Bologna | A setting for Cimarosa’s Il matrimonio segreto

Bologna, the perfect setting for a Secret Marriage

The Secret Marriage composed by Cimarosa on a libretto by Giovanni Bertati is set in Bologna. And for a reason. Bologna is historically a wealthy city, hometown for enterprising bourgeois engaged in commerce and industry.

Situated at the centre of the Po Valley (Pianura Padana) Bologna is the seventh Italian municipality by population and is the heart of a metropolitan area of approximately 1,000,000 inhabitants.

The oldest university in Europe

Bologna is an ancient university town, the oldest in Europe. Although the first university Statute date back to 1317, historians agreed that the university was founded in 1088. A thriving law school already existed in the XI century though, as independent organization run by students who were choosing and paying directly their teachers.

Bologna is also famous for its towers and long arcades as well as for the beautiful well-preserved historic centre, one of the largest in Italy, dating back to a millennium BC at least.

A city that is a masterpiece as a whole

Yet Bologna is not recognized as great artistic and cultural centre, perhaps because it lacks of one iconic masterpiece that can attract tourists. Its artistic and monumental importance is instead based on its set of monuments, medieval towers, ancient palaces and churches, which make of the city as a whole, a work of art in itself.

Bologna hosts prestigious cultural, economic and political institutions, it was the European Capital of Culture in 2000 and since 2006 it’s a “Music City” UNESCO.

Another great heritage of Bologna is its strong culinary tradition.

The city of porches

Bologna is the city of porches. They extend for over 38 km in the city centre and run almost in every street. Their origin is partly due to the strong expansion of the city in the late Middle Age.

The city became, together with its university, a flourishing centre for scholars and writers from all over Europe. The need to exploit the space found partly a solution in the expansion of the upper floors of the houses on beams, which later became porches supported by columns.

The arcades, an example of wise administration

The arcades provided also a covering from rain and snow for the walkways and, for the same reason, worked out very well to the advantage of shops and trades along the streets.

The birth of the porch is not just a direct consequence of the expansion of the city but has also to do with the principles of wise administration.

They in fact provided services for everybody on a private ground and therefore the owners were entrusted or their maintenance. A law in 1288 imposed that “no new building should be free from porches” and moreover “they will have to be at least 2,66 meters high, enough to allow the passage of a man on horseback”.

“On the noble towers of Bologna”

One of the most characteristic features of the city are the noble towers of medieval origin. According to Giovanni Gozzadini’s in his treatise “On the noble towers of Bologna” written in the nineteenth century, there were more than 180 towers during the Middle Ages (a huge number compared to the extension of the city at the time).

New studies carried out recently reduced this number to a total figure of 90-100, between towers and tower-houses, an impressive number all the same, considering the obvious difficulties of edification of such buildings at that time.

Asinelli, Garisenda and the other towers

Only 17 remain today, among which the Azzoguidi Tower (61 meters), the Tower Prendiparte (59.50 meters), and the best known towers, also landmarks to the city: the Torre degli Asinelli (97.20 meters, the tallest leaning tower in Italy) and the Garisenda Tower (originally 60 meters high, now 48).

The more outstanding of the two, Garisenda, was cited several times by Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy (Inferno, XXXI, 136-140) as a proof of his stay in Bologna.

Of the many famous people born in Bologna, probably the most renowned internationally are the painter Guido Reni, inventor Gugliemo Marconi and the musician Lucio Dalla.

About Sara Filippini

Opera music along with destination management and communication are my fields of expertise. Music and singing are my passion combined with travel and exploring the connection between places and their stories. Coming from Italy I am blessed with wealth of history and adventures to be explored from Sicily to the Alp's. The real dept of any story can be best felt from the place of its origin were the surroundings add to the sense of connection and true appreciation.


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