The University and the city of Bologna are deeply linked by an intense relationship through centuries. When visiting Bologna, it is therefore interesting to see some of historical places and to know some facts that made the University of Bologna famous worldwide.
The University of Bologna did not have its own building until the middle of the 16th century. Previously, doctors were holding lessons in their own houses or in rooms rented by the Comune (city council) in the area of the Porta Nuova, via San Mamolo, via dei Libri (today via Farini). Students, especially foreign students represented significant revenue for the city of Bologna. “Portico” (arcades) were introduced to extend housing for students. This specific element of Bologna's urbanisation is 42 km in lenght. The San Procolo's church in via d'Azeglio, that contains the tomb of one of the first Christian martyr of Bologna, was one of the welcome centres for law students at the University of Bologna.
The nearby Collegio di Spagna (Spanish college), founded by the cardinal Egidio Albornoz in 1364, is a unique testimony of various colleges that were housing students from different countries. The university itinerary includes the tombs of Glossators, a testimony of the social prestige of university doctors, located next to the churches San Francesco and San Domenico. Those two main churches used to be points of reference for medieval students: the first one for so-called “artists” (students of medicine, philosophy, arithmetic, astronomy, logic, rhetoric and grammar), the second one was for “lawyers” - law students. The Museo Medievale (Medieval Museum) contains different illustrations of doctors with scholars. There is also the Lapide della Pace (Peace stone, 1222) sculptured to commemorate the peace between students and the Comune (city council) after the capital punishment of one student accused of trying to tempt a noblewoman.
In front of the Santa Maria della Vita's church, you can join the “portico” (arcades) of the Ospedale della Morte (Death Hospital), a big complex marked by portico del Pavaglione, Via de' Foscherari, Via Marchesana and Via dei Musei (called Via della Morte – “street of the Death” in the past). The complex consisted of several sections: for men, for women and wounded persons but there were also parts dedicated to offices, schools of medicine and an ice-room. The complex was attended by students of medicine who were studying anatomy on corpses of dead prisoners in the Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio located next to the Death Hospital.
The Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio (Archiginnasio Palace) was built at the request of the pope Pio IV in 1561 as a central seat of the University of Bologna. Leaving Via dell'Archiginnasio, you can join via Castiglione where next to the Palazzo della Mercanzia (Merchandise Palace) there is a stone inside of the wall recording the exception of the tax duty for students of the University during the 15th century – another testimony of the social respect for students in the municipal life. The Palazzo Poggi (Poggi Palace) is a place that you do not want to miss in the university's itinerary. The palace was built in the middle of the 16th century and it was chosen by Napoleon as a new seat of the University of Bologna in 1802. There are many museums dedicated to the oldest European university (founded in 1088) but all collections are concentrated in the Palazzo Poggi and the university zone between via Belmeloro, via Irnerio and viale Filopanti.
Do not miss the Orto Botanico (Botanic garden) that preserves a vegetable heritage unique in Europe. Going back to via Zamboni, the main street of the student's life in Bologna, you can visit the Biblioteca Universitaria (University Library) opened to the public in 1756.