A hush spread over the piazza as the cinema screen lit up. The crowd held its breath as the opening credits appeared on the screen, and the silence was total as the spine-chilling notes of the film’s theme rang out, reverberating on the medieval palaces and cathedral surrounding the audience. The last of the sunlight faded, and the stars came out as I and another thousand people began to lose ourselves in a cinematic classic: Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Godfather’.
Sitting there in the darkness, back pressed uncomfortably against a pillar and knees pulled up to my chin, I was in ecstasy. All eyes were drawn to the stylishly violent story playing out on the screen, lost in this tale of family and loyalty and pride. Three hours later, after the applause had died out, I walked home in a daze — first with fellow members of the audience thronging the narrow alleys, and eventually by myself, wandering through the porticoed streets and squares.
I had come to Bologna with little in mind, to a city which I had originally planned to be the final stop on an ambitious journey from the heel of Italy’s boot all the way up to the thigh. However, due to other commitments this was not to be, and grand plans for sightseeing all along the Adriatic coast had dissolved into just an extended city break. I had almost no knowledge of the city’s history, and was only really aware of its fortuitous location on some major railway routes to other cities.
I didn’t know what to expect of Bologna. But what I found, I liked immensely.
The large medieval city is focused on Piazza Maggiore, surrounded by Bologna’s cathedral, city hall, and other important buildings as well as shops and restaurants. Just a few steps away you can find two of the last of Bologna’s medieval tower houses, built by wealthy patrician families. At one point, there were around a hundred of these tall, slim brick towers crowding the Bologna skyline, and ranging from 60-90 metres in height. Most are gone now, but at this busy intersection the Asinelli and Garisenda towers lean at a crazy angle, looming over the traffic and pedestrians below. Continue reading