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When nights get warmer and the stars come out, Piazza Maggiore puts on its summer dress: the steps in front of the Basilica of San Petronio become crowded with young people chatting into the night. The café on the ground floor of the Palazzo del Podestà gets its tables out so customers can sip coffee in the open air while listening to the sound of water gurgling in the 16th-century Fontana del Nettuno (whose nudes caused quite a scandal when it was unveiled).

Piazza Maggiore is the right place to start exploring the heart of Bologna.

You can reach it from  Ghisiliera Apartments

with a short walk under via San Felice porticoes 


Here you will find 

- San Petronio, one of the largest Catholic churches in the world.

A brass sundial, designed by the astronomer Gian Domenico Cassini in 1665, stretches along its pink marble floor.

On the same square you will find the Palazzo d'Accursio, now the Town Hall, which looks rather like a fortified citadel with towers and crenellated walls. The statue of Pope Gregory XIII blesses passers-by from its front wall.

- The Palazzo d'Accursio houses several hidden treasures. Walk through its inner courtyard to the grand staircase; on the first floor you will find the Sala Ercole and the Sala Rossa, two frescoed halls overlooking Piazza Maggiore. On the second floor are the Grand Hall, a chapel (Cappella Farnese), the city art collections and the Museo Morandi named after the famous still-life painter Giorgio Morandi (his sister donated several of his works to Bologna).

In Piazza Nettuno you can also enter the Palazzo d'Accursio through the Sala Borsa. Marble galleries, frescoed vaults, and crystal floors over the forum of ancient Bononia (Bologna's name in the Roman age) provide a fascinating context for a busy public library, open 7 days a week from 9,00 am to midnight.

The Sala Borsa is equipped with one of the largest public multimedia libraries in Europe and several PCs for Web searches. Other sights to see are: the archaeological museum (Museo Civico Archeologico) and its popular ancient Egyptian collection; the national gallery (Pinacoteca Nazionale), which includes works by international favourites like Giotto, Raphael, Parmigianino, Carracci, Guido Reni; the former monastery of San Giovanni in Monte and the small but romantic square fronting it; and the unhallowed church of Santa Lucia in via Castiglione, that is now the great hall of the University.

But if you really want to make the most of Bologna, just take a stroll under its porticoes, which are the longest in the world (47 km, or almost 30 miles!).

Be sure to check out the picturesque alleyways around the two towers which dominate the city. (By the way, if you have good lungs and a head for heights, try climbing the steps that lead to the top of the tallest tower, the Torre degli Asinelli).

Then, when the sun goes down, dress up and buy a ticket to one of the dozen shows or concerts staged every night in Bologna's theatres – such as the Teatro Comunale, more an opera temple than just an opera house.



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