Bologna and its gates

Itinerary through the monumental gates of Bologna

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Bologna can boast one of the best-preserved medieval historical centres in all of Europe. Ancient and mighty walls enclosed the urban nucleus, made up of towers and monumental gates, of which 10 of the original 12 structures survive today.

Only a few towers survive today, the walls have all but disappeared, with the exception of 10 of the original 12 gates that symbolically defend the access to the city centre.

  • Length
    24 hours
  • Interests
    Art & Culture
  • Target
  • First stop - Porta Galliera Bologna

    Now dominating the square next to the city's train station, this majestic gate, also referred to as the Porta della rocca hostile (the hostile fortress) stands out as the city's northernmost outpost. Mainly owing its name to the nearby castle commissioned by cardinal Bertrando del Poggetto, the gate served as an important junction between land and water routes towards the lowlands and Ferrara. 

    To this day, a canal still runs beneath it, reminding us of the unsuspected importance of water for Bologna. 

  • Second stop - Porta Lame Bologna

    The history of this gate is also closely linked to water due to its proximity to the ancient river port. On top of that, the road that branches off from it once led to the many bodies of water across the lowlands (lama in Latin means slough, bog). 

    Rebuilt several times before reaching its current baroque appearance, today it houses a number of statues on the adjacent lawn in memory of the battle of November 1944, in which the partisans prevailed over a contingent of Nazi-Fascist troops after a back and forth battle.

  • Third stop - Porta San Felice Bologna

    Here we are at Porta San Felice or 'War Gate' as this was where the armies marching towards the hostile west would transit (among them, the royal prisoner, King Enzo, son of Frederick II, later deported to the central fortress that would eventually be named Palazzo Re Enzo after him). 

    Situated on the route of the Via Emilia in a crucial position, its outbuildings have always been home to the guardhouse and the gabellieri (toll collectors) responsible for levying duties.

  • Fourth stop - Porta Saragozza Bologna

    A monumental, fortified gateway, it marks the entrance to the long portico that leads to the Sanctuary of San Luca on the Colle della Guardia. The fortified quarterdeck of Porta Saragozza has housed the Museum of the Blessed Virgin of San Luca since 2004. 

    The monument is named after Via Saragozza, probably connected to the presence of the close-by Collegio di Spagna.

  • Fifth stop - Porta Castiglione Bologna

    One of the main gateways to the surrounding hills, the history of this building is also linked to the city's canals: sure enough, this is where the Savena canal once flowed into the city for the supply of hydraulic energy and subsequent motive force to dozens and dozens of factories where wool and silk were processed.

    The last restoration that brought it to its current appearance dates back to 1850. 

  • Sixth stop - Porta Santo Stefano Bologna

    Another preferred gateway to the city's parks, Porta Santo Stefano opens up into the Giardini Margherita, the city's largest and most-loved green lung. 

    Because of its location in the direction of the Futa Pass, it is also referred to as the 'gateway to Tuscany', whereas the modern 19th-century buildings of the monumental passageway are called the 'Gregorian barrier'.

  • Seventh stop- Porta Mazzini aka Porta Maggiore Bologna

    Known as the city's 'Gate of Honour', this structure presides over the continuation of the Via Emilia beyond its urban stretch towards Romagna. Doomed to demolition in 1903, it was later saved by the alacrity of those who wanted to preserve and restore the remaining ruins after a long and lively debate.

    As with Porta Saragozza, a portico branches off towards the outskirts of the city, connecting Santa Maria degli Alemanni with the centre.

  • Eighth stop - Porta San Vitale Bologna

    The 'gateway to Ravenna' owes its name to San Vitale, a much-loved saint linked to the city of Ravenna, on which Bologna depended religiously for many centuries. 

    Erected in 1286 with annexed accommodation for the captain, it featured a mighty keep and a drawbridge that was later removed. 

  • Ninth stop - Porta San Donato Bologna

    The gate overlooking the ancient road to the Argenta valleys and Ferrara and today opening onto the San Donato neighbourhood was also equipped with a drawbridge and nearly faced demolition to clear space for the modern road system. 

    Eventually spared - albeit downsized - it now guards the entrance to the university area, Via Zamboni and Via Irnerio.

  • Tenth stop - Porta Mascarella Bologna

    Porta della Mascarella stands out as one of the gates that best preserves its original appearance. 

    Built in the 13th century, it was then kept in operation with some intermittency. 

  • Eleventh stop - Missing gates Bologna

    Two more gates completed the 14th century walls: Porta S. Isaia and Porta San Mamolo, demolished in 1903 to make way for the modern ring road system and the oncoming progress.

Last update 03/04/2024

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+ 39 051 6583111

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