A whole world under a library

We know it’s true that a library holds entire worlds, but few libraries hold an actual ancient civilization under the floorboards. Visit the Instituzione Biblioteche del Comune di Bologna, and you will definitely want to look in the basement. The main floor of the library is constructed of thick plexiglas tiles, through which you will get a tantalizing preview. Take the stairs behind the information desk, and you will enter the Biblioteca Salaborsa with the help of a friendly volunteer who points us in the right direction.

Bologna Tuesday


When you dig a hole in our Minnesota neighborhood, you’re likely to find worms, tree roots, and a few rocks. Dig a hole in Bologna, and voila! An old Roman city! When excavating as part of a restoration project in 1989, the local workers unearthed a monumental building most likely an ancient civil “basilica” from the Roman city of Bononia which, in turn, is built on top of ancient Felsina, an Etruscan settlement.


Well lit and with suspended metal walkways, the tour is easy and fascinating. You will see a structure made of river stones and divided into various areas, old wells and cisterns, a sewer system, and remains of old roads that coincide roughly with present-day via Ugo Bassi/via Rizzoli and via Galliera/via Val d’Aposa. (All Italian streets seem to change names along the way, which turns your GPS voice-person into a semi-crazed electro-nut).


Time for a snack and people-watching

The library is right on Piazza Maggiore, so there are plenty of places to stop for a snack and to watch the garbage trucks squeeze through tiny streets, as it’s clearly garbage day in this part of town. Also good for street-viewing is the steady stream of women in pumps and dresses riding Peewee Herman bicycles across cobblestones, dinging their bicycle bells and not slowing down one bit. University of Bologna students are celebrating earning their degrees, which appears to involve a laurel wreath for one’s head, a funny costume, a gaggle of friends, several bottles of champagne, and lots of cheering.


Dinner at Ciro’s Pizzeria

Liz and Mike force Carla and Les to go to Ciro’s Pizzeria with them — a favorite place from prior trips. To get there, you have to walk through a creepy alley, but then you find this lovely spot that lights up the night with its spectacular pizza crust, its many, many options (Liz had an arugula pizza), its blast-furnace pizza oven, its attentive proprietor, and its wonderful ambience. When Liz ordered espresso, there was some confusion about whether she wanted it “ora” (now) or “subito” (right away). Carla translated this as “now” or “nower,” which made sense to us at the time.

If you go, find Ciro’s (Via Dè Gessi, 5, 40121 Bologna). You will love it. The graffiti leads us home to bed, where the lovely Martina is waiting for us at the front desk of the Hotel San Donato, our home away from home.

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A Whole World Under A Library

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