Bologna, in the heartland of northern Italy was never on my agenda of Mediterranean coastal travel but I detoured here early this week for the excellent reason that its the home of a dear friend of a dear friend, now a friend of my own, who settled in Italy after college. I’ve spent the last two days wandering the stunning medieval city and enjoying its buildings and its characteristic porticos. My very first stop was the photo tour above, of the Via San Luca – a covered pathway up to the hill top church of San Luca outside the old city and sporting 666 arches – it is entirely covered from the door of the church to the heart of town. I hiked up its many steps panting, passing little old ladies and being passed by energetic runners, admired the scenic view and then strolled back down again into the heart of the old city.
Bologna is an obviously medieval city (both because of its original construction and due to romantic renovations and preservation projects later in the city’s history) built nearly entirely of brick and plaster (the local stone being a friable silica and an even weaker sand stone. The heart and center of the city is its University, founded in 1088, which I’ll cover in a subsequent post. Although the old city walls were taken down more than a century ago, the city center remains largely pedestrian and almost untouched by modern construction (with the exception of infill work after war time bombing and a strong incursion of Fascist era buildings from Mussolini’s government. More recent construction echoed the old, with every era continuing the pattern of a wide street level flanked by pedestrian arched porticos supporting extra building square footage on the levels above. Its said that this design was originated to create a few extra rooms on every house to provide student housing for the scholars which have flocked to the city for a millennium.
In it’s more recent construction, the city maintains its material language of brick and plaster, with a little marble and concrete thrown in for good measure. The Fascist period saw a lot of construction intended to make their mark on the city, converting the gracious medieval arches and decorated renaissance porticos into squared off armature. Post war construction further simplified the forms into cost effective utility. I did see a couple of apartment buildings on the fringes from the last 20 years or so which seemed to be diverting back to more ornament, if not more curvature.