What to do in Bologna
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is a city which has developed along fairly harmonious lines
? obviously with its fair share of problems and
contradictions ? in terms of developing appropriate
architectural structures and buildings to suit its
citizens? way of life and recreational needs.
The city has many things going for it: it is strategically
located on the road network which links the north to the
south, it is a cultural centre and home of the oldest
university in Europe, it is the industrial capital of the
Pianura Padana region and it is removed from the chaos of
the capital and the large northen industrial cities, which
means it is not paralysed by traffic problems. It is easy to
get around on foot, by bicycle, on a bus, a scooter and in a
car (although this is not recommended for getting around the
historic city centre).
This small, ancient, carefully-preserved city is full of
churches, museums, theatres and thousands of other hidden
treasures. It is the place to come if you want to
totally immerse yourself in culture. It is also the city of
the famous carnival mask ?Dr. Balanzone?, of raucous
students, of markets and fairs, and of tortellini and
mortadella. In short, good food and entertainment are
never hard to find here.
In 1300, Bologna was already one of the most densely
populated cities in Europe, and contained around a hundred
and fifty taverns. This impressive figure probably had a lot
to do with the massive influx of students of all
nationalities who came here to study at its prestigious
university. The cream of European youth would visit these
taverns to sit around and have long discussions, while
munching on sausages and mortadella and drinking
copious amounts of wine. They would come to sing the Gaudeamus
Igitur and other student songs, to be ironic and
irreverant, sometimes even scurrilous in their attitude
towards authority, the clergy and their professors.
Students, artists, hardened drinkers, and famous
intellectuals (such as Olindo Guerrini and Giosu?Carducci)
alike could be found in these taverns and bars every day.
Between the two world wars, many of these taverns
disappeared, but the Bolognese still retained a penchant for
drinking and socialising. Today, there are over two hundred
taverns, wine bars, beer gardens and pubs in the city. One
of the most traditional and characteristic taverns is the
Osteria del Sole, while the oldest are probably Osteria da
Mario and Osteria della Fondazza which both have a very
However, there are also several taverns which have decided
to go upmarket and become refined and elegant; these have
transformed themselves into rustic-style restaurants, such
as Osteria Piazza Grande, Osteria dei Poeti, Osteria del
Brancaleone, Osteria S.Caterina and Osteria dello Scorpione.
Two particular areas have a high concentration of pubs where
you can go to eat, drink and listen to music; these are the
Pratello district and the university district.
The pedestrian zone on Via del Pratello is traditionally an
extremely popular meeting place. It is situated away from
the hustle and bustle of the traffic and is often the scene
of shows and seasonal markets. Characterised by its low
doorways and streets paved in stone, the area is home to a
number of pubs and bars including Birreria del Pratello,
Monastero, Mutenye, Il Rovescio, as well as social,
cultural and recreational groups such as Circolo Pavese and
also several bars which have managed to maintain the
old-fashioned charm of working-class pubs such as Barazzo
A couple of metres away is the beautiful Piazza San
Francesco on which stands the Gothic church of the same
name. In front this is the Bar De? Marchi - the sort of
place where you can still play cards and challenge veteran
players to a game.
In the university district, there are numerous pubs which
are always full of young people, who flock here in the late
afternoon to take advantage of the happy hour during which
they drink and chat. At the two opposite ends of Via Zamboni,
there is an Irish pub - Clauricane Irish Pub - and an
English pub - The Lord Lister?s English Pub. Also on Via
Zamboni is Caff?del Museo which offers one of the most
popular happy hours in the city every Thursday night.
On Via delle Belle Arti, you will find an Italian-style pub
- Contavalli. On the nearby Via delle Moline is the small
and inexpensive Master?s Pub and Downtown Caf?which
offers cabaret and live music.
On Via Borgo S.Pietro stands the Corto Maltese - a
?discopub? which is always very busy and stays open
until late and Le Stanze (del Tenente) - an elegant cocktail
bar which is housed inside the Palazzo Bentivoglio.
Finally, on Via Mascarella you will find Naked - a small,
alternative pub which presents a different DJ every night,
the more elegant Bravo Caf?and Cantina Bentivoglio - a
wine bar serving food that has been hosting live jazz
performances every night for the last ten years.
Eighteenth and nineteenth century music in Bologna is
associated with great figures such as Father Martini,
Rossini, Wagner (who became an ?honorary citizen? of
Bologna), Busoni and Respighi.
Antonio Bibiena left the city his masterpiece ? the Teatro
Comunale, which was inaugurated on 26th May 1763 with the
performance of Il Trionfo di Clelia. Melodramas have
been staged in this magnificent theatre from the eighteenth
century through to the present day.
The repertoire of opera and symphonies at the Teatro
Comunale, as well as the work of the Conservatory and the
Bologna Festival have kept the city?s passion for
classical music very much alive.
However, Bologna also has a strong attraction to jazz, and
many famous international jazz musicians have graced its
stages: from Chet Baker, Steve Grossman and Bill Frisell to
Richard Galliano. The Bologna jazz circuit covers a number
of pubs and bars which are convinced that good wine and good
music should go hand in hand. These include Cantina
Bentivoglio, Chet Baker Jazz Club and Osteria dell?Orsa.
Bologna is also the home of many great singers. It has
always been an important centre for pop music, and has seen
artists such as Guccini and Dalla as well as many other
groups and young bands rise up out of obscurity and make the
big time. There are several clubs which although not overly
spacious, have always hosted pop concerts, such as Il Covo
and Officina Estragon.
If the alternative, avant-garde circuit is more your scene,
why not try Link - an enormous venue which is dedicated to
every type of experimentalist music imaginable, and lots
more besides. Concerts and other events are also organised
by TPO -Teatro Polivalente Occupato.
In this century, the Emilia Romagna region has shown itself
to be ? in the words of film historian Renzo Renzi ?
?the land of cinema?. Many famous directors have worked
and produced their best work here in Emilia Romagna and
Bologna. These include luminaries such as Antonioni, Avati,
Bertolucci, Bevilacqua, Cavani, Di Carlo and Fellini.
Bologna therefore became an important centre for
cinematographic culture. This was further strenghthened in
the sixties and seventies with the founding of the Cinema
Comission (by Renato Zanghieri) and the institution of the
DAMS ? a degree course based on comtemporary arts, music
and drama, with particular reference to cinema.
This cinematographic culture is of course provided for the
benefit of the public. Bologna probably has the highest
number of passsionate cinema-goers in the whole country ?
it definitely has the largest number of cinemas. This is
probably partially due to the activities of the Cineteca
Communale which attempted to promote cinema-going with the
construction of a major cinema ? Il Lumiere - which showed
re-runs of an extensive range of both classical and
contemporary classics for people to re-discover.
The Cineteca Communale also organises a variey of
festivals.These include: Cinema Ritrovato - an
open-air summer festival which screened masterpieces of
silent cinema to the accompaniment of live music, Future
Film Festival which, since a few years ago has been
taking place annually. This festival details new
cinematographic technologies and developments in the world
A couple of major non-commercial cinemas in Bologna which
are worth a visit are il Roma and Adriano d?essai. The
latter also shows a cycle of films in their original
language entitled Maniamerica.
The recently-opened Medusa is a futuristic, multi-screened
cinema which predominantly features Hollywood blockbusters.
Its brand-new rooms offer extreme comfort and the best new
technologies with regard to sound and picture quality.
Theatre is very popular in Bologna: the university hosts
various initiatives, there are numerous theatre schools, the
repertoires are varied and the public is enthusiastic. The
?Bologna 2000? initiative has also contibuted to the
already intense theatrical activity taking place in the
city. Many interesting events and meetings are organised
here all the time.
The city?s main theatre is Arena del Sole. The restoration
work - finished in 1996 - gave rise to a spacious theatre
split into two rooms: the larger room is dedicated to major
performances featuring world-famous artists and the smaller
one - Sala Interaction - is given over to
experimental work and avant-garde theatre.
One of the oldest theatres in the city is Teatro Duse which
is part of the Ente Teatrale Italiano (Italian Theatre
Association). Another historic theatre is Teatro delle
Moline, which is extremely small (it has a capacity of
fifty) but very successful. It is used by the artsitic
directors Marinella Manicardi and Prof.Gozzi (a DAMS
graduate) for experimental work featuring predominantly
Teatro Dehon and Teatro delle Celebrazioni offer more
commercial shows, particularly the latter which tends to put
on musicals and cabaret shows.
A more elite and intellectual audience can go and see
avant-garde repertoires at Teatri di Vita (which also stages
contemporary dance shows), Teatro Laboratorio San Leonardo
(the artistic director of which is head of research into
contemporary Italian theatre) and Teatro
Children?s theatre is not overlooked: Testoni Ragazzi - a
theatre and arts centre for children and young people -
offers a series of shows and workshops for children. During
?Bologna 2000?, this includes a project entitled La
Citt?dell?Infanzia (?The City of Childhood?)
which includes events and meetings aimed at underlining the
importance of theatre language and the arts when meeting and
communicating with children and artists from other European
There are also many other theatres in the rest of the
province, where theatre-going is no less popular. These
include Teatro Consorziale di Budrio.
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