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Piazza Galvani

Square, Bologna

Piazza Galvani: Attraction informations

Piazza Galvani, right behind the church of Saint Petronius, opens on one of the most elegant streets of Bologna, via Farini.

It’s the main junction between important landmarks of Bologna, like the opening of the covered passage that ends in the middle of Corte Galluzzi with its namesake still-standing tower, proof of the Galluzzi’s wealth and power.

Another incredible building in Piazza Galvani is the Archiginnasio, founded in 1563 on behalf of the Papal Legate Pier Donato Cesi, supported and blessed by Pope Pio IV. The Archiginnasio was the seat of the University of Bologna until the first years of the 1800’s , when under Napoleon’s domain it was moved to its current location in Via Zamboni.

The long sequence of arches that decorate its main façade is also known as the Portico of Pavaglione, name probably due to the presence of “Padiglioni” (pavilions) in the market which took place right beneath the portico. The market was one of the main ones in the city and was dedicated mainly to the sale of silk worms, of the great importance in the sustainability and maintenance of the textile industry which made Bologna a rich and famous city throughout the world.

Luigi Galvani

In the middle of Galvani square there’s a statue dedicated to Luigi Galvani, a Bolognese scientist born in Bologna in 1737 who, after a rich and easy childhood, became one of the greatest scientists of his period. He was in fact one of the main exponents of what is now recalled as the “illuminated Catholicism”, a highly developed scientific flow in Bologna sustained by cardinal Lorenzo Lambertini (who will later become Pope Benedict XIV) who tried to find the link between new scientific evidence and the old Sacred Texts.

His ability to endorse scientific ideals, while being a confirmed Christian, made him refuse to vow loyalty to the Cisalpine Republic, although he was inscribed among the list of emeritus professors. Having a degree in Medicine, he worked in different hospitals and took the place of his mentor Giovanni Antonio Galli at his death. He was also a teacher in the University of Bologna and was considered the discoverer of the “biological electricity”.

Galvani explained how he had made his most important discovery purely by chance when, during an experiment, he passed an electrified tool along a frog and the animal’s muscles tensed as if it were alive. After repeating this process several times, he was able to declare that the body of animals, and therefore also of humans, is in fact capable of producing the necessary quantity of electric energy for life. His discovery has since then opened many important researches, such as the ones on nervous stimuli.

The statue in the square was designed and made by Adalberto Cencetti at the end of the 1800’s following the Canovian classicism. Luigi Galvani is represented while bent over an open book and, when looking closely, on the book we can see the sculptured body of a frog.

Passing from science to gluttony, it is mandatory to talk about the Antico Caffè Zanarini, opened in 1930 and since then one of the main stops for Bolognese people. The square is also a perfect point from which to admire the unfinished Church of San Petronio.