Where to Buy Books in Bologna: Market Edition

Even in this age of ebooks, any bibliophile expat is going to be on the hunt for places to buy real books. Whether it’s a big-box store or a seasonal book market, that need to find out where to buy books is strong. My Utrecht blog had a couple of posts about places to buy books in Utrecht and those remain some of my most popular posts to this day.

While ebooks make it easier for people to find books in their language of choice when that’s not the local language, physical books are always nice to return to. There’s something comforting about buying a physical book that you can easily flip through, make notes in the margins, and add to your bookshelves, not to mention give a good sniff. In my various moves, the one thing that has made up the bulk of my moving boxes is my book collection.  We currently have a wall of bookshelves and not much free space left. And I left a LOT of books behind with each move. That’s one of the things I always regret once I’m settled.

Of course, if you’re learning the language of your new home, books are a great aid, not just the textbooks. Children’s books are a surprisingly fun way of practicing and as you advance in your linguistic learning, you can move up in the book age brackets. If you’re like me and enjoy art history, you may find yourself adding books in the new language to your library, such as my book on Italian palazzi, written in Dutch. That was more aspirational than actually at my language level, but I figured it was a fun way to learn some of the architectural terms in Dutch. In past visits to Italy, I’ve picked up books and pamphlets in Italian when visiting various museums.

where to buy books Bologna Book Market Fiera del Libro

There are big chain bookstores here in Bologna, including one of the big ones near the two towers, but I also like finding smaller bookstores and market stalls. While out with Charlie the other day, I came across a Bologna book market that made me very happy. After a bit of research online, I discovered that it’s the Fiera del Libro, which is held seasonally twice a year in the Piazza XX Settembre (over by the bus and train stations). Set up under a tent, this 120-square-meter market sells books, prints, posters, comics, and more, both new and used.

The current spring edition started in March and ends May 1, so I need to go back soon with some cash in hand. When I stopped by the other day, I only had keys and dog biscuits filling my pockets. However, during my quick tour through it, I noticed at least one section selling books in English, with an option of one book for €5 or three books for €10.

The Bologna book market returns again in October and runs through late November. Best of all,  it runs daily, from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. I love leisurely working my way through stacks and shelves of books, almost as much as I love reading books. I could easily spend a whole morning working my way through the whole market. I can’t wait!

where to buy books Bologna Book Market Fiera del Libro

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A Snapshot of Bologna

bologna italy street photography

This is not the best photo I’ve ever taken — Charlie had had enough of standing around waiting for me to take yet another photo — but there’s something about it that really appeals to me. I love the moment-in-time aspect of it all. It really does feel like a snapshot of life in Bologna, behind the scenes of any touristy bits, even though it is smack in the middle of the Quadrilatero, if I remember correctly. The restaurant cook on the phone, perhaps placing a last-minute order. The woman cycling past that reminds me of Utrecht. The young couple perhaps making plans, and the older couple on their way somewhere, as the sun highlights the glorious colors of Bologna, while leaving other parts in cooler shadows.

All of this is just one more reason to love Bologna.

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

 

 

Foto Friday: Goodbye March

I know it’s Saturday. Pretend I posted this yesterday.

san petronio meridian line bologna

This is part of the meridian line in the Basilica di San Petronio. I snuck a quick snap of it on my birthday (which is in March). I was amused to see that the spelling looked more Dutch with the ij, even though the contemporary Dutch word for March is maart. (For the record, the Italian for March is marzo.) As for the meridian line itself, it’s the longest indoor meridian line in the world. More about that and the basilica itself in future posts.

Wordless Wednesday: Not Your Average Column

rams head column architectural detail

Dragons on the Wall

I am particularly fond of this bit of graffiti street art, in large part because of the dragon figure on the right. Well, I assume it’s a dragon. Perhaps it is St. George (on the left) and the dragon? After all, the flag of Bologna is the cross of St. George.

dragon street art graffiti bologna

Maybe it’s just a Rorschach test of some sort and people see different things. It’s easy to see humor, magic, and love in this work of art, both in form and interpretation. That’s the thing about street art. If you stop to really look and think, it can be so much more than what gets lumped under “graffiti”. What do you see when you look more closely?

Bologna Cycling: Not Necessarily for Novices

Cycling in Bologna is being taken more seriously than in decades past as there are now more cycling paths, not to mention the Dynamo Velostazione, where you can rent, store, and repair all sorts of bikes, particularly helpful if part of your commute is by train. But that doesn’t mean Bologna cycling is a piece of cake. While out the other day, I saw a couple of instances where Bologna cycling looked more like an introduction to extreme sports.

cycling in bologna cycling bicycles

First off was the combination walking and cycling path next to a relatively busy road. These are fairly common in the Netherlands in park areas and large bridges, though not so common along regular roads, where the bicycles tend to have their own lane and pedestrians have a full sidewalk. Here in Bologna I’ve seen a few of these combo paths where the pedestrians are farthest from the street and the cyclists are next to the street. They’re essentially normal sidewalks that have been divided to serve double duty. The result is that the cycle path is often unbelievably narrow. Yet people do use them.

cycling in bologna

narrow lane cycling in bologna cycling

narrow lane cycling in bologna cycling italy shared path

In another instance, the cyclists do finally have their own segregated lanes away from traffic, though what would typically be one lane in the Netherlands is two lanes here, for cycle traffic in both directions. Challenging, but not that bad, as the bike traffic isn’t heavy. The real challenge in one spot comes from the lamp poles. This is not a one-off, either. They tend to ignore obstacles that might impede bicycles. Think of it as a good reason not to text and bike; you definitely need to be paying attention!

cycling in bologna cycling bike path

I do see people cycling around town almost every time I’m out, although nowhere near the volume that I saw in the Netherlands, of course. There is obviously interest, and people willing to use whatever infrastructure there is. As the old Kevin Costner film said, “If you build it, they will come.” If Bologna continues to make more of an effort in creating truly useful, cycle-friendly infrastructure that is consistent — another key issue — I think you could find even more people cycling. There’s certainly no shortage of bike shops in the city center. I can think of three or four just in my immediate neighborhood. There’s still a long way to go, but it’s good to see some effort.

cycling in bologna cycling bike rack

At Bologna Bus Station. Next Stop Marrakech.

It’s pretty impressive the places you can get to from the Bologna bus station. When we moved here, we drove from Utrecht to Bologna, splitting the ride into two days, particularly as we were traveling with two cats and a dog that gets carsick. The second day felt particularly long thanks to some less-than-ideal driving conditions in Switzerland and a stationary traffic jam due to an accident outside Milan. But it could have been worse. It could have been a bus ride from Bologna to Marrakech. According to Google, in a regular car, that’s a 29 hour drive covering almost 3000 km or around 1800 miles.

bologna bus station marrakech

It might not sound enjoyable, but it is a travel option. We walk through the Bologna bus station occasionally since it’s behind the park where we take Charlie and an easy way to get to Dynamo, where The Garage urban market is held. It’s always interesting to see some of the destinations available. Some are obvious enough, such as Rome, but others are much more far flung and I can’t help but feel for the people having to endure some of the rides that obviously take days. In a bus. Although there’s probably a bit more room than in most of today’s economy-class planes.

Yet for all the tedium involved, there’s still something of a thrill at the thought of hopping on a bus for some far-off land. Would you go?

Bologna bus station

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