Mysterious arrows, windows to other worlds and curious acoustic effects: Bologna is full of secrets! Discover the most curious ones!
Classic city tours are not enough for you? In this article, you will discover three exciting facts about Bologna: sometimes, the best souvenir is to learn something new about the place you visit!
3. The little Venice
Located on the foothills of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, Bologna is renowned for its beautiful hilly landscape. Yet, not everyone knows that the town is also famous as Little Venice. There is, in fact, an entire area of the historic centre that hides small enchanting views, where the presence of waterways has marked a critical stage in the city's past. In ancient times, a dense network of water channels crossed Bologna city centre. The Reno and Savena rivers embrace Bologna, so the town harnessed the power of water to supply the population with water and facilitate trade. People exploited running water to control the ancient silk and grain mills through a tens-of-kilometres long hydraulic system. The city's web of underground passages and tunnels was hidden for years, only to be re-evaluated and brought back to light in recent years.
The little window in Via Piella
One of the most romantic glimpses that can be seen today is the little window in Via Piella, a small place in the historic centre that hides an unexpected secret. Painted dyed-on-dyed with the wall, there is a small window overlooking the Moline canal, one of the few stretches of water of the ancient Bolognese water structure still visible. When you open it, you can behold a landscape reminiscent of Venice. Against a magnificent backdrop of colourful houses, you can glimpse the trail that the old waterways have left behind, arousing great amazement in visitors. So, if you happen to hear the sound of flowing water as you walk around some parts of the city, you will know that you are not dreaming: it is the old Bologna that lives on under your feet!
2. The broken phone game
Forget all the modern instant messaging systems you know: they were light years ahead in medieval Bologna! Around the 13th century, people found that the vault of Palazzo del Podestà hid natural acoustics phenomenon. Thus, the place began to be used as an ingenious communication system, mainly for the confession of lepers and plague victims so that they would not infect the priests.
The acoustics phenomenon
Even today, it is still possible to experience this ancient and ingenious wireless telephone. Would you like to try it? Follow these simple instructions: in pairs, stand against two opposite (but not consequential) pillars, turn your face to the wall and speak. Surprisingly, you will hear each other whispering!
1. The three arrows
If you walk through Palazzo Isolani's porch in Strada Maggiore, you will notice many people with their noses up as if they were looking for something. Well, raise your head and try to find the famous three arrows embedded in the ceiling with them! Those who cannot see them say they are not there. It is not easy to spot them, so you have to be patient. In any case, apart from the optical challenge, the mystery surrounding the presence of the three darts arouses curiosity. To date, there are only tales and legends concerning the reasons why, presumably, the three arrows are there. One of the most widely accepted is that the three darts got lost because of a naked woman. The primary scene is more or less like this: there are three men who, for one reason or another, shoot these arrows, but the direction is diverted by the presence of a naked woman who allegedly made the archers lose their concentration.
According to some accounts, the men are three brigands trying to kill a nobleman from Bologna. Still, they are distracted by a beautiful naked girl at the window, causing the arrows to be shot in three different directions, sticking them right into the ceiling. According to others, three archers have to execute a woman accused of adultery. At the moment of condemnation, the woman is said to have avoided death with a clever deception. By being seen naked, she would inevitably confuse her murderers, who would shoot their arrows under the porch and miss her. However, more legends hover around these famous arrows, including a recent one (19th century) that claims it was a prank between students working on restoring Palazzo Isolani. In short, the mystery remains unsolved. And you? Have you seen the arrows?