Italy Palazzo del Podestà and Palazzo re Enzo

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Sue Wolfe

About this spot
On the north side of the Piazza Maggiore is the Palazzo del Podestà and Palazzo re Enzo—the first complex of the city’s government. The adjoining Torre dell’Arengo was used to muster citizens in case of an emergency.

The great Hall of the Podestà was once a courtroom, then a theater and later used for a handball court and gym. The hall was completely frescoed by Adolfo de Carolis with “The Glories of the City of Bologna.” Unfortunately, you can only access the Palazzo during exhibitions. The Bologna Tourism Office is located inside the Palazzo del Podestà on the ground floor.

The four corner pillars supporting the tower open into a vault called the Voltone del Podestà. Standing by one of the pillars, you can hear exactly what someone at the opposite pillar is whispering as the sound transmits over the vault. Statues of the city’s patron saints—San Petronio, San Procolo, San Domenico, and San Francesco, were placed here.

Palazzo re Enzo or Palazzo Nuovo to distinguish it from Palazzo del Podestà was built between 1244 and 1246. Three years later it became the “residence” of King Enzo of Sardinia who was captured in the Battle of Fassalta. He lived in the palace as a prisoner for 23 years until his death in 1272. The king was left free within the palace by day, but at night he was kept in a cage hanging from the ceiling. It appears he was able to accept visitors as the king had three daughters and a son. The son’s name was Bentivoglio (my love, I’m fond of you). He is the ancestor of the Bentivoglio family, later rulers of Bologna.

Today the Palazzo re Enzo hosts conventions, cultural exhibitions, and business meetings. Just like the Palazzo del Podestà, it is only open to the public during exhibitions.

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