The Best Museums In Historic Bologna

Photo of Barbara Boda
24 January 2017

Given its immensely rich history, this Italian city has plenty to boast about. Founded by the Etruscans with the name of Felsina around 1000 BC, then taken over by the Romans and re-named as Bononia (“settlement), the town still stands precisely where it has for the past 3000 years. This vibrant past is evident through the presence of monuments, architectural and art works. Let’s have a look at the most interesting museums in this ancient city.

Museo Civico Archelogico | © Paul Herman

Pinacoteca Nazionale

Exhibiting mostly paintings from the thirteenth to the eighteenth centuries, this museum embraces flourishing medieval times as well as the refreshing Renaissance and rich Baroque. The core of the collection stems from religious works and pieces from the early painting schools – such as works by Vitale da Bologna – up to the eighteenth century artist Gandolfi, each of which can be admired in a well-organized, chronological order, embracing pieces from Giotto, Rafaello and Tiziano as well. You might find the first few steps inside the building very striking – the seemingly unlimited height of the marvelously painted ceiling certainly gives a special, godly atmosphere.

Museo Civico Archelogico – Eqyptian section | © Paul Herman

Museo Civico Archeologico

The genesis of this immense collection came in 1881, when several universities’ collections were merged. The museum is now situated in the former Hospital of Death (Ospedale della Morte) but, fortunately, the passion to exhibit the cultural jewels of the beloved city is very much alive and well. As one of the most important Italian historical collections with its rich Etruscan masterpieces and exhibits from all historical periods, the museum also has a comprehensive selection of Roman and Greek works. The Egyptian collection is considered to be one of the best in European museums.

Museo del Patrimonio Industriale | © Blosterblu – YT

Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna

MAMbo lures everyone who is interested in modern and experimental art. Having become the headquarters of the municipal network of museums representing contemporary pieces (Museo e Casa Morandi and Modern Art Gallery at Villa delle Rose) in 2007, the collection documents the history of Italian art from World War II right up to the present day. When you get tired, there is a nice onsite café where art lovers can enjoy a cocktail along with a great selection of music.

Palazzo Poggi | © Elena Manente

Museo di Palazzo Poggi

As its name suggests, this museum was built as a home, a palazzo, for the two Poggi brothers in the mid 1500s. Later, in 1714 it became a shrine for scientific endeavor when the Institute for Science was officially founded and housed in this palace. The building was extended with the Tower Observatory to enable scholars to study the mysteries of the night sky. Nowadays it plays host to a rich collection covering many aspects of science and everyday life, including natural history, anatomy and obstetrics, physics and chemistry, geography, military architecture, a library of the Institute of Science and, last but not least, a gallery of ships. All of these are incorporated within a large courtyard and loggia, where anyone can enjoy the fresh air once their scientific studies are over.

Museo del Patrimonio Industriale

Situated in a renovated three-story brick factory, this museum provides a detailed insight into the city’s industrial heritage. Hydraulic machines, furnaces, Bologna’s first power station, Ducati motorbikes, Maserati cars, ice-cream machines and pasta makers – in fact, just about everything that anyone with industrial and historical interests might desire. There is also a fascinating show about silk making, which made Bologna famous in past centuries. The museum is located in the outskirts of the city, but is definitely well worth taking the time to visit.

Bologna | © Goldmund 100

Genus Bononiae

This curious Latin name refers to a collection of museums in the heart of the historical center, situated in different palaces renovated for public use, each of them on the same walking route within an easy distance. This route cleverly uses the streets and buildings as exhibition rooms, while narrating its history. There are eight premises on this exciting walking tour: the Art and History Library at San Giorgio in Poggiale (old books from 16th century), San Colombano (musical instruments belonging to famous organist Maestro Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini), Chiesa di Santa Christina (concerts are held here), Santa Maria della Vita (terracotta sculptures by Niccolò dell’Arca), Palazzo Pepoli (dedicated to the history of Bologna), Palazzo Fava (richly frescoed exhibition center), Casa Saraceni (home to the Carisbo Foundation), San Michele in Bosco (rich collection of art works).

Address: Via Manzoni, 2 Bologna, Italy phone +39 051 19936366

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