What better source for some travel tips related to Bologna and surroundings than a local tour guide?
I am therefore thrilled to present this interview with Micol Mazzeo, a licensed tour guide for Bologna and Emilia-Romagna, who organizes both private and group tours.
Micol loves “storytelling, art and re-living history in the places where it took place”, which led her to this profession, where she can also showcase her communication and organizational skills.
– Micol, what are 3 must-see sights for the first-time traveler to Bologna?
1 – A “Torri Tour”! Travelers over the centuries have always been impressed by the “turreted” (turrita) Bologna, the city with many towers! Together with porticoes (Bologna’s porticoes are going to be recognized as Unesco World Heritage: 40 km of arcades and the longest portico in the world!), the towers are the oldest and most important buildings of the city’s landscape. These iconic and imposing figures have silently witnessed the passage of centuries and saw Bologna reach its peak as Bologna The Fat, The Red and the Learned (la grassa, la rossa, la dotta). If you are in a group and want to learn how to make tortellini in a 12th century tower, I’ve arranged a special food tour in Bologna dedicated to Expo 2015. It’s called Tower break.
2 – The Church of Santa Maria della Vita, where the stunning “Mourning over the Death Christ” by Niccolò dell’Arca has been housed since the mid-1400. It’s the best terracotta group of Italian art and its beauty comes from its power to make the holy scene a current and lively drama.
3 – The Archiginnasio, the first seat of the University built up on the former quarters of the medieval schools, still recognizable in the narrow streets surrounding the Baroque building. It’s now a beautiful library and you can learn the amazing history of the oldest university of the Western world strolling around the decorated hallways, or seating in one of the main school rooms reading a book!
– What would you recommend seeing instead to someone who has already been to Bologna and has done the main highlights?
The splendid frescoes by Crespi inside Palazzo Pepoli Campogrande. A jewel. The “serraglio dell’Aposa”, the point where the Aposa creek enters the city [the only natural river in Bologna – it is thought that along its banks the Etruscan settlement of Felsina, precursor to the Roman Bononia, originated. Ed.] The villas by Sironi in the charming liberty neighborhood on Via Audinot.
– Tell us an anecdote of the story of Bologna nobody knows.
In 1508, a bronze statue of Pope Julius II was placed above the stunning portal of the Basilica of San Petronio. The artist was Michelangelo Buonarroti, who, in Bologna, realized one of only two statues ever made with bronze by the artist. After only three years, the statue was torn down by the Bentivoglio’s army, the former Lords of the city. The statue went destroyed and the bronze pieces were sold to Alfonso I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara. He loved weapons and decided to turn the bronze into a cannon, which he amicably named after the Pope, “Giulia”. The head of the statue survived, but then mysteriously disappeared.
– Can you describe the perfect day trip from Bologna?
I recommend a trip through the so-called Food Valley, reaching Modena or Parma. Parma and its surroundings are amazing, and you can enjoy an unforgettable food & wine tour discovering the making of Parma ham, Parmigiano Reggiano, or Culatello. The countryside is evocative, especially if you travel on the footsteps of the great composer Giuseppe Verdi. Modena is a beautiful town and you can enrich the short excursion from Bologna by visiting a local family-run balsamic vinegar factory.
– What is your favorite place in Bologna?
The corner between Piazza de’ Celestini and Corte Galluzzi (in the city center, by Via D’Azeglio ed.). And the Manifattura delle Arti area, with the MAMBO, Cineteca di Bologna and the university campus.
Thank you, Micol, for taking the time to answer my questions!