Of all the parks in the city, Giardini Margherita is certainly the biggest and most popular one. This huge green-lung was designed by Count Sambuy, who was already well-known in Turin. The park’s original name was Regina Margherita, in honour of Umberto I of Savoia’s wife.
Together with Tubertini (official architect for the town of Bologna who had designed the Sferisterio), Sambuy supervised the works. The land in which the park was built was purchased by the Municipality of Bologna from Count Angelo Tattini, for just a few hundred thousand lire. The works started in 1874 and finished 5 years later.
During its construction a large Etruscan Necropolis came to light; many of the remains found during its excavation were subsequently placed within the Archeological Museum, while some of the marble tombs have been left in the park and can be seen there today. The inauguration of the park was on July the 6th, 1879 once the excavation and the studies were over.
The whole area of the park is about 26 hectares wide and maintains its original appearance. The central point of Sambuy’s design is the artificial lake in which, until recently, the Bolognese could sail on little boats or ice-skate in winter.
Since its inauguration the park has been the main scenery in several exhibitions, such as the Emilian exhibition of Agriculture and Industry in 1888, automotive and horse competitions, especially in spring and summer. For the exhibition in 1888 the park was embellished with a fountain which was subsequently dismantled and reassembled inside the park of La Montagnola.
The park has different entrances. In front of the gate that connects the park to Porta Santo Stefano, original entrance of the ancient walls of the city, we can see the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, once located in the middle of Piazza Maggiore and moved to its current site in 1944.
At the centre of the park we can still see the buildings of a school. This school was built for children in poor health, in the belief that studying outside of the city and in a greener area would help them improve their health. What, however, remains in many memories of Bologna citizens is the small zoo which was set in a corner of the park, and used to host, to children’s delight, deer, fawn, goats and even 2 lions. The zoo was closed after the death of its animals and has been replaced by some realistic reconstructions of an Etruscan village.
From a botanical point of view the park offers plenty of interesting species: cedar trees, pines, horse chestnuts, English oaks, cypresses, oaks, plane trees and even a sequoia.
Several roads were built inside the park to allow the passage of carriages and pedestrians so as to avoid accidents, which used to be quite common during the first years of coexistence to the pedestrian disadvantage.
During summer the park offers, besides the chalet on the lake, a trendy location for young people inside the old greenhouse, as well as a seat for co-working and workshops, opened again in 2014 and transformed in a social location.