Big Pope Is Watching You at Palazzo Comunale

No, I haven’t been rereading 1984, but it really can sometimes feel like the statue of the pope is watching you when you’re standing over by the grand entrance to the Palazzo d’Accursio, better known as Palazzo Comunale in the Piazza Maggiore.

palazzo comunale palazzo d'accursio bologna

Originally the home of Accursio, a law teacher at the Bologna University, over the years his home was joined with other buildings until in 1336, it became the residence of the Elders, the highest judiciary in the city and the seat of city government. In fact, it retained some of its function as the town hall until November 2008.

From my first visit to Bologna, the Palazzo Comunale and the statue over the door made an impression on me and was one of the buildings I remembered specifically. It turns out the building has undergone quite a few changes over the centuries, particularly in the first half of the 15th century. That was when the clock tower was added. It even had a wooden automata that included the Madonna and child and Magi, which remained until 1796.

palazzo comunale palazzo d'accursio bologna

The grand entrance portal was added in the mid 1500s by architect Galeazzo Alessi. In 1580, a statue of Pope Gregory XIII (January 1502 – 10 April 1585), sculpted by Alexander Menganti, was included. As well as being from Bologna and encouraging cultural patronage, Pope Gregory XIII is best known as the pope who commissioned the Gregorian calendar (named for him), which we still use today.

palazzo comunale bologna pope gregory xiii

The building may no longer be the town hall, but it does still fly the flags of Italy, the European Union, and Bologna. And yes, the Bologna flag with the red cross on the white background does look an awful lot like the English flag. The cross of St. George is a popular one in Italy.

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Famous Bolognese: Guglielmo Marconi

Radio. I haven’t had a physical one in almost nine years and miss it occasionally, though there’s always the online option. In fact, years ago, while still living in the US, I used to listen to Italian radio online, just to practice listening to Italian. I blame my love of cheesy Italian pop on all that time spent listening to RTL 102.5. That and the limited selection of Italian CDs for sale at my local Borders bookstore at the time.

Anyway, it seems appropriate that I used to listen to Italian radio, even if online, as the man who is generally credited as the inventor of radio is an Italian, Guglielmo Marconi (Bologna, 25 April 1874 – Roma, 20 July 1937). As it turns out, not only is he Italian, he was from Bologna!

For the record, he didn’t specifically invent the radio, but he did  developed the first apparatus for long distance radio communication.  He also won a Nobel Prize in Physics, along with Karl Ferdinand Braun, for  contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy. He was just 27 when he received the first transatlantic radio signal. He would go on to become a successful businessman, entrepreneur, and through a continuing series of innovations, he was able to help make commercial radio into a success.

Nowadays, if you fly into Bologna, you’ll arrive at the Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport. Then, if you’re sticking around town for a while, you can follow one of the Marconi-inspired itineraries available from Bologna Welcome, where you can learn more about this famous son of Bologna.

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