Montagnola in the Morning

I took Charlie over to the Parco della Montagnola this morning, and while we skipped the dog run area, we did head to my favorite section of the park. Even a quick stop has me waxing poetic.

On the far left of the park are the Scalinata del Pincio, grand and ornate stairs rising up on multiple levels. Dotted along the ledges and stairs are the evocative turn-of-the-century lamps. From there, you get a view down on Via Indipendenza, with the grand portici occasionally releasing people out onto the street. Then there are the actual buildings across from the park on Via Indipendenza that always look amazing in the morning light with the many shades of ochre from sunkissed yellow to well-aged orange. Even the windows of these buildings make a statement with their beautiful curved and arched pediments and the shutters that provide some contrast to the bright colors.

And that’s before you even get to the view of the Porta Galliera in the background.

porta galliera via indipendenza montagnola bologna

montagnola bologna via indipendenza scalinata del pincio

window pediments montagnola bologna

montagnola bologna colors

via indipendenza montagnola bologna

via indipendenza montagnola bologna portici

lamps montagnola bologna

Did I mention there’s also a grand sculpture at the front entrance of the park? Charlie wanted a closer look.

sculpture park montagnola bologna

Four Fun Facts About the Rialto Bridge

Venice is a city of canals. And when you’ve got canals, you’ve got bridges. The most famous Venetian bridge, of course, is the Rialto Bridge, which has a long, storied history. It’s also just stunningly gorgeous.

Rialto Bridge Venice

As I mentioned in my previous Venice post, we visited the floating city in the first week of January 2002, which resulted in thinner crowds and better views. That doesn’t mean the bridge wasn’t bustling with tourists, but it was easier to walk along and take in the different shops that lined the bridge. I was lured into a stationery shop where I bought a beautiful letter opener. From a friend’s relatively recent visit, it seems that that shop may still be there.

rialto bridge shopping

While looking up some of the bridge’s history, I came across various facts and trivia bits that I thought were pretty interesting and thought I’d share them. So here goes, four fun facts about the Rialto Bridge in Venice.

Age and Beauty

The Rialto is the oldest of the four bridges that span the Grand Canal. The earliest form of bridge in that spot was built in 1181, although it was only a floating pontoon bridge.

Ups and Downs

By 1255, as the Rialto Market grew in importance, a more permanent wooden bridge was built. Unfortunately, over the centuries, it had its ups and downs, having to be rebuilt from time to time. It was partially burned during a revolt in 1310. It also collapsed a couple of times. In 1444, a wedding was being held for the Marquis Ferrara. As the wedding crowd took to the bridge to watch a passing boat parade, the bridge collapsed. It was rebuilt, but collapsed once again in 1524.

Marble and Michelangelo

Building the bridge in stone had been discussed as early as 1503, but it took most of the century to finally decide on a plan. Even some great artists and architects like Palladio and Michelangelo submitted ideas, but the final winner was Antonio da Ponte, who finally finished construction in 1591 after working on it for three years. The marble bridge follows the original wooden design fairly closely, with two inclined ramps leading up to a central portico. It’s single span arch and marble material had people placing bets on it collapsing, but it’s still standing!

Family Connections

Probably the second most famous bridge in Venice is the Bridge of Sighs, which  connected the prison to the interrogation room in the Doge’s palace. The designer of the Bridge of Sighs was Antonio Contino, who was the nephew of Antonio da Ponte, the designer of the Rialto Bridge.

Bonus Silliness

The Rialto was built across the narrowest stretch of the Grand Canal. It ended up connecting the districts of San Marco and San Polo. Marco and Polo. Marco Polo. Venetian explorer and the name of a popular water tag game. No one knows the origins of the name of the water tag game. Me? I like to imagine people in the two districts standing at each end of the bridge, shouting out their district’s name in a show of civic pride. Which district is better? Marco! Polo! Perhaps add in a bit of drunken rowdiness and someone ends up falling into the canal, still shouting their district’s name.

Rialto Bridge Venice

Rialto Bridge Venice Venezia single arch bridge

I particularly like the couple in the photo above seated on the steps down by the canal.

romantic couple rialto bridge venice

And one last view from the back of the shops on the bridge …

behind rialto bridge venice venezia shopping

 

Wordless Wednesday: Let’s Take the Stairs

parco della montagnola pincio bologna stairs

Sunset Glow over Piazza Maggiore

If you come to Bologna, you’re going to end up spending time in and around Piazza Maggiore. As the name implies, it is a major square in the heart of Bologna. Day or night, it’s a fun and attractive place to be. There’s always plenty of people and dog watching to enjoy, and there are even cafés with tables set outside to enjoy the good weather. Charlie and I lingered over a coffee there one Sunday morning, sitting back and enjoying the variety of people passing by, from far-off tourists to local umarells (I’m sure they have opinions on the Neptune being restored).

While we were there one evening as dusk was approaching, I couldn’t help but be transfixed by the glow ignited by the setting sun on parts of the surrounding buildings. At first, there’s the glow on the dome of the Santa Maria della Vita rising up over the Palazzo dei Banchi and the Pavaglione portico that runs along the front.

To the right is the Basilica di San Petronio, a beautiful church with an interesting and entertaining history. The sun hitting the top portion that runs along the nave, turning it a vivid orange, was particularly spectacular in person.

Even on the left, the Palazzo del Podestà catches some of the light on its tower, but adds its own small light show in the evenings. Behind me, as I took all of these pictures was the Palazzo d’Accursio, which I’ve written about previously.

Museums, tourism offices, open markets, nice shops, great views, and even a whispering groin vault are some of the many sights to take in among these buildings … and so much more. Visitor or local alike, it’s hard not to be taken in by all that Piazza Maggiore offers.

Santa Maria della Vita Dome
piazza maggiore palazzo dei banchi

Basilica di San Petronio
piazza maggiore bologna

Piazza Maggiore
piazza maggiore bologna

Sunny Italian Scenery for a Cloudy Day

When people think of Italy, they often picture sun-drenched scenery. That’s certainly been true for Bologna for much of this year. There’s been a distinct lack of rain, which has its pros and cons. Sometimes, that constant sunshine can be overwhelming and relentless. There are days when you just need a bit of grey to snuggle into. But when the sunshine starts to get to me, I try to focus on the glory of the colors of Bologna. One look at those red roof tiles and those charmingly colored streets and it’s hard not to appreciate this beautiful Italian scenery.

However, this week the weather has been decidedly more Dutch, with looming clouds and occasional bouts of much-needed rain. Monday was a national holiday, a day when lots of people were dusting off their grills and gathering with friends for a day of fun in the sun. There was plenty of sun, but there was also a midday shower to keep things interesting. The weather all week has kept us on our toes as we’ve tried to decide if it’s safe to grill. Will it rain just as we’re ready to start? Can we get the fire going before the rain gets too heavy? In a pinch, can we do the same meal on the stove?

We’re going to take our chances today and try to grill, despite the clouds and rain that have hovered over us most of the day. I do say most, because as soon as I started to write this post, the sun came out and the sky is looking like the blue of the Italian national team jerseys. Will it hold? Fingers crossed! In the meantime, I hope you’re happy with whatever the weather is like where you are. And if you’re dreaming of sun-drenched Italian scenery, here are a few colorful streets and buildings to brighten your day.

Italian scenery bologna colors

Italian scenery bologna colors

Italian scenery bologna colors

Italian scenery bologna colors

Italian scenery bologna colors

Italian scenery bologna colors

Italian scenery bologna colors

Photographing Bologna, Then and Now

The first time I came to Bologna was December 2001. It was my third trip to Italy, but my first to Bologna. But yeah, 2001. It’s been a while since that first visit. Today I ended up looking through some of my old photos from that visit. Photographing Bologna was fun then and it’s still fun now, though a drastically different experience in some way. That first trip was so long ago that I was still using film, and not in a fancy way. I mean in a standard point-and-shoot kind of way. I think we got our first digital camera the next year.

Anyway, being film, and being winter and low light, it means I had a lot of blurry photos. A lot. I didn’t have the knowledge or full control to do a better job, though I’ve learned a lot more over the years. Plus, it really does come in handy with digital cameras to be able to see the shot you made and know if you need to redo it. I doubt I had any idea of just how blurry so many of those photos were when I took them. Still, I like to think of some of those photos as “Impressionistic”. They have their own charm.

In looking through the photos, it was fun being able to recognize some of the places and have new memories to go with them, not to mention better pictures (sometimes). It was also a good reminder of places I need to still revisit. Some photos I have no idea where they were taken, but that’s not a surprise, as I’m still getting vaguely lost on a regular basis. I try to head in a basic direction and have a few landmarks to help me orient myself. The rest is just fun wandering, even if it does take me longer to get to places than it probably should.

Some Things Never Change

Not all of the photos I took in 2001 are of specific places, just streets and colors that I found attractive. The same things that I loved about photographing Bologna then are things I still love. In fact, there was at least one spot that I photographed just for the colors back in 2001 that I know I photographed for the same reason this year. It was fun to see that particularly blurry photo and still be able to recognize the spot, even if I don’t actually know where it is or how to get there again.

As I said, I don’t know exactly where this spot is, but in 2001 I loved the variety of colors that included orange, purple, green, and gray, along with a few fun architectural details. Those same colors are still there. Even some of the shutters are still closed! It would be hard to tell that nearly 16 years have passed between photos. (Also, do you know how hard it is to take a photo of a blurry photo, since I don’t have a scanner? The photo of the photo may actually be even blurrier than the original!)

Somewhere in Bologna, December 2001.

photographing bologna colors

The same somewhere in Bologna, February 2017. Trust me.

photographing bolona colors

By the way, if you’re into that kind of thing, you can follow my blog with Bloglovin

Italian Architectural Styles and a Moment of Zen

Charlie and I went on a fairly short walk this morning, as we’d gotten up late and I had work still to finish. But even on a short walk, you can easily be amazed by all of the architectural styles and colors to be seen in Bologna. Even at one intersection, you can find art deco on one side and medieval/Moorish on the other. Walk a little further down the street and you’ll find a church that almost looks Mission style, but with a bell tower that reminds me of Venice. Add in a few balconies and all of the beautiful colors that Bologna architectural styles are known for using and you can’t help but end up with a smile on your face.

classic italian architectural styles bologna

italian architectural styles bologna deco medieval italian architectural styles bologna art deco

italian architectural styles bologna art deco

italian architectural styles bologna mission

italian architectural styles bologna mission venetian

 

And now your Charlie moment of Zen …

Charlie moment of zen dog wall art

Good Friday in Bologna

Today certainly started off as a Good Friday, in the sense that I got to go out with Charlie for a three-hour walk around town. Admittedly, I hadn’t planned on it being a three-hour walk, but the weather was nice and we were having fun, so we just kept walking. Well, we did stop for a coffee in Piazza Maggiore and enjoyed a bit of people and dog watching, too.

Good Friday basilica di san petronio bologna Good Friday Piazza Maggiore Bologna

Along the way, we found ourselves strolling down Via Indipendenza, one of the major shopping streets. It’s also home to the city’s cathedral. Despite what you may think, the Basilica di San Petronio in Piazza Maggiore is not the cathedral. It’s certainly a big church, but it’s not the cathedral. I’ll save the semantics for another day. I took so many photos today that until G just reminded me, I had forgotten I had one of the cathedral (the building on the right) juxtaposed against some curvy Art Deco architecture.
Good Friday st peter cathedral bologna

Anyway, as we were walking along Via Indipendenza, we passed under the portico of the Palazzo del Monte di Pietà. This building, which dates back to the 1470s, was originally the residence of the cannons of the cathedral and was connected to the cathedral. However, I think since the 1500s, it has frequently had some sort of banking/loan history and is still the seat of a banking institution.

The pietà element of the name of the palazzo can be seen in the sculpture over the doorway. I suppose it’s appropriate for today, seeing as it’s Good Friday, the day Jesus is supposed to have died on the cross. This depicts more of a deposition with Nicodemus having taken Christ down from the cross, with Mary and two angels looking on.

Good Friday Charlie palazzo del monte di pieta bologna Good Friday deposition of christ palazzo del monte di pieta

(For what it’s worth, I’m not Catholic; I’m not even religious. But you can pick up a surprising amount of information when you focus on the art and architecture of the Italian Renaissance at university. I’m drawn to this kind of stuff for that reason.)

So, whether you’re celebrating Easter, Passover, or hopefully at least a long weekend, enjoy yourselves! I hope you’re having a good Friday, too.

The Gates of Bologna: Porta San Donato

In the Middle Ages, much like many other cities, Bologna was protected by high walls with large gates built in at certain points for passage in and out. The walls of Bologna are largely gone now, though there are fragments that remain in various spots around the city, and you can still see the mark they left on the map of Bologna in the form of a ring road (or the viali as they’re known here) that surrounds the historic part of the city. In total there were at least 12 gates, though only 10 now remain. While much of the walls have been destroyed, you can still see at least parts of the old gates of Bologna.

gates of bologna porta san donato

One of the grand gates of Bologna is the Porta San Donato. Located on the northeast side of the city, it was built in the 1200s, on the road leading to Ferrara. The gate was part of a larger complex, including housing for guards, and even had a drawbridge over a moat in the mid 1300s. In 1428, the gate was closed and walled up for security reasons, but eventually reopened a few decades later.

The gate was clearly used for defensive purposes, as it has a machicolated (or piombatoio) tower. If you look closely between the corbels, inside the arches along the top of the tower, you’ll see that there are openings. This was where the guards could rain down all sorts of misery on invaders, such as stones, or the classic boiling water or boiling oil. Perhaps even the contents of a few chamber pots if defensive supplies ran low.

By the 20th century, the gate was proving more of a hindrance than a help. It sits on the intersection of the ring boulevard and Via San Donato, which leads into Via Irnerio, one of the major streets in town. As a result, it risked being torn down quite a few times, particularly in the 1950s as traffic became more and more of an issue. Eventually, only one meter of wall was torn down to help alleviate some of the traffic problems. As recently as 2008/2009, rather than try to tear the gate down, it underwent some restoration to perk it up and hopefully keep it around for a few more hundred years.

gates of bologna porta san donato

gates of bologna porta san donato

This post was inspired by recently passing this gate (as well as some others) and the Weekly Photo Challenge topic of security.

 

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La Fontana Vecchia in Bologna

Not all fountains are freestanding. La Fontana Vecchia (The Old Fountain) is built into the side of one of the walls of the Palazzo D’Accursio on Via Ugo Bassi. This is no simple fountain, though. In fact, it’s incredibly grand and impressive in its own rights, even though it was built originally more for the lower/working classes so that they wouldn’t befoul the water in the nearby Neptune Fountain washing their vegetables and who knows what else.

La Fontana Vecchia Bologna Via Ugo Bassi

Cardinal Carlo Borromeo commissioned La Fontana Vecchia in 1563, with Tommaso Palermo Laureti chosen to create the fountain. The marble fountain was completed in 1565. A Sicilian painter, architect, and sculptor, Laureti worked and studied extensively in Bologna. However, having spent some time in Rome, the influence of Michelangelo worked its way into his artwork. As well as designing the Fontana Vecchia, Laureti’s drawings served as the foundation for the base and its figures of the Neptune Fountain, though the rest of the fountain was created by Giambologna. More about him and the Neptune Fountain in another post.

Plaques and bas-relief sculptures cover the fountain, including family coats of arms and the Papal crown and keys in the center in honor of Pope Pius IV. A member of the Medici, his coat of arms is displayed beneath the crown and keys. There are also other symbols displayed on the fountain, such as the word “Libertas”, which represents the city of Bologna. You’ll see the word in a variety of locations throughout the city.

Libertas La Fontana Vecchia Bologna Via Ugo Bassi

On the weekends, or at least Sunday, Via Ugo Bassi is among the T Zone streets that are closed to traffic, making this the best time to see the fountain. It is tall enough that it can give you a crick in the neck if you stand close to it and look up. The center of the street gives you the best all-encompassing view. For what it’s worth, there’s still water in the fountain and as I stood there trying to get some photographs, I even saw someone dipping their hands in and possibly even splashing their face. I can’t help but love a fountain that is nearly 500 years old and still in use, in one way or another.

La Fontana Vecchia Bologna Via Ugo Bassi

La Fontana Vecchia Bologna Via Ugo Bassi medici papal coat of arms

La Fontana Vecchia Bologna Via Ugo Bassi pope pius iv

La Fontana Vecchia Bologna Via Ugo Bassi

La Fontana Vecchia Bologna Via Ugo Bassi

 

 

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