FrançaiseItalianoEnglish

- Piazza Maggiore -

Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore began as the “platea communis”, the place where people gathered and the market was held. It was one of the most important urban projects in Medieval Bologna, built to give prominence to the seat of city government and create a place for the market. To accomplish this, the city acquired many of the buildings in the surrounding area and then tore them down.

The piazza as it appears today is the result of several alterations. Begun in the 13th century, the main purpose was to establish a physical as well as a symbolic core. The piazza continues to serve this function. It is still the preferred meeting place of the Bolognese who gather in the shadow of the statue of Neptune – a Bologna symbol – with the Basilica of San Petronio (dedicated to the city’s patron saint) in the background.

Piazza Maggiore is surrounded by the most important buildings of the medieval city. The oldest is Palazzo del Podestà. Dating back to 1200, it first occupied the north side below the Torre dell'Arengo whose bell was once used to summon the population. After a few years it became apparent that more government space was needed, so the palatium nuvum was built, now called Palazzo Re Enzo. Since then, the Palazzo del Podestà has been called the “old” building.

To the west of the plaza is the Palazzo Comunale, known as the Palazzo d’Accursio. In front of the Palazzo del Podestà rises the famous, unfinished facade of the Basilica of San Petronio: an example of Italian Gothic begun at the end of the 14th century and never completed.

And finally, closing off the piazza to the east is Palazzo dei Banchi, where the money changers and bankers worked. Designed by Vignola and built at the end of the 16th century, it has a very simple facade. Its purpose was to elegantly mask the humble construction that faced the piazza while retaining the pre-existing road connections that converged here. It wasn’t until the 15th century that the piazza took its present shape. In the 16th century the area was restored at the behest of the pope.

The Piazza del Nettuno and its splendid fountain were built along with the Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio, the first seat of the University of Bologna; it is now a library with one of the largest collections in Europe. The palazzo came to be widely known as "il Pavaglione" (Bolognese dialect for "padiglione" meaning pavilion) and for centuries was the commercial centre for the silkworm trade.

The central area of the piazza features a unique, raised, pedestrian platform built in 1934 and nicknamed “the big growth”. The damage visible on its sides was made by an American armoured tank on 21 April 1945, the day the city was liberated; it has been left as is to memorialize the historic event.

In 1860 Piazza Maggiore was dedicated to King Vittorio Emanuele II with a statue portraying the king on horseback; in 1943 the monument was moved to the Giardini Margherita, where it can still be found today. For the next two years it was called the Piazza della Repubblica until 1945, when it received its current name.

Piazza Maggiore does not lack for attention. In his beautiful song, the Bolognese singer Lucio Dalla called it “Piazza Grande” like the main piazza in Modena. As a result, the two are often confused.

And finally, closing off the piazza to the east is Palazzo dei Banchi, where the money changers and bankers worked. Designed by Vignola and built at the end of the 16th century, it has a very simple facade. Its purpose was to elegantly mask the humble construction that faced the piazza while retaining the pre-existing road connections that converged here. It wasn’t until the 15th century that the piazza took its present shape. In the 16th century the area was restored at the behest of the pope.

The Piazza del Nettuno and its splendid fountain were built along with the Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio, the first seat of the University of Bologna; it is now a library with one of the largest collections in Europe. The palazzo came to be widely known as "il Pavaglione" (Bolognese dialect for "padiglione" meaning pavilion) and for centuries was the commercial centre for the silkworm trade.

The central area of the piazza features a unique, raised, pedestrian platform built in 1934 and nicknamed “the big growth”. The damage visible on its sides was made by an American armoured tank on 21 April 1945, the day the city was liberated; it has been left as is to memorialize the historic event.

In 1860 Piazza Maggiore was dedicated to King Vittorio Emanuele II with a statue portraying the king on horseback; in 1943 the monument was moved to the Giardini Margherita, where it can still be found today. For the next two years it was called the Piazza della Repubblica until 1945, when it received its current name.

Piazza Maggiore does not lack for attention. In his beautiful song, the Bolognese singer Lucio Dalla called it “Piazza Grande” like the main piazza in Modena. As a result, the two are often confused.