The Italian portion of our vacation mainly will be in the Veneto, one of 20 regions of Italy, whose capital is Venice but extends to the mainland that includes Verona, its largest city. The other region we are visiting is Emilia-Romagna.
Emilia-Romagna’s origins as a region only date to the period of Italian Unification in the 1860s. Historically, as the name suggests, they were two regions, Emilia and Romagna. The area was part of the ancient Roman empire; later part was ruled by the Lombards, a Germanic tribe, and part the Byzantine Empire. For much of the medieval period, northern Italy was part of the Holy Roman Empire but with varying degrees of control. Papal supported opposition rose against the Holy Roman emperors and the area was in conflict for centuries. This allowed the rise of local military power which evolved into local nobility ruling small duchies or cities. Some of those areas became independent city states until Italian unification. Patronage of the arts was part of the propaganda which these noble families employed to justify and glorify their social, political, and military might. The evidence of that patronage is what makes the area an art history gold mine.
We checked out and took a taxi to Schiphol airport. The trip was quick on Sunday morning. We had a lot of time for a meal and to relax.
We are starting in Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna with a population over 400,000 and over 1 million in the metropolitan area. It is known as the Fat, the Red, and the Learned City: fat due to its rich cuisine, red either because of red Spanish tiled rooftops or left-wing politics, and learned as home to the oldest university in the world.
We almost didn’t make it. The distance from the KLM Lounge to the gate was supposed to take 25 minutes. With Scott’s knees, we left early and were surprised the plane was boarding. Scott tried scanning his boarding pass but it didn’t work. Turns out the plane was going to Copenhagen.
Our plane had a gate change. Narrow miss. Good thing the passes are automated.
Bologna was first settled under the Etruscans (who called it Felsina), then under the Celts as Bona, later under the Romans (Bonōnia).
The city was fought over by prominent families through most of the medieval period but by 1506, it was part of the Papal States. From the end of the 16th century, the Papal rule has been described as a period of severe decline. Papal rule ended when Napoleon conquered the city in 1796. After Napoleon’s fall, the city returned to Papal rule but this caused uprisings. In 1860, Bologna voted to join the new Kingdom of Italy. In the 20th century, the city became an industrial and railway hub, which made it a target during WWII.
Bologna remains one of the few walled cities despite extensive damage by Allied bombs in WWII.
The city developed along the Via Emilia as an Etruscan and later Roman colony; the Via Emilia still runs straight through the city under the changing names of Strada Maggiore, Rizzoli, Ugo Bassi, and San Felice. Due to its Roman heritage, the central streets of Bologna, largely pedestrianized, follow the grid pattern of the Roman settlement.
Successive medieval systems of fortifications remain visible, including 20 medieval defensive towers; the most famous of the towers are the central “Due Torri” (Asinelli and Garisenda), whose iconic lean provide a popular symbol of the town.
The city also has extensive porticoes which were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2021. Portico di San Luca connects Porta Saragozza (one of the twelve gates of the ancient walls built in the Middle Ages) with the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, a church prominently located on a hill overlooking the town. The 666 vault arcades, almost four kilometres long, links San Luca to the city centre.
We plan to check some of this out over the next few days.
We are staying at a BnB where the hostess has two apartments. We are staying in one.
Compact but importantly for us, very close to the historic centre and it has a washing machine.
For dinner we went to a nearby restaurant but unfortunately for Scott, we walked twice as far as we needed because we kept walking past streets we needed to turn onto. We’ve forgotten how tiny streets in Italy can be.
Our hostess booked us at Da Nello Montegrappo, open on Sunday, not a common feature. Our dinner: