Underground Bologna preserves the traces of a multifaceted past, among ancient canals, archaeological ruins and air raid shelters. Here’s a short itinerary

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Bologna was a city of water, crisscrossed by a labyrinth of canals – would you have guessed it?

Few know that beneath today’s squares and stately buildings lie the traces of an unknown city, the underground Bologna, the protagonist of a fascinating alternative itinerary on the trail of a mysterious past.


Visit underground Bologna: the canals and the Finestrella di Bologna

Bologna’s ancient canals were part of a complex water system designed for trade transportation and to power mills and factories.

Starting in the 16th century, the Aposa Creek and its branches were progressively covered by buildings until all the waterways disappeared from view.

Nonetheless, manhole coverings and asphalt have spared the “little Venice of Bologna,” or the so-called Finestrella of Via Piella, overlooking Bologna’s Moline Canal: an alluring glimpse that enables you to imagine the city as it once was.


Visitare la Bologna sotterranea dai canali ai Bagni di Mario - finestrella via Piella

I Bagni di Mario in Bologna

One of the most surprising places along the underground route is the Cistern of Valverde, mistakenly known as the Bagni di Mario. This Renaissance artifact was built to feed the Neptune Fountain in honor of the Medici Pope, Pius IV.

Based on an octagonal plan, this fascinating brick structure collected the waters of the surrounding hills and purified them using an ingenious system of settling tanks.


Visitare la Bologna sotterranea dai canali ai Bagni di Mario - Bagni di Mario Jennika Argent via Flickr

© Jennika Argent via Flickr

The Roman ruins of Sala Borsa

The subsurface also hides important archaeological excavations, such as those hidden beneath the surface of Salaborsa, among the city’s most beloved sites and among the must-see stops on a day tour of Bologna.

One of Italy’s largest libraries, Salaborsa also organizes excavation tours, including the remains of the ancient Roman city found under the transparent pavement of the Covered Square. Here  are all the details about the guided tours.


Visitare la Bologna sotterranea - scavi archeologici Salaborsa

© Sala Borsa

Underground memories: the air raid shelters

Underground Bologna also includes the structures used during World War II as air raid and gas shelters.

One of the most noteworthy is the Montagnola shelter, under the Pincio Hill, where thousands of people found refuge.

To Bologna with Italo

As with the interesting underground tour to visit in Naples, this itinerary will enable you to look at the city from a different perspective. Thanks to Italo high-speed rail, you’ll be able to get to your destination in no time and plan a weekend in Bologna with friends to discover the best clubs, the tastiest places to eat tortellini, and the city’s lesser-known sights. There are so many reasons to buy tickets to Bologna!