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Michelangelo and other heady finds in Bologna



Building on what I learned Tuesday from energetic tour guide Emilia, I headed out Wednesday to find Michelangelo here in Bologna! I also climbed Bologna's most famous tower, so overall it has been a pretty heady day. (And I still haven't opened my prosecco left by hotel management. THERE'S something to look forward to!)

It always makes me happy to find great art, especially when it's unexpected. Now, most visitors to Italy probably wouldn't be surprised to find works by great masters scattered about, but it's always a big thrill for me.

There are 3 very impressive sculptures by Michelangelo in Bologna's very beautiful San Domenico, a stunningly light and airy church filled with wonderful art and only a short walk from the Piazza Maggiore. The centerpiece of this church (which is nearly as big as San Pietronio on the main square) is San Domenico's spectacular tomb.

Emilia, my tour guide, had directed me to check out this work and even bought me some postcards so I could be sure to recognize Michelangelo's work on the ornate tomb.

The 20-year-old Michelangelo produced these 3 sculptures during a brief period when he was forced to flee Florence in 1494 after the death of his patron Lorenzo de'Medici. As Emilia pointed out, it's possible to see early glimmers of Florence's famous David in the Bologna sculptures -- almost as if these were studies for his greater, later work.

From there, I walked for just a few minutes to the beautiful Santo Stefano complex. I really was not prepared for what a fascinating, mystical site this is, with some remarkable symbolism imbedded in some of its oldest parts.

Santo Stefano was built over the site of an ancient religious sanctuary, a temple of the Egyptian goddess Isis, and elements of its origin can be found in San Sepolcro temple, which was modeled on elements of Jerusalem's Holy Sepulchre.

It was almost time for lunch, so I decided to climb Bologna's famous Asinelli tower to work up an appetite (and justify another great Bologna meal!) The climb up 500 stairs wasn't very difficult and took only about 15 minutes, to reach some really spectacular views. (Being a bitch, I have to confess that perhaps the best part was watching some teenagers practically retching as they stumbled up the final sets of stairs to the top. I may be older, but I'm fitter than they are!!!)

Comments (15)

How cool to see those sculptures. Only 20 years old when he made those, just amazing. Kudos to you for climbing a tower in the summer heat. Open the prosecco!


Hey Sandra,

I'm so glad you're having such a wonderful time discovering great art. Not to mention giving the finger to upstart teenagers (figuratively anyway), and swigging prosecco! Great post, as usual.


It sounds like you are making the most of your time each day.

I loved the "bitch" comment at the end of your post! So true!

LOL.That is so great that you found climbing the tower easy:)

The church and art sound great.I am making notes already:)

I'm SO enjoying this, this has made my morning. :)


That last line cracked me up!

Excellent post, Sandra! I too love coming across works of art unexpectedly. Those Michelangelo pieces are fantastic, you really can glimpse the David in them. And Santo Stefano sounds wonderful. I am bumping Bologna a couple notches higher on my list of where to stay in Italy on my next visit. :)

I only took a peek into San Domenico during my last visit there. I will have to return to check out the sculptures by Michelangelo. I might just follow your itinerary :)

So glad you got to Santo Stefano. Isn't it amazing?

Hooray that you climbed the tower! Glad it was a breeze for you. You had quite a busy morning today (or I guess now it would be yesterday for you).


Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, the statues are amazing looking. What a treat to be able to see them. Interesting to learn more on Michelangelo before he did David.

Funny last line! :) Hope you had a great lunch!

Sounds like you're having a wonderful time. I don’t do towers but do enjoy reading about the adventures of others climbing them, like Girasoli.

The sculptures are amazing and how cool to detect in them a hint of Michelangelo's future work.

LOL at the last line!


I am so enjoying your trip with you - mahalo amd hapy trails! menehune

Brad'll Do It:

I wondered if Bologna would be a let-down after the "charm of Parm(a)". I am happy to hear from your next post that Bologna is growing on you. It's not the prettiest town in Italy, but it does seem to draw you in over time. If you haven't considered it, try the restaurant Al Sangiovese for lunch or dinner, just down the street from your "other hotel" (Hotel Porta San Mamolo). Divertiti!


"Being a bitch, I have to confess that perhaps the best part was watching some teenagers practically retching as they stumbled up the final sets of stairs to the top. I may be older, but I'm fitter than they are!!!" Love this! I feel the same way!


Thanks everyone for your comments. I'm sorry, but computer time is getting tighter at the hotel as it fills up for the weekend, so I can't reply to individual comments (as much as I'd like to!)

HA! All of those trips to the gym have paid off in spades!

I think that joy of the unexpected art 'discovery' in Italy isn't that you find art - you're right, it is everywhere - but that you often find it in the oddest spot where you'd never think to look. I relish those finds.


I'm so glad you enjoyed Santo Stefano. I have NOT climbed the tower. Good for you.

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