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Montagnola’s Gardens and Stairs

Di rilevanza storica


The area is located in the north side of the city, at the end of via dell’Indipendenza and it stands on a hill which has been formed since the fifteenth century with landfill. Previously, since the thirteenth century, the area has been called Campo magno or Campo del mercato - which measured 1600 x 600 feet and was extended from the penultimate ring of walls to the north limit of today’s Montagnola -, and dedicated to the cattle market. During the fourteenth century, simultaneously with the city expansion and the construction of new walls, in the northern part of the area the first fortress of Galliera was built. This, symbol of the power of the dominators who from time to time conquered the city with their armies, was, for two centuries, destroyed for five times by the insurgent population, and rebuilt three times. The popular history tells that from the bigger and bigger pile of rubble, for the repeated destructions, a hill or “montagnola del mercato” was created. More likely, since the last destruction of the castle (1511) construction litter and residues began to mass in that place, which were derived from the basement excavations and senatorial palace foundations.

The first settlement of the Montagnola dates back to 1662: the slope was made regular and there were planted mulberry trees symmetrically on the sides of a driveway which, from the market square, climbed into a circular space bounded by elms. The Bolognese began to use it as a public walkway, a meeting place and a theatre of playful occasions. The very concept of the garden, which was then spreading, together with the young bourgeois culture, was a completely new fact, destined to change the urban physiognomy and the popular habits. As a public walkway, the Montagnola acquired the characteristics of the park and the present physiognomy in the Napoleonic age. The space was enlarged, paved and divided into two areas: the upper level, with a circular avenue cut by four perpendicular roads headed to a central forecourt; the bottom in a slight slope, crossed by two access paths bordering the sides of the so-called "horseshoe". It was then that the piazza del Mercato changed its name to Piazza d'Armi (today Piazza Otto Agosto). In the driveways, which were well suited to speed games that were very famous, accessible by pedestrians and carriages in panoramic trips, Tall trees were planted in double row. During the nineteenth century the garden had its moment of highest popularity: it was used for balloon flights and balloon games, horse races and velocipede races, carnival parties and military rallies. Finally, it was the scene of the Risorgimento battle of 8 August 1848 and for a long time the official celebrations of that event took place there.

In 1878, with the closing of Piazza Maggiore to the stalls, in the garden and in the square in front of it the second-hand market, the Piazzola, which still exists, was transferred. In the nineties, following the example of the Giardini Margherita, the park was rearranged and there was placed the tank built for the 1888 Emilian Exhibition, Diego Sarti’s work, in the centre of the circular forecourt. It was also completed by an architectural complex - the scalee del Pincio - that, looking out onto Via dell'Indipendenza, offered the first beautiful view of the city to foreigners arriving from the station. The work consists of three parts: the central body, which rises to the gardens, and the two porches, on Via dell'Indipendenza and along the walls. Between the two stairs was placed a fountain, which the Bolognese artist Diego Sarti enriched with a marble group - representing a sea horse dragging a fainted nymph for the attack of an octopus that grabs both - designed by Tito Azzolini and Attilio Muggia. The sculptural work received much appreciation, so much that Giosue Carducci dedicated the ode La moglie del gigante to it - to indicate in the nymph the wife of Neptune of Giambologna -, of great popular success. The complex, in the south-east corner of Piazzale di Porta Galliera, was inaugurated on 28 June 1896 in the presence of the Royals, who participated on the same day also at the ceremonies for the discovery of the statue of Marco Minghetti and for the opening of the Rizzoli Orthopaedic Institute. The interventions of the late nineteenth century on the park were not, however, positive because of the popular use that had been made until then: «First, the prohibition on playing and trampling on lawns drawn in the English way; then by contrast the concession to hold fairs with barracks and rides that left the devastation; finally, the higher and higher presence of vandals defacing the low-reliefs and statues, breaking the streetlights, shattering the balustrades,destroyed the trees. All these things determined the degradation and abandonment of the park» (G. Bernabei, 1986, p. 57).

Scalea’s work lasted for three years (1893-1896), interrupted only in the harshest months of winter. In the yard they worked a daily average of one hundred workers, which went up to one hundred and fifty with specialists (masons, stonemasons, cement workers, modelers, and so on). In 1893, in April, the laying of the first stone took place, attended the mayor Alberto Dallolio, the councillor for building Gustavo Bernaroli, Count Edoardo Tuberini, chief engineer of the Technical Office, Cavalier Burzi and Cavalier Lodi, chief secretary and treasurer respectively, the lawyer "Vitta'' (Giulio Vita, an exponent of the Bolognese democracy and the Workers' Society), engineer Attilio Muggia and professor Tito Azzolini, who donated the photographic image owned by the Museum of the Risorgimento, donated to Raffaele Belluzzi. The event was immortalized by Silvio Minghetti, «who was presumably invited to the ceremony with the precise task of taking photographs», according to a commemorative use of the camera in public ceremonies that was just spreading then. In fact, «shortly after, with the "snapshot" photography, it will become almost an obligation to take this kind of footage on the occasion of important events.

Traduzione a cura del Liceo Leonardo Da Vinci, nell'ambito del progetto Scuola Lavoro 2020/21.