before leaving for Italy. It was originally made up of seven churches, but now there are only four, but the really interesting thing is the well in there is where Pontius Pilate is said to have washed his hands after condemning Jesus to death.
After leaving that church we made our way back to the chocolate festival. It was freezing cold but there was a layer of fog over the city, and the streetlights and moon made a beautiful purple glow. We went into a few stores and then back to the park, where we played on the statues in the park. We hesitantly made our way to the train station, not wanting to say goodbye to Bologna.