Santo Stefano: A Bologna landmark

As the detailed booklet we bought for five Euros tells us, “it was probably a pure, rich spring that began the wonderful history of Santo Stefano about 2,000 yeas ago.” About a five-block walk from the Hotel San Donato in Bologna’s central historic district, Santo Stefano is really a cluster of churches that are all one structure. Many cultures and many eras have left their mark on this place. Roman, ancient Christian, Byzantine, Lombard, Frank, Ottoman — all of these influences are present in a remarkable admixture. As we move from smoky, incense-filled church to church, we visit the Church of the Crucifix, the Roman crypt, and the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher (a replica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem) where we are able to stop and listen to hypnotic chanting by the resident monks. St. Petronius, who is a big deal here in Bologna, is buried here. You can peek at him through a little window if you like.

Bologna Sunday

But wait…

There’s more.

The Basilica of St. Vitale and St. Agricola, which includes the cross on which St. Agricola was possibly crucified for loving his servant and for professing his Christian faith, is next. Pilate’s Courtyard brings you out into the open air for daylight, arcades, Medieval decorations, and side chapels. An inscription there dates it to the VI century. Then, there is the Martyrium Church, a place where martyrs are buried, and finally, the Benedictine Cloister. There are some very creepy figures here sitting on top of pillars, unexplained. Legend has it that Dante saw these and was so creeped out, he wrote The Inferno, a key portion of his masterpiece, The Divine Comedy. All of these spaces are connected in one continuous stream. Really a remarkable historical treasure for the city of Bologna, which has now become one of our favorites.

Life at the flea market

No trip would be complete for Mike without a visit at a flea market. Held in the plaza right outside Santo Stefano on the second Sunday of the month, the flea market is a great spot for lovers of vintage jewelry, antique linens, World War II memorabilia (anybody need a German army helmet?) and sundry other oddments, relics of the past, and trinkets. Great for strolling and people watching.

And so, to bed

We finish off the day with a pleasant meal at a local hallway restaurant, where the mood is mellow, the food is not good, the prices are high, and the ambiance is perfect. Once again, we are happy. Noi siamo felice.


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Santo Stefano: A Bologna Landmark

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