Like all the biggest cities in the world, even Bologna has many secrets that an average tourist ignores.
Some are just outside the gates that once protected the city, others are in the center of it, but despite the beauty, they do not enjoy much fame.
Read through our very own “vademecum” to discover these five beautiful, secret places, far from the hordes of tourists, that very few people (including locals) know about!
1. UNDERGROUND BOLOGNA
Maybe you did not know it, but under Bologna there is a small Venice.
The highland city hides under its own roads a cobweb of canals and streams, with the landings, locks and ancient vestiges of the hydraulic system that in the past favored the development of traffic and transport to the Po and, from there, to the Adriatic Sea and Venice.
The two most important sites are the stream of the Apse, a fascinating and inextricable underground tunnel that crosses Bologna, and the Cisterna Of Valverde, also known as the “Bagni di Mario” (Mario’s Baths), a work created to feed the Neptune fountain in Piazza Maggiore.
However, both have been closed to the public since 2011 for unresolved bureaucratic issues, thus depriving Bologna of two excellent tourist attractions.
2. THE FORGOTTEN MUSEUM
The Palazzo Poggi Museum, in the heart of the lively university district of Bologna, is one of the most important historical-scientific museums in Italy, yet one of the least known.
It houses the workshops and collections of the ancient Institute of Sciences, the first Italian public institution dedicated to scientific research and training.
The halls of the former Institute, in which subjects such as astronomy and anatomy were taught, also houses sixteenth-century masterpieces in the Po Valley, such as the Pellegrino Tibaldi, Prospero Fontana and Ercole Procaccini wall paintings.
If you decide to visit this beautiful museum, follow the path starting from the hall dedicated to Giosuè Carducci and continue to the rooms that host the models collections of ships built from the XVI century, then go on to experimental physics laboratories and rooms exhibiting old obstetric preparations.
3. THE NOBILIARE VILLA IN THE WORKING-CLASS NEIGHBOURHOOD
At the doorsteps of the Pilastro, Bologna’s most popular and shattered (architectural) district, there is a large villa hidden by the trees of a garden, inhabited by wild pheasants, and richly decorated by hardened walls with hunting scenes that will hold you upside down for most of your visit.
Its name is Villa Gandolfi Pallavicini, and its distance from the historic center of Bologna (about 20 minutes by bus from the Two Towers) has made it almost unknown and barely visited by the locals.
Built by the Alamandini family in the first half of the 17th century, in 1773 the property was purchased by the Genoese marshal Gian Luca Pallavicini.
Today the Villa is home to the Alma Mater Foundation and can be visited for free.
4. HOTEL WITH A SECRET
In the central via Indipendenza lies the Hotel i Portici, which retains the remains of an ancient theater and an underground glacier. The Eden Theatre – that from the end of the 18th century to the early 19th century was the old cafe chantant Eden Kursaal, the temple of the Bolognese variety where the most famous headliners of the time they were performed – had been closed for decades and brought back to the ancient splendour thanks to the restoration of the building that houses it, Palazzo Maccaferri.
Today, the theatre hosts a award-winning restaurant which obtained a Michelin Star in 2013.
5. THE CEMETERY GRAND TOUR
In an interview released by Radio 24, Mauro Felicori, founder of Assa (the association of monumental historic cemeteries in Europe) said that some cemeteries should become the real tourist spots.
Among them are the Monumental of Milan, Pere-Lachaise in Paris and the Certosa of Bologna, cemeteries recognized by the Council of Europe as fundamental routes for the European cultural heritage.
“Strolling through these places is like walking through the story of a city, a country, living history books telling about the history of Europe, its architecture and monuments,” said Felicori.
The Certosa cemetery was visited by Byron, Dickens and Stendhal and inspired some of their novels.