Europe by Train: Bologna: Through the Arcades

Leaving Arezzo’s cozy train station, we passed through lush Tuscan hill country,       descending to Bologna, an artistic and culture center of North Italy, home of the world’s oldest university, founded 1088

Most of Old Town is a pedestrian zone and our taxi took a circuitous route to our Art Hotel Orologia, next to the sprawling main square—Piazza Maggiore, surrounded by the great Basilica of San Petronio, elegant municipal buildings, cafés and shops set amid arched colonnades.    
Intrigued for years by Bologna’s famed arcades, my Fellow Traveler was for once more eager than me to explore.

We passed through endless arcaded passages on our way to find the Piazza Santo Stefano and its Sette Chiese (Seven Churches) built over the centuries. 

On his own tour of the cafés of Europe, my husband sampled the local brew while I wandered through the church complex.

On the way back, we lost ourselves in narrow centuries-old cobbled lanes.

Returning to the Piazza Maggiore, I entered the basilica and discovered underfoot astrological mosaics dating back 1000 years.

Next I poked my head inside the old Bourse and discovered a large, airy space, three stories rising above a bustling book-filled atrium…

Kind of like a library…

No wait! It is a library—the Biblioteca Salaborsa—the library of our dreams, filled with books, of course. But also a very cool place to hang-out, with wifi, media rooms, café, areas for young children and teenagers, college kids studying in the second- and third-floor stacks. The glass floor looks down on Roman-era ruins, perhaps the Forum.

And it offers a Jane Austin book club!

Next door is the Palazzo d’Accursio, a palace that later became the city’s administrative center, now a museum where municipal meetings still occur. A broad staircase rises from the ground floor, its deep steps designed for ascent by horseman and carriages. 

As befitting a former palace, the ornate galleries are filled with friezes, sculptures, paintings. The mantel is engraved with the initials of the ancient Roman Republic, SPQR. When buried in my writing, I often feel like the scribe in the bottom image, facing away from the view. 

Sorely disappointed that we had to leave the next morning, we enjoyed a most elegant hotel buffet.

Bologna is a very rich city, worthy of an extended visit. Next time! Now we were off to a more personal visit, with one of my very oldest friends.

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