Bologna the Red

December 16, 2011 / Local Interest
Bologna, Emilia-Romagna

Bologna has three soubriquets – la dotta, la grassa and la rossa. The city is dotta (learned) thanks to her university founded in 1088, and is grassa (fat), in the sense of bountiful, because of her extraordinarily rich cuisine. Finally Bologna is rossa (red) and although this once referred to the red tiles of her rooftops, and the stunning earth colours of her walls, it also came to mean her politics, since the city’s local government was strongly socialist/anti-fascist from the second world war to the brink of the millennium.

Reds, oranges and yellows compose the palette of this city, from the ancient high art of the church complex of Santo Stefano…

…to the more workaday walls of just about every side street and alleyway.

The other remarkable feature is the city’s 38 kilometres (at least) of porticoes. Rapid urban expansion in medieval times led to a fashion for building the first floor out upon wooden supports (later replaced with stone columns). Citizens exercised their right to use these covered walkways; an edict of 1288 insisted on porticoes for all new buildings, high enough for a man to ride under them on a horse.

Today you’re more likely to be on foot, and grateful for shelter from rain or sunshine. But however you explore Bologna, its rich earth tones will warm your soul.

Penny Ewles-Bergeron

by Penny Ewles-Bergeron

Author, artist… celebrating the many good things in Naples.

12 Responses to “Bologna the Red”

  1. giuseppe spano (jojo)
    giuseppe spano (jojo)

    So well written and informative to the stranger,please tell us of the Bolognesi

  2. The porticos remind me of Zuccharello, north of Albenga. Beautiful! My heart and soul long to return to Italy!

  3. Dante Bianchi

    We were there this May, but only for one day. Everything you write is true, but it is full of exuberant, very-far left students. They can be entertaining but also boorish and obnoxious. The city is amazing, however, and the food excellent. And as “Barbara” stated the photos reflect the lush warmth of the place. Thanks for reminding us.

  4. Anita Iaconangelo

    Nice note that brought back good memories of a September trip – we walked some of these same strets (walking off bountiful lunch) and loved wandering the city without the at times oppressive large tour groups-

  5. One of the better written Italian notes. I live in Penang (Malaysia) where the British colonial powers passed a similar decree which required the construction of covered walkways (5 feet wide) to provide shelter for pedestrians (though they are too low for the horse).

  6. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Thanks for all your comments. We were there for only 3 days – long enough to get in training for Bolognese style eating (sumptuous), to marvel at the architecture and church art and to find the production of Don Giovanni at the opera house a truly ravishing experience. Not long enough to really get to know the locals, though all seemed welcoming and warm. We love university towns so the students were a pleasure to see – we are more used to hopping out of the way of motorini in Naples so the stealth version of bicycles sometimes occasionally caught us out! It’s a city with a strong identity expressed in its material and intellectual culture. Can’t wait for a chance to go back.

  7. Lewis A. Turlish

    Bologna is a beautifull city, sadly marred by the pervasive graffitti on so many buildings. Medical historians will be fascinated by the anatomical dissection room at the University. There are moving memorials to the many men, women, and children who were murdered when the fascists blew-up the railroad station in Bologna in an awful act of terrorism.

  8. Patrizia

    I was born in Bologna. We moved to America when I was 9 1/2 years old. I’ve tried to find our last address on Google Earth but haven’t had any success. This is exactly how it’s written from correspondence I have dating back to the 60’s: Via Porrettana 2/4, Casalecchio di Reno, Bologna. Via Porrettana still exists. I found it on Google Earth but the apartment building we lived in must’ve been razed because the address numbers are nothing like the 2/4 on the letters I have. Can anyone help me figure this out?


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