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Learn Italian in Italy's experience, diary of a holiday in Bologna

Posted in Italian experiences on Apr 30, 2023

Two weeks ago we kicked off the first course of season 2023 in Bologna, my hometown, the beautiful capital of Emilia-Romagna. I had an amazing time together with my student Crispin and his wife Christine. Crispin has been my student for a very long time. I used to teach him in person when I was in England; after I moved back to Italy he “moved” online! Here it’s the 3 of us at the Quadrilatero: the food “neighborhood” of Bologna, a very animated area full of food shops, cafes, restaurants and people.

Quadrilatero

Crispin and Christine didn’t want any formal teaching in Italy so we had just “walking lessons” two in Bologna and one in Ferrara. On day one we met at Piazza Maggiore, the main square in town and we had a look at all the beautiful buildings surrounding the amazing square:

Piazza Maggiore

Then we headed to the beautiful anatomical theatre and the “stabat mater” hall, both inside the Archiginnasio palace, once the headquarter of University of Bologna, now a beautiful library.

The all Archiginasio palace is dotted with beautiful coats of arms of the most prominent families in Europe who sent their young men studying in the University of Bologna, the oldest in the whole continent.

After two quick stops at “le due torri” (the two towers), the symbol of the city and the beautiful “merchants palace”, we had a longer one for a tasting of local cold cuts, cheeses and flatbreads on a traditional eatery!

The second day we went to Ferrara by train, a beautiful small city, just 30 minutes away from Bologna. Once just an unimportant town, it became one of the most important European cultural centers during the renaissance. The Este family, lords of the cities for nearly 300 years made Ferrara beautiful building a castle, some fantastic palaces and an extension to the city.

We firstly visited the Este Castle, an imposing building with a moat around.

After a quick lunchbreak we went to visit the other pearl in town: the beautiful Schifanoia Palace. We got there going through an amazing medieval street called via delle Volte.

Palazzo Schifanoia was built the 14th century and later expanded and it became the Este’s suburban retreat 'to escape boredom' (in Italian, 'schifar la noia', hence its name), the palace is sumptuous and unique, equal to Ferrara’s high status in Europe at the time. The main attraction in the palace is the Hall of the Months which conserves one of the most important 15th-century cycles of frescoes in Italy. It is the collective work of different Ferrarese painters. The high walls are divided into 12 sections, one for each month, but today only the months from March to September can be seen.

Last but not least we visited on the third day some beautiful churches in Bologna

1) Santo Stefano's Basilica: the most unique complex in Bologna, as it is a true city sanctuary and the cradle of our ancestor’s faith. It is mainly known as “sette chiese” (“seven churches”) because it is the merger of multiple buildings erected in different eras. The origins of the complex are controversial and disputed. According to the most accepted theory, it was built by Petronius, a bishop who is now the saint protector of the city, on the ruins of a pre-existing pagan temple. Inside there a is a perfect and beautiful reproduction of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

S. Stefano

2) The church of Santa Maria della Vita (Saint Mary of the life) located in the Quadrilatero, the beating heart of the historical centre of Bologna; it houses the famous “Lamentation over the Dead Christ" (Compianto sul Cristo Morto) by Niccolò dell’Arca, dating back to the second half of the 15th century and called the "Scream of stone" by the Italian great poet Gabriele D'Annunzio. 

Compianto

3) The Church of San Giacomo Maggiore with the beautiful cappella Bentivoglio:

Cappella Bentivoglio

4) The Church of San Domenico with the beautiful painting and the monumental tomb of the Saint

San Domenico

It was indeed a great three days! Italian Tutor experience’s aim it’s not just learn Italian in Italy but indeed to get the students to discover other aspects of Italy, such as food, wine and art and above all get them to mingle with Italian people so that they can get constant feedback about their improvement from the locals: the best way to learn the language! After our time together, Crispin and Cristine decided to spend another couple of the day in and around Bologna. They probably were fed up of me constantly talking in Italian!!!

They visited the beautiful basilica di San Luca, just 4 kilometers far from the town center. An absolutely amazing shrine on the top of a forested hill, 300 metres above the city plan, While a road now leads up to the sanctuary, it is also possible to reach it along a 3.8 km monumental roofed arcade (Portico di San Luca) consisting of 666 arches, which was built in 1674–1793 and this was the way chosen by my students as you can see from the pictures! It must have been a very tiring walk but it is definitely worth it because when you get to the top you can see such a beauty.

San Luca, portici

Another day Crispin and Christine went on a daily visit to Padova, a beautiful city, 1 hour away from Bologna.

Padova, Prato della Valle

Here is Christine in the beautiful Prato della valle, the largest square in Italy. The square has a large space with a green island at the center surrounded by a small canal bordered by two rings of statues.

From Bologna you can reach many other cities in Italy. They are all beautiful and just a short ride by train far: Ravenna, Rimini, Modena, Parma, Mantova, Florence and many others. So what are you waiting? Come to Bologna! We are going to have a lot of fun together!!

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Gabriele

I am a 45 years old certified Italian teacher with a degree in politics and a PhD in modern history.