Bologna the Red, the Learned, the Fat 

Most cities in Italy have nick names. Bologna has three of them. The Red, the Learned, and the Fat. Why the “Red”?

Because of the bricks with which, since the Middle Ages, the city was built. The two towers, the palaces, the porticos, all have a distinctive red color.

They also say that in Bologna one never needs an umbrella. In fact there are 40 km of porticos.

The massive expansion of the porticoes began in 1288, when a municipality ban established that all the new houses had to be built with the portico, while those already existing that were lacking were required to add it. We can assume that they didn’t need to please the Lobby of the umbrella makers!

More seriously, the porticos back then, offered shelter from the elements and the sun, allowing people to travel the roads in all weather conditions. In addition, they also provided a means for the expansion of commercial and artisan activities, and made the ground floors more habitable, isolating them from the dirt and sewage of the streets.

The heart of the town is Piazza Maggiore, with the big Basilica of San Petronio. It is unfinished, as it can be observed from the outside. The façade was supposed to be all covered by the white and pink marble. Unfortunately even in the 1400s they run out of money and the exterior was never completed.

The other curiosity of the basilica is that in one of the family chapels inside, Chapel of the Magi, once of Bolognini family, the left wall has a fresco of The Last Judgment with the Coronation of the Virgin in oval, and the controversial Heaven and Hell, Dante’s depiction of the places, with a gigantic figure of Lucifer. But there is also a depiction of Prophet Muhammad, naked in hell. And that is the reason why the Basilica is guarded day and night.

Most interesting is the “splashy” Neptune fountain.

Last curiosity: does this trident remind you of anything?


it is the symbol of the famous Maserati cars. The Maserati brothers (Alfieri II, with the Bindo, Mario, Ettore and Ernesto), from Bologna, founded the car company of the same name, the Maserati. It was the youngest Ernesto that came up with the idea of using that trident as a symbol for their cars.

There is much more to know about Bologna though.

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I lived the most part of my life in Washington DC, now in Italy getting to know again my country. Plenty of surprises, for good and bad, and lots of nostalgia for DC.

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