Uncovering Books and Bononia at the Salaborsa

As I wrote the other day, the Bologna public library — the Biblioteca Salaborsa — is located in an area with seemingly as much history in its grounds as in all of the materials inside. Private gardens for papal representatives, public gardens to help develop modern botany, a stock exchange, and even a basketball court have claimed the land at one point or another for more than 700 years. Yet the history of the area dates back much further. Underneath the library, you’ll find Bologna archaeological excavations dating back the third century BCE/BC, though the first settlements date back to the 9th century BCE.

If you’re walking around on the ground floor of the library, you might notice some clear blocks in the floor. Looking down, you may just spot some of the ancient ruins of Felsina and Bononia. Felsina is the Latinized version of the Etruscan name Velzna or Felzna, which is what the Etruscans called what is now Bologna when they settled around 500 BCE. The Romans then came in around the second and third centuries BCE and renamed the area Bononia, based on the Celtic name that the Galli Boi gave the city when they conquered it around 358 BCE. It is particularly these later archaeological remains that are most visible.

salaborsa archaeological ruins bononia bologna things to do in bologna
If you go downstairs on the left of the entrance, you’ll find a long hallway that leads to the actual archaeological remains, which are open to the public. As you walk down the hallway, you’ll see various images and maps, showing some what some of the structures would have looked like, along with maps of the city layout at the time. They designed the city plan on right angles, with the intent that it could be easily reproduced and expanded with the city’s growth. Some of that grid aspect remains in the area, but there are also plenty of smaller streets popping up in unexpected places and at different angles. That said, Via Rizzoli and Via Ugo Bassi still represent part of the west to east aspect of the grid.

The Bologna archaeological excavations took place in the 1990s and they discovered that the old forum of Bologna was located on what is now Via Ugo Bassi. The forum wasn’t all they found. They also uncovered a number of buildings, three wells, and even a sewer system. Not the nicest thing to think about, but oh, so important!

So once again, a visit to the Biblioteca Salaborsa is definitely one of the things you should do in Bologna. Entrance is free to the library and to the archaeological remains, although donations are appreciated. You can wander through the remains on your own and there are information posts at various spots in Italian and English to give you a sense of what you’re seeing. It is also possible to take a guided tour, but that is something you have to register for and it probably comes with a fee.

It really is a fairly quick but interesting look at the remains and the different levels, building materials, and more. Plus, it’s kind of fun to be subterranean and look up at the feet overhead.

Bologna archaeological excavations salaborsa ruins bononia bologna things to do in bologna

Bologna archaeological excavations salaborsa ruins bononia bologna things to do in bologna

Bologna archaeological excavations salaborsa ruins bononia bologna things to do in bologna

Bologna archaeological excavations salaborsa ruins bononia bologna things to do in bologna

Bologna archaeological excavations salaborsa ruins bononia bologna things to do in bologna

Bologna archaeological excavations salaborsa ruins bononia bologna things to do in bologna

 

 

Biblioteca Salaborsa: An Exchange of Knowledge

With every move, the bulk of my boxes contain books. Books make me happy. Just looking at them all lined and stacked up in my own personal library is like looking at old photos. There are so many memories tied up in the books that have made the move with me. And for every book that didn’t make the move, it feels like a loss, especially when I go to reach for one and it isn’t there.

Unsurprisingly then, libraries and bookstores are my happy places. All of those books to be discovered! Adventures to go on, knowledge to expand your world … it’s all there in those pages. The books are the most important thing to me in a library; the setting is secondary. I’ve been in utilitarian-looking libraries, and I’ve been in beautiful libraries. That said, a beautiful setting full of books is always a pleasure. The public library here in Bologna is one of those bonus places where you have a wealth of information at your fingertips, all in a visually stunning setting.

Biblioteca Salaborsa Bologna public library cast iron architecture

Biblioteca Salaborsa

The Bologna public library is the Biblioteca Salaborsa. It is technically part of the Palazzo d’Accursio on the Piazza Nettuno, which is essentially an extension of Piazza Maggiore, the big square in town. [The fact that the Salaborsa is on the Piazza Nettuno might explain why I still don’t have an exterior photo of that part of the building, since it’s currently blocked to some degree by the restoration taking place of the Neptune fountain/statue in the square.]

The location of the library is rich with history, with archaeological discoveries dating back to at least the third century BC. It’s also had a surprising horticultural history. In the 1300s, Papal legate Androino de la Roche (a personal representative of the pope) established his own private garden, or viridarium in part of the area, as well as stables. In fact, the stables were reinforced and restructured in 1554. By 1568, a well-known botanist of the time, Ulisse Aldrovandi, turned the earlier walled garden into a botanical garden and orchard where they grew a variety of plants and herbs, including exotic plants from around the world. The resulting research that they were able to do at the university contributed to the development of modern botany.

Stock Exchange

It wasn’t until the late 1800s (1883-1886) that the current structure took form and became a stock exchange (sala borsa). It combines fairly classical design elements with newer materials, such as cast iron, combining to form a modernist style. The result is a grand building full of arches, decorative detail, and lots of light. It was a modern building for a modern era. Unfortunately, the good economic times didn’t last long and the building closed in 1903. However, after World War I, the stock exchange expanded and reopened in 1926. Then, after the World War II, it remained a stock exchange/bank during the day, and a public sports hall in the evening, with basketball and boxing often taking place. This lasted until the 1960s. After that, the building functioned primarily as administrative offices for the city.

Modern Library

In 1999, the city decided to turn the building into a public library. In 2001, the Biblioteca Salaborsa opened to the public as a modern library to serve the public in a new technological era. As well as hundreds of thousands of books, magazines, maps and other documents, there is extensive digital media, with videos, ebooks, audiobooks, databases, and other electronic resources. In addition, the library serves as a space for exhibits, lectures, conferences, and cultural events.

You’ll also find free wifi, a café, toilets and other amenities that make it a handy place to meet up with friends, take a break from your sightseeing, or while away some time on one of those days when the weather isn’t cooperating (though those seem to be few and far between). Usage of the library is free, though if you want to take anything home, you must be a resident and register with the library, though that is also free. (In the Netherlands, there was a yearly fee if you wanted to be able to check books out.)

It’s worth a visit, just to enjoy the interior. It was a busy Saturday when we went, and we had limited time, so I want to go back and see more of it, from different angles, when it’s maybe not quite so busy. Plus, you know, books! There’s also a special permanent exhibit in the lower levels that I’ll post about in the coming days. For now, a few photos I took inside. Pro tip: don’t have a coffee right before trying to take photos, especially if you’re trying to zoom in and don’t have a tripod. Lordy, I took some blurry photos of the ceiling that day!

Biblioteca Salaborsa Bologna public library cast iron architecture

Biblioteca Salaborsa Bologna public library cast iron architecture

Biblioteca Salaborsa Bologna public library cast iron architecture

Biblioteca Salaborsa Bologna public library cast iron architecture

Biblioteca Salaborsa Bologna public library cast iron architecture

Daniel Craig’s Bond in Italy

Daniel Craig’s Bond In Italy

In 2019 Daniel Craig will sign off with the 25th James Bond film. Since taking on the role in 2005, Craig has gone on to become a global icon and arguably the most popular Bond since Sean Connery. To celebrate his tenure we look at the times his version of the character visited Italy.

Casino Royale

The canal city of Venice played an important role in the film’s finale. In typical Bond fashion he enters Venice sailing a 54ft yacht with Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. The building that “sank” in the film’s climatic action set piece is the 17th Century Palazzo Pisani Moretta. While the interior of the building is usually closed off to the public, the exterior (which is seen in the film) can be visited by boat.

Lake Como featured at the end of Casio Royale and has earned its place in cinematic history as the location of Daniel Craig’s first “Bond, James Bond”. The luxury villa where this line is uttered is the Villa La Gaeta and rooms can be rented out.

Quantum of Solace

As Craig’s second Bond film takes place immediately after the events of Casino Royale, Italy featured again. The first instance is in the pre-credits car chase sequence next to Lake Garda. The tunnel at the beginning of the chase is at the northeast part of the lake for those who want to recreate the opening shot in an Aston Martin (or any other car).

After the car chase Bond engages on a foot chase that take place Tuscany city of Siena during the famous Palio di Siena. The race is held twice a year and is considered a historically important event in the city.

Spectre

The capital of Italy, Rome was central to the plot of Craig’s last film. Many famous locations around the city were used. For the funeral scene where Bond first gets a glimpse of Christopher Waltz’s villain, the Museum of Roman Civilization was used as the backdrop. This location has been featured in hundreds of films and is a popular tourist destination.

The highlight of the Rome sequence is the car chase between Bond and Dave Bautista’s character Mr. Hinx. The chase goes over, around, and through many of the city’s most iconic locations. Atlas of Wonders notes that the chase features the banks of the Tiber River, the bridge of Ponte Sant’Angelo, the Vatican, and a passage known as the Passetto di Borgo.

The Bond Legacy

The Bond franchise continues to be one of cinema’s most enduring franchises. Since the first film Dr. No was released in 1962, the series has gone on to earn over $7 billion at the box office. The character of Bond has influenced many alternative versions across numerous mediums. The most recent example is Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman films (the latest is was released this year). Vaughn has explained in interviews how the less serious Roger Moore films influenced him. Many of the parodies have embraced the Moore tongue-in-cheek era to create new twists on the character. Entertainment outlet Slingo in their slot game Jane Blonde reversed the gender of the famous spy in a game that both pays homage to and parodies James Bond. After Daniel Craig retires it is likely that the franchise will return to a less serious Bond, and inspire many more parodies.

One thing is for sure. Italy will always be a favorite location of the superspy, and we can expect to see Bond return to the country in the near future.

 


This is a guest post. As a long-time Bond fan (books and films) I thought this was a nice look at the way Bond and Italy have become intertwined.

Save

Save

Save

%d bloggers like this: