A Bird's Eye View of the Town

The "forma urbis", emerging from the maps depicting Bologna up to the 19th century, has an irregular hexagonal shape, widely opening along the East-West road axis. A scholar and historian from Bologna, Leandro Alberti, compared it to a ship having the Asinelli tower as its main mast.

The town did expand around a central core, of Roman origin, crossed by a decuman at whose ends two crossroads mirrored a typically Medieval street layout.

The urban layout emerged and consolidated in the 16th century with the building of Renaissance-style palaces, which the Senate aristocracy continued to build and improve up to the 18th century, almost completely replacing the previous layout of Medieval origin.

In the late 19th century an urban plan was adopted as a way to streamline and govern the town expansion.

In the post-WWII period, a different outlook in urban planning brought about new developments spreading towards the town's outskirts.

For its geographical position at a junction between the north and the centre of Italy, Bologna is a very important railways, road and airport hub. Trading activities are intense and characterised today by a specific vocation towards exports. There are also many companies working in the field of metal fabrication, electronics, chemistry, agri-business and fashion.


"Bononia Alma Studiorum Mater", ca. 1590. Copper etching of the map of Bologna by F. Hogenberg and S. Van den Neuvel. The two Towers, the symbols of the town, can be seen on the left, with the Municipal Building in the middle (BCA, Cabinet Drawings and Prints, Town Maps, cart. 1, n. 2, Photo: MV).
"Bologna", ca. 1730. Perspective view of the town by F. B. Werner Siles. The many towers dotting Bologna's skyline are clearly shown. On the background, the hill area with convents and churches, e.g., St. Luke's on Monte della Guardia, linked to the town by an evocative array of arcades, more than 3 km-long (BCA, Cabinet Drawings and Prints, Maps of the Town, cart. 4, n. 32, Photo: MV).
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"Map of the Town showing the twelve districts", late 18th century. Water coloured map by painter-etcher Pio Panfili. From the names of the gateways, the Medieval subdivision of the town in four districts may be inferred. The different colours show the twelve districts from the Napoleon's period. Around the borders six views of Bolognese buildings and monuments (ASCBo, Carteggio amministrativo, tit. 17, rubr. 7, 1804, Photo: MV).
Foro de' Mercanti | Scuole publische, o sia Universita | Instituto delle Scienze | Zecca | Fonte publico | Palazzo publico

"Town of Bologna", 1837. Small-size map, decorated with sixteen illustrations of the most evocative and charming views of the town. Drawing by di E. Corty (BCA, Cabinet Drawings and Prints, Maps of the Town, cart. 6, n. 54, Photo: MV).
Detail 1 | Detail 2 | Detail 3 | Detail 4 | Detail 5 | Detail 6 | Detail 7 | Detail 8 | Detail 9 | Detail 10 | Detail 11 | Detail 12 | Detail 13 | Detail 14 | Detail 15 | Detail 16

"Panorama de Bologne", ca. 1855. Panoramic view of the town centre, sketched by J. Mazzola and etched by L. Cherbuin. Piazza Maggiore may be seen in the middle, with the basilica of St. Petronius, and the Municipal Building on the right (BCA, Cabinet Drawings and Prints, Maps of the Town, cart. 6, n. 48, Photo: MV).
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