via Castiglione, 8


Just a short stroll away fromthe Two Towers, in the first stretch of Via Castiglione, is Palazzo Pepoli Vecchio, not to be confused with Palazzo Pepoli Nuovo (also known as Pepoli Campogrande) on the other side of the street. The building is the result of numerous extensions and architectural stratifications. Begun in the 14th century, it was completed only in 1723with the construction of the edifice now at Via Castiglione 10 by G. T. Pepoli, stylistically similar to the earlier building. The original core of the great residence was built by Taddeo Pepoli, Bologna’s first overlord, in 1344. He built the strong, austere exterior, protected by a moat and drawbridges, with an official residence inside. Over the centuries it was enriched with a magnificent courtyard, spectacular staircase and a reception room, as well as paintings, sculptures and stucco decorations, all very fine and splendid, attributed to Bernardo and Giuseppe Borelli.Under the battlemented parapet runs a band of painted black and white squares forming a checked pattern as in the family’s arms. Following Taddeo’s death there was a period of papal rule, during which the residence housed the Collegio Gregoriano, before finally passing to the Pepoli family in 1474. In modern times the building suffered various vicissitudes, changing hands between the different branches of the family. In 1910, after Agostino Sieri Pepoli’s death, the residence with all its artworks was given to the city of Bologna on condition the public was given access to it. The city failed to keep its side of the agreement. The art collection was split between the Museum and the State Archives. The building was sold in 1913-14 to the Cassa di Risparmio, which installed offices and altered the interior. In 1939 the building was subjected to radical restoration supervised by the engineer Guido Zucchini. He reopened the old medieval windows, uncovered the parapet with its checked frieze and restored the façade according to the original design. The last alterations date from the postwar period, when a modern concrete and glass structure was installed in the courtyard to house the data processing centre of the Cassa di Risparmio in Bologna. In 2003 the building was acquired by the Fondazione Carisbo, which restructured and restored it to become a local history museum, the Museo della Storia di Bologna, the heart of the Genus Bononiae itinerary inaugurated in January 2012.

Recent restoration

Palazzo Pepoli Vecchio was virtually unrecognizable after decades of inappropriate use. The beautiful decorative parts dating fromits late Baroque period were concealed and partly damaged by overlaid floors, party walls, drop ceilings and panelling. The original central courtyard  irremediably disfigured. In 2003 the Fondazione Carisbo held a competition by invitation to convert the building into the Museo della Storia di Bologna. The winning project was submitted byMario Bellini. Though the building retained traces of its Gothic origins, it was badly decayed. Restoration first meant strengthening the structure of the ground-floor arches and all the load-bearing vaulted ceilings, securing the great first-floor ballroom, which was structurally unstable, and the roofing. This was followed by restoration of the inner rooms, supplementing and restoring the sculpted and painted decorations, which were largely preserved. Lastly an original and impressive architectural addition was made. This was an umbrella-shaped glass-and-steel tower that reinvents and reuses the courtyard. It is a sort of magic lantern, flooded with white natural light shed from above, which gradually descends and is dematerialised into  pure transparency. Almost an inspiration prompting reflection on the inevitable passing of time but also a strategic choice that brings fluidity to the tour of the whole museum, centred on the tower and courtyard. This successful restoration project, together with a sensitive selection of innovative materials (such as the black resin flooring with silvery and golden metal inclusions) revealed a palace whose essentially Bolognese  beauty and dignity had been effaced.

The exhibition installation

The dominant features of the exhibition installation are the great cases placed in the rooms to form patterns and arrangements quite different fromthose of the rooms themselves and their sequence. Inside these large transparent volumes, the works on display are framed by three-imensional cages that provide optimum lighting with miniaturised LED technology. Large backlit panels show images and texts with distinctive graphics by the designer Italo Lupi. Likewise set inside the showcases, they make the graphic communication a ravishing spectacle for eyes andminds. The ground floor of the building contains the reception spaces, including a café and museum  shop. Through the hub of the covered courtyard they link the exhibition sequence of themed islands from the ground floor to the piano nobile. Temporary exhibitions and workshops are hosted in the mezzanine floor.

Museo della Storia di Bologna

This is a new concept museum. It makes skilful use of display techniques, scenic presentations and interactive media in ways largely unprecedented in Italy, to recreate the city’s historical, cultural, artistic and scientific history. Beginning with the Etruscan city of Felsina, it continues the story down to recent times. It presents a rich and complex heritage and preserves it for future generations. The works and exhibits in the museum come from the collections of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio in Bologna as well as other museums and private collections. The city’s history is retraced in its architectural, artistic, scientific and social development by alternating different approaches. Rooms where the focus is on the artworks and graphics are followed by interactive rooms containing scenic reconstructions, multimedia carpets and immersive installations. The city’s history is divided into sections, organised both chronologically and by major themes:

The Bologna room
The painted city
The Torre del Tempo (The time tower)
Bologna in ancient times (rooms 1-4)
The heyday of theMiddle Ages (rooms 5-7 and 9-10)
FormaUrbis (room8)
The Renaissance under the Bentivoglio family (rooms 11-12)
Bologna in the limelight: politics, religion and the rituals of civic life (rooms 13-16)
Bologna the Learned: the arts, sciences, humanities and music (rooms 17-19 and 21-22)
Multimedia space and virtual theatre
The city ofwaterways (room20)
Fromthe 18th to the 20th (rooms 23-28)
A time neither near nor far (rooms 29-32)
The city of languages (rooms 33-34)
The culture room

The Bologna Room

The entrance hall of theMuseo della Storia di Bologna contains a facsimile copy of the monumental perspectivemap of the city frescoed in the Bologna Room of the Vatican Apostolic Palace. It enables visitors to admire an extraordinary painting otherwise inaccessible to the general public,  since the original is close to the private apartments of the Pope and the Vatican Secretariat of State. The Bologna Room of the Vatican Apostolic Palace preceded the better known Gallery of the Maps by five years. It was built to mark the Jubilee of 1575 at the behest of Pope Gregory XIII, a member of the Boncompagni family in Bologna. He commissioned a team  of painters led by Lorenzo Sabatini to paint an ambitious fresco cycle depicting geographic and cosmological subjects. The facsimile was produced in 2011 by Madrid-based Factum Arte, directed by Adam Lowe. It is the fruit of a three-dimensional digital photographic survey of the whole 15th-century wall, whichmade it possible to faithfully render every detail of the painted surface and architectural support. Thework involved using technological equipment specially built for the purpose and then hand-finishing the map, producing an artefact of outstanding importance and quality based on a thorough knowledge of the original and ensuring its conservation.

A newconceptmuseum

With its focus on the central collection and graphic communication, Palazzo Pepoli offers visitors numerous important digital and multimedia experiences. Above all it is the only Italian museum with a virtual theatre for showing movies in stereoscopic 3D. A 3D cartoon of the history of Bologna was specially produced to mark the museum’s opening. The central character is the guide, an imaginary Etruscan named APA, his voice dubbed by the famous Bolognese singer Lucio Dalla. The layout of the theatre ensures immersive viewing, thanks to the high-definition projectors and a sophisticated sound system. Adjoining the theatre is the media space, featuring a long interactive carpet that offers an enthralling virtual walk through the streets of Bologna. On different types of an-cient paving appear local news stories supplied by RSS feeds from newspaper offices in Bologna. The “carpet” leads to a room with a central column, where three large touch-screen displays show visitors a detailed timeline of the city’s history. It also contains a large video library with all the films in the museum, further digital material and access to the Genus Bononiaewebsite.

In recounting the city’s history the museum makes extensive use of video displays incorporating graphics and big backlit panels integrated with the various exhibits. The displays provide a context for the exhibits with written texts, still and moving images and audio commentaries. Visitors are guided to key points of the museum circuit by familiar faces from the worlds of music, art, history and culture. There are vivid historical reconstructions by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, historical and artistic reflections by Philippe Daverio, and performances by Giorgio Albertazzi. Another room presents Bolognese People Talk: a collection of video interviews with many of the city’s contemporary cultural, social, political,musical, literary and ar tistic figures, including Francesco Guccini, Umberto Eco, Loriano Macchiavelli, Romano Prodi, Emanuela Pierantozzi andmany others. The music room set in the alcove chamber of Palazzo Pepoli presents a video installation of the examination of Wolfgang  Amadeus Mozart by Fr. Giovanni Battista Martini at Bologna’s Accademia Filarmonica. The setting is enriched with refined tapestry and elegant 18th-century decorations. This imaginative use of architectural and historical spaces in the museum also appears in some of the rooms, where largeformat visual images are projected onto the walls, as in the rooms focused on to the Etruscans and Charles V’s coronation in Bologna in 1530. In the room featuring the theme  of Bologna as a “city of water”, the exhibition design by Mario Bellini encompasses amultimedia installation with a stunning visual impact, virtually immersing the visitor in the city’s waterways. The interactive floor creates the image of a stream flowing in the darkness below the city streets, with the multiplier effect of myriads of mirrors and the magical lightness of virtual arcades generated by Wood’s lamps. On the walls a series of video clips in transparency recount the story of Bologna’s celebrated network of waterways. Finally, the history of the University of Bologna is presented by an installation that combines words with the tactile presence of an ancient bookcase and the versatility of the new media. On a touch screen, visitors can select volumes from an ideal bookcase. They then open to reveal their contents on an holographic back-projected screen. The museographic project was directed by Massimo Negri.

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