The Porticos of Bologna


For a few months now, I have been blogging about my attempts as a naturally colour challenged photographer to capture my home town of Tunbridge Wells in England. Now it is time for me to set off further afield. The posts in this blog will travel across the UK and indeed the world. Many of these pictures go back years, but much of my recent development as a photographer has been in terms of editing, so I will use this blog as an excuse to re-edit old pictures.

First though, a trip that we took two weeks ago to the city of Bologna in Italy.

Across Italy in the middle ages, the wealthy citizens of any city would find a way of visibly competing- In San Gimignano, for example, they built upwards, creating a proto-Manhattan of towers. In Venice they fought it out by building increasingly lavish palaces by the water. In Bologna, for some reason, they chose to compete by building longer and longer porticos to protect the locals from the rain or the sun:






The result is that you can walk almost the entire city without ever having to be rained on and I found on returning, that almost every picture I had taken would have a portico somewhere at the edges as in these shots of the square by San Stefano:




Their love of porticos would also lead them to construct courtyards in the middle of buildings such as here at the museum and the nearby University:




Historians have questioned what made the rich of this city so philanthropic compared to those in other cities. They also set up the first university in Europe and even into this century, the city has always been a hub for liberal and left wing thinking. Certainly the huge central square and wide main street look perfect for mass demonstrations and gatherings:



The city does have a commercial core- they may be socialists, but they are wealthy socialists and along with the best restaurants in Italy, most of those porticos shelter shops:


And some of the rich did build upwards- there are still 20 grandstanding medieval towers intact. The tallest gave us the view at the top of this page after an endless Escher-like staircase:


Finally, I don’t want anyone to think that all this portico building was simply selfless liberal goodness. Wonderfully, this covered staircase in the town hall was built wide and with shallow stairs so that the rich could ostentatiously drive all the way up in their carriages:


A Short note about the editing:

For those of you interested in photographic technique, I have recently been following tutorials by the great French black and white master Jean-Michel Berts. I would recommend his photography and methods to anyone. I have used them in all of the pictures on this page including these last few that didn’t fit naturally into the rest of my ramblings:







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