The green area currently known as “Parco della Montagnola” was already used as a public park during the second part of the XVII century. This area is a crossover of stories narrating the evolution and history of the city of Bologna.
A fortress once stood exactly on this spot, built on behalf of Bertrando del Poggetto and destroyed 4 times by the Bolognese, thus declaring their refusal to the papal state. After its last demolition it never was restored again, and the remains can be seen in front of the stairway to the park and under the Hotel I Portici, within its ancient ice house. The whole area soon became an abandoned corner of the city and slowly turned into a dump. Its growth and enlargement formed the hill over which the park was created.
The Park of La Montagnola is considered the first public park of Bologna. It was built long before public parks started to appear in other cities, in a period in which parks were usually private gardens to be enjoyed by the upper class.
The park has different entrances. The main and most spectacular ones overlook Piazza XX Settembre and Piazza 8 Agosto squares. The former is enhanced by the magnificent Staircase of la Montagnola, designed by Tito Azzolini and Attilio Muggia between 1893 and 1896 and inaugurated before the eyes of the Savoia family. The staircase was decorated by the most important artists of the period, among which Arturo Orsoni, Pietro Veronesi, Tullo Golfarelli, Ettore Sabbioni and Arturo Colombarini. The centre of this extraordinary staircase is the Fountain of the Nymph to whom the poet Giosuè Carducci himself dedicated a sonnet in which the nymph is talking to the statue of Neptune, considered to be her lawful husband.
The second entrance is near the monument built in memory of the fallen in war. The statue was designed by Pasquale Rizzoli in 1904 and stands in remembrance of all the Bolognese fallen against the Austrian army during the liberation of the city. The square that opens in front of the statue was built in 1200 as a livestock market and is currently still used for the city market, called “la piazzola”, every Friday and Saturday.
Inside the park we find a school, a building used for different events in Bologna and, surely its main asset, a fountain designed by Diego Sarti. This fountain, richly decorated with lions and turtles, was originally placed at the park Giardini Margherita during an exhibition in 1888 and subsequently moved to its current location.
The current appearance is the work of the architect Giovanni Battista Martinetti, who designed other several buildings such as the famous Villa Spada and who was very well-known for his sympathy towards Napoleon. More importantly, he was the husband of Cornelia De Rossi, matron of the most vivacious cultural theatre in the city who charmed personalities such as Canova, Foscolo and Stendhal.
The Montagnola park was also for a few years the resting place of patriots Luigi Zamboni and Giovanni Battista de Rolandi, deceased during a popular insurrection and buried here by Napoleon’s wishes. However, after the return of the Austrians the remains were exhumed and moved to their current location.