7. Bologna: Ancient and Recent History Self-Guided Audio Tour
Bologna is home to some of the best food, the most sublime beauty, and the richest history in all of Italy. Yet it’s rarely on the tourist radar. On this walking tour, award-winning author Frank Bures will give you a taste of authentic Italian culture, show you the city’s many historical sites, and tell you the stories most travelers don’t hear. Throughout the walk, he’ll share anecdotes from the time he spent in Bologna as an exchange student in the 1990s, where he came of age as a global citizen.
Starting at the Neptune Fountain, you’ll walk through Piazza Maggiore to San Petronio Basilica where you’ll see the world’s largest sundial. You’ll then make your way to the Two Towers, one of which garnered a mention in Dante’s Inferno, and stroll beneath the famous porticos that became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2021. En route to the city’s culinary epicenter, the Quadrilatero, he’ll show you where the 1902 murder that dominated world headlines for three years took place. He’ll also tell you about the case of a 1980 train station bombing by right-wing terrorists that killed 85 people, before you walk back to San Petronio to learn about Michelangelo’s lost statue of Pope Julius II. Finally, you’ll loop past Piazza Galvani to hear about scientific experiments that electrified frogs before heading back where you started.
Along the way, you’ll also have the chance to:
• Hear about the different Italian dialects Frank encountered while studying here, including Bolognese
• See the Roxy Bar, which was featured in the Italian superstar Vasco Rossi’s song Vita Spericolata (The Reckless Life)
• Discover how the world’s oldest university got its start
• Take in the “Seven Churches” of Santo Stefano
• Find out how an ancient painting once saved the city
• Learn the secret to cooking good Italian food
• Be transported back to the time Aerosmith visited the city
• Relive the glory of Bologna’s canals which once rivaled Venice’s
• Understand why the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio called Niccolò dell’Arca’s Lamentation for the Dead Christ sculpture a “scream in stone”
Join Frank Bures for this lighthearted 60-minute stroll through the ancient – and more recent – past of Bologna, a place that art critic John Berger once called “an improbable city.”
PHOTO CREDITS: Photos of San Luca, Piazza Maggiore, Piazza Maggiore at night, Neptune at night, Santo Stefano and “Speaking Bolognese" courtesy of Bologna Welcome. All other photos by the author.