Named for Bologna’s patron saint, the city’s fifth-century bishop, the Basilica di San Petronio is the world’s fifth-largest church and a fabulous example of Gothic grandeur.
Construction began in 1390, but plans to enlarge the basilica were halted in the 1500s when the design threatened to overshadow that of St Peter’s in Rome. Thanks to this creative curtailment, the basilica’s facade detail remains unfinished.
On a tour of the basilica’s interior, admire the frescoed chapels and apse, the rich stained glass and marble. The exterior features detailed carvings of biblical scenes. Look out for the brass sundial embedded in the floor of the eastern aisle.
Bologna is home to the world’s oldest university in continuous operation - founded in 1088 - and one of the many schools in the university is a medical school. You might not think that a medical school would be an attraction worth seeking out, but the historic Anatomical Theatre of the Archiginnasio alone is worth the trip.
The Archiginnasio is a university building, originally constructed in the 16th century, that served for many years as the primary university building. Today, it houses the largest municipal library in the region, but the main attraction is the Anatomical Theatre. Built in 1637, it’s a gorgeous room paneled entirely in spruce with a coffered ceiling. The seating is amphitheatre-style, and the seat from which a professor would deliver lectures more closely resembles a throne or a preacher’s pulpit than a teacher’s desk.
A jumble of four churches make up the Basilica of St Stephen, or Basilica di Santo Stefano, dating back to the Romanesque era. With interesting cloisters, statues and artworks, the complex was once made up of seven churches.
The Church of the Crucifix houses the bones of St Petronio, and is next to the octagonal Church of the Holy Sepulcher, formerly a baptistery.
The Church of Santi Vitale e Agricola, Bologna’s oldest church, incorporates Roman masonry and mostly dates from the 11th century. The medieval cloister is a tranquil resting place, en route to a small museum.
You might easily associate the Ferrari name with Italy, but did you know that Ferrari is based not far from Bologna? In the town of Maranello, just outside Modena, you’ll find not only the Ferrari Museum but also the factory complex and the famous Fiorano test track.
The Ferrari Museum - Museo Ferrari in Italian - is a few steps from the factory in Maranello where every Ferrari is made. The museum contains a number of cars, including both cars designed for regular driving and some from the company’s illustrious Formula 1 racing history. In addition to the actual cars, the museum also has exhibits of photographs and racing trophies as well as interactive displays.
For racing enthusiasts, the Ferrari Museum has an F1 racing simulator based on the Monza race track outside Milan. You need to reserve a slot in the simulator in advance, and before you begin your experience you’ll even get pointers from a Ferrari technician.
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