Piazza Verdi is currently the heart of Bologna’s University.
The square is crossed by former Strada San Donato, now called via Zamboni, site of students’ nightlife and seat since 1803 of the Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna.
Dedicated to the famous musician and composer Giuseppe Verdi, native of the nearby city of Busseto (Parma), the square holds the Teatro Comunale di Bologna (City Theatre of Bologna).
The theatre was requested both by Bolognese senators and by Cardinal Lambertini and built under the project of Antonio Galli Bibiena, a renowned architect and set designer. It was inaugurated in 1763 and currently offers a rich season of concerts and cultural events of different types.
On the right-hand side of the theatre’s façade a narrow street opens: via del Guasto. Its name reminds us that the former home of the Bentivoglio family stood in the theatre’s place until 1507. After the family’s expulsion from Bologna, the building was destroyed by an enraged population wanting to banish any sign of the family’s existence. A true damnatio memoriae, that has deprived us of the many artworks that decorated its rooms.
The surrounding area was left full of debris for over a century as a reminder of what would happen to whoever crossed the Bolognese citizens. It was only after one of the city theatres burnt down that the need for a new one arised, and this square was the chosen place for it.
The whole square was part of the Bentivoglio’s belongings, including their stables, which can still be seen in the building called “Scuderie”.
Walking towards Piazza Verdi with the Two Towers at our back, we’re embraced on our right-hand by an elegant 15th-century portico placed side by side to the Church of San Giacomo Maggiore. The portico was built on behalf of Giovanni II Bentivoglio to unite the family’s noble home to their private chapel, decorated by frescos by the hand of the most famous authors of those years, like Francesco Francia and Lorenzo Costa.
Piazza Verdi was also the scenery of violent riots in 1977. The student movement fought against both the police and the military as an attempt to stop the socio-political turmoil of those days.
The peak of strain in the city arrived after the medical student Francesco Lorusso was killed; his death fired up the conflict and as a result barricades were built in the square. Lorusso, who belonged to Lotta Continua, was shot to death in via Mascarella by the police during a rally. It was March 11th, 1977.