They call her la dotta, la grassa, la rossa, la turrita. The talented, the fat, the red, the be-towered one. Talented because of its ancient university. Fat, well, because of its infatuation with food. Red, the colour of its houses. And then there are the towers.
Bologna, a city of merchants. Since the middle ages, they bought and sold. They were proud of their cuisine and, in the past, when they wanted to outdo each other, they built towers. Hundreds of them.
Two in the centre have survived and are cunningly called “i due terri” – the two towers. They had little function other than representation. One of the ‘due’ was soon leaning ever so slightly to one side. Over time it became clear that Italy could not afford two leaning towers so the citizens of Bologna decided to cut theirs off in the middle. On paintings from the 14th century you can still see saints holding little models of Bologna up in their hands – one half-tower slanting quite obviously to the side.
What else to do in a city of merchants but shop? For brushes, for example. Or sponges or shoe shine kits or shaving soap.
The museum it is, then.