I was at my hotel doing some research about the normal things to do in Bologna like going and touring the oldest university in Italy. Or even where to grab the best gelato. But then I stumbled upon what is called “the 7 Secrets of Bologna” so I wrote them down and started my journey to find them. I will give you the information that I found so that way when youre there you can go on your own adventure finding the 7 secrets. It was great, I felt like I was on my own Da Vinci Code quest.
1. The Fountain of Neptune
In Bologna there is the main square that is called Piazza Maggiore, youll have a hard time walking around Bologna without ending up there at least once. In the square you will find the fountain of Neptune that was sculpted by Giambolgna in the mid-1500s. When Giambolgna was completing the statue the cardinal asked Giambolgna to reduce the size of Neptune’s penis due to the religious rulings at the time. Of course, Giambologna agreed with the cardinal but not without hiding a secret within the statue. In the walkway there is a black stone if you go behind neptune and towards the street, it is fairly close to the building. At this angle from near Sala Borsa and look at Neptune’s hand from behind he appears to have an erection. Well, thats one way to “stick it to them” Giambologna.
2. The Intersection in Palazzo del Podestà
From Neptune’s Fountain I started looking for a very unique and interesting secret. According to the legend, this secret was created in the middle ages so lepers would be able to make confessions. A small crossroad under the dell’Arengo Tower of Palazzo del Podesta transmits sound from one corner to another. You can stand and speak quietly into one of the corners while the person in the corner diagonally from you is able to hear you loudly and clearly. Over time, from so many people trying it the corners have turned black. I have to say, it still works pretty well after all these years.
3. “Little Venice”
This is one of the most photogenic secrets and probably my personal favorite. There is a full network of underground canals and tunnels below Bologna that were constructed during the twelfth century, very similar to the ones in Venice. If you walk around Bologna like I did, I was able to see some waterways every now and then. Find Via Piella, there is a small window that you can open to see the Canale delle Moline. Its called “Little Venice” because it is the most beautiful of the canals and most closely resembles those of Venice.
4. The Arrows in Strada Maggiore
From “Little Venice” start heading towards the entrance of Corte Isolani, it is a little passageway full of bars and shops on Strada Maggiore. It is constructed of old wooden beams that are as old as the mid-1400s. Resting on top of these beams is the third floor of the building where a lord of Bologna used to live. Now its time for the good part. According to legend, one night three thieves were planning to shoot arrows at the lord but were distracted by a beautiful naked girl in another window. Instead, they shot their arrows up into the ceiling. Legend has it that there were as many as three arrows (one for each thief) but I was only able to find one. There is also a rumor that there is a fourth arrow stuck on Via Indipendenza.
5. Cannabis is Protection
Bologna has been harvesting hemp for a long time now. This keeps the hemp-culture alive and well in Bologna. On the ceiling of the arcade near the end of Via Indipendenza which takes you into Piazza Maggiore (Where Neptune’s Fountain is) are words that say “Panis Vita | Canabis Protectio | Vinum Laetitia” the latin translation is a little loose but roughly translating this means “Bread is Life | Cannabis is Protection |Wine is Joy”
6. The broken vase at the top of Asinelli Tower
Here is where my trail went cold. I climbed to the top of one of the two tower but I could not find a broken vase. I looked for awhile for anything resembling a broken vase, I would love to know if someone has found this! From the Asinelli tower you can look down and see the leaning Garisenda Tower. I tried to see but it appeared there is nothing on top of that tower either.
7. “Bread is Resistance”
With hope I went after the last of the remaining 7 secrets, unfortunately I could not find this one either. I have done some research which left me cold in the search for this. I have been told that in latin “Panum Resis” is written on a table at the seat of the university. This being the oldest and the worlds first university. I looked around and even with my local friend’s help we were unsuccessful in finding this. I was told that the translation from latin is supposed to mean that Knowledge shoul be the starting place of every decision a person makes.